Among the hardest pieces of news a family can hear is from within. To discover that a member of your family, a close relative you've understood all your life, has disclosure of child abuse mistreated another, is disastrous. I understand because I have been on either side of that coin, both declaring it to my own relatives and recieving the news. For the PTSD sufferer it is one of the most courageous but most challenging steps towards recovery. By unveiling the secret, breaking the quiet and setting your soul and your experiences out in the open for those you love most to question and understand, you're treating. The decision to tell family members that you have PTSD - and possibly more significantly, what the trauma which caused it was - is one that many sufferers agonize around.
Imagine if they donât believe me? I'll create a rift in the family. I'm upsetting the apple cart. So thereâs no point causing all this heartbreak itâs in yesteryear -- these are only the beginnings of various trains of thought a sufferer is likely to go through when debating whether to â tell â or not. It is hard enough when the perpetrator isn't an associate of the family, a buddy, maybe, in the instance of of sexual abuse. But when the victim and the abuser share the same family, it becomes a whole lot more cluttered. Once the naming and shaming of the abuser is out there, and everyone knows what you as a survivor of abuse have been through, thereâs no going back.
So, imagine if youâre the family member whoâs just been sat in a front room, having made a pot of tea, simply to have the get-together blasted into smithereens by granddaughter, your daughter, son, neice or nephew? Theyâve not slept for weeks (PTSD plus the do-I, donât-I argument), and now theyâre silently sitting with the teacup still shaking on its saucer, anxiously awaiting your answer.
Engage your brain before you speak. Your emotions are high, you donât understand what to think, and the picture of the man facing you and the person who mistreated them has been shattered like glass on concrete. Blurting out âI donât consider you potentially trigger an emotional flashback, â will ostricize the sufferer, cause them to doubt themselves and their recollections and make you the target of frustration, fury and hurt. Maybe you canât accommodate the picture of the accused with the accusation, but that doesn't mean it didnât occur. So, think before you speak and do nât sabotage the guts it took for the sufferer to tell you.
Please, don't go and begin a fight with the accused. It helps nobody, least of all the sufferer. Going over there and having it outside will result in the abuser denying everything, retaliating, possibly attacking the original casualty or yourself. The victim has just lost it, if there is evidence that could be used in legal proceedings should they follow.
Third, remember that âoutingâ an they'll be exhausted, and an abuser is an extremely brave decision for the sufferer. A match of 20 questions is inappropriate right now! To have been trusted enough to hear that they developed PTSD because of it and have suffered from abuse puts you in a privileged position. Recall that, and make an effort to refrain from asking about each detail of the maltreatment, the duration, if anyone else was involved, or the dreaded "why didnât you tell us sooner?â Some of the replies wonât be clear to the sufferer (hint: especially the last one), and some of them hurt too much to talk about. The time will come where you learn the facts of the trauma and the impact on the suffererâs life since. Now is nât it.
Enough of the don'tâs. What should you do? Listening is significant; taking time to hear the sufferer is the greatest gift you'll be able to give them and being there. Possibly the relief of having someone in the family know will bring about an outpouring of emotion and despair. Be there for them, and allow them to understand that you are available to talk with, if and when they need. Offer support and give them the safe space they'venât had to vent how they feel. On the flipside, the individual with PTSD might completely freak out and not want to say another word. Listening is important, even in the quiet. Make the man you love feel safe and supported and free to talk, or not speak, ask for help, or not.
Do things that are ordinary with this person. Having PTSD does not define them nor should it define your future relationship with them. Take them out, encourage them to meet-ups (without the abuser present) and appreciate them for who they are. As with lots of mental illnesses, sometimes socializing appears difficult, but even if you get discounted or rejected, continue encouraging them while also letting them know it's okay for them not to join. Patience and compassion is the name of the game.
Also, look after yourself. Odds are the news has come as a jolt, and you are now fighting with conflicting emotions regarding the abuser, particularly if you understood them and are close to them. It is understandable to be confused and upset, so take a bit of time to process the information. Often it is helpful to speak with someone you know, about your feelings, such as a friend or counsellor. Getting an external perspective from someone who doesnât know the PTSD sufferer or the abuser can not be useless. It is not difficult to feel like anything you say or do will be wrong, but honestly, you understand the individuals involved and how exactly to talk to them. Trust that knowledge and instinct.
I am only able to talk from personal experience, but thereâs a nugget or two of guidance in this section to help you hear about the abuse than can occur within.