When Should You Disclose Sexual Abuse?

I think I’ve touched on the issue of disclosing mental illness to friends and partners before, there’s no clear cut answer to when you should tell them that you have mental health problems. I do think the answer is different depending on your relationship with the person that you’re telling- I would say that partners, or potential partners should be told sooner than friends, just because you’re committing to a relationship with them… but then maybe you have a different opinion, I don’t know.

What I want to talk (write) about today is when in a relationship you should disclose a past of sexual abuse. I think that a history of sexual abuse comes under the same category as mental illness when is comes to disclosing it to friends, but it’s vastly different when it comes to telling a partner about it.

The problem with disclosing sexual abuse is that it affects anyone you’re having sex with (although obviously there are differing opinions on that) so in theory, shouldn’t you be telling a one night stand? This was something that I’d never thought of until I ended up having a chat with a guy who I’d had a casual relationship with and mentioned that I had been sexually assaulted- he was furious that I hadn’t told him.

In his mind I’d put him in an awful situation, even though I felt that it was none of his business and it hadn’t affected things. He was still happy to have sex with me when he knew, but he argued that it was unfair on him to have been put in that position. My cynical side says that he was just annoyed at having been ‘tricked’ into having sex with someone like me… but I did feel guilty.

I’m not sure how I’d feel if the tables were turned, I think I’d understand if it was just a casual relationship but I would feel hurt if it was my partner.

The frustrating part is that there are no clear answers, I’ve disclosed my past to men I’ve known for five minutes and had long term relationships where I’ve never said a word- I think it comes down to whether you feel the other person can handle it maturely, and sometimes it’s a lot easier to tell someone that you’re never going to see again as opposed to someone who you care about and don’t want to scare away. The fear that they’ll leave is something that always stays with me, there are hundreds of lovely girls out there without my past- why would someone choose to stay with me when they have the option of a simple, easy relationship without having to worry if their partner’s going to suddenly start crying during sex or freak out over being touched in the wrong place?

I’ve spent a lot of time putting myself in sexual situations- yes, partly because I’m young and curious- but also because I want to get rid of that fear, I don’t want this hanging over me and dictating my life. I need to know that I’m going to be okay- and I won’t know that until I’m right there in that situation. I don’t want my past to spoil my time with someone who matters; I want to be able to have sex with someone I’m in a committed relationship with without worrying that it’s going to go wrong.

Do we have a responsibility to tell everyone we have sex with? Or should we only tell those we’re in a serious relationship with? If the latter, when should we tell them? The first time we get intimate? The first time we have sex? Or when we know the relationship is solid and long term? Or, do we have the right to totally keep it to ourselves?

’til next time,

Wren x

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2 thoughts on “When Should You Disclose Sexual Abuse?

  1. I think this is a very interesting and thought-provoking blog post.

    Ultimately, I believe we do have the right to keep it to ourselves if that is how we see fit. Sometimes it can feel really unhelpful bringing it in to a relationship and if we were forced to tell people about the sexual abuse, then it’s just another thing we are losing ‘choice’ over.

    However, I’d always find it more helpful to be more honest about what happened to me, though I imagine this would only be in longer term relationships. Mostly I found it helpful to tell them early because if they want to walk away, they could before either of us fell too hard and I wanted to also tell in case anything did happen and I became upset/acted weirdly. I guess it was like a preparation/warning?

    • Yeah, I agree with you- for me it ultimately depends on the person and the type of relationship that we have, but it does put me a lot more at ease when the person that I’m with knows about my past. It makes me relax more when we’re together and not worry about if something happens. I think it’s just finding the right moment to broach the subject and getting over the fear of how they might react to it (both of which are much easier things to write about than do…!)
      Wren x

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