You can read the first part of this series:

You can read the second part of this series:

I’m proud of who I am,

No more monsters, I can breathe again,

And you said that I was done

Well, you were wrong and now, the best is yet to come

Kesha – Praying

Almost every time I’ve told someone I was abused there has been a comment along the lines of “I’m so sorry…” and in all honesty, no matter who the person or what the situation, it’s never really something I want to hear. I don’t tell people about it because I want them to feel sorry for me. I totally recognise that this comment or attitude is typically meant with the best intentions and is usually absolutely genuine; it can just still feel a bit condescending and patronising… I think it’s kind of similar to one of those things where sometimes the context of it doesn’t matter; it’s like you just almost automatically react/respond.

One of the most difficult elements to me really disliking receiving sympathy, was knowing that if I were to tell someone and they ask, “what would you prefer?” I’d have no answer. And I felt like I really couldn’t voice my thoughts on people feeling sorry for me until I knew what I would like them to do instead. Otherwise, what was the point? And what right did I have to do this anyway?! But surprisingly, I found myself telling a psychiatrist in the psychiatric hospital I was in for two and a half years about how much this response grated on me and she introduced me to the term and the notion of: ‘empathy.’ Almost immediately, I liked the sound of it! ‘The ability to understand and share the feelings of another’(Google definition search)? Well, that felt like an ideal response to me for when I disclose or talk to others about the abuse, I have experienced.

I think a huge part of me that benefits from others showing an empathetic attitude and behaviour towards me, is the part that’s felt so completely alone during the entirety of, and then after, the abuse. My abuser had contact with a number of other young people/teenagers/children, and I seemed to be the only person who saw this horrible side to him. Often, if he and I were to argue in front of others, it’d be him that was being defended and supported. I was often scolded, bullied, and even punished for being ‘rude,’ ‘disrespectful,’ and ‘insolent’ towards him; to the point where I felt like I would burst from the pressure and desire to scream at everyone and tell them what he had been doing to me. To tell them who he really was.

It was so unbelievably frustrating to want to tell people, but to still have all these very real and very convincing reasons (including threats from my abuser) why I couldn’t tell anyone, left me feeling even more alone. It led me to develop the recognition that I needed to start distancing myself from those I was inclined to seek help and support from so as to absorb some of that eagerness and craving for reassurance and comfort. I wanted to be saved from him more than anything and the thought that if I allowed my relationships with my family and friends to improve – or even just to continue at the level of closeness they were at – left me sceptical on whether I could continue lying and hiding what was happening to me.

Feeling so completely alone and isolated for so long and at such a vulnerable and desperate time in my life, has meant that I really value my relationships and any sort of kindness, compassion, and support I receive from anyone in my life – but especially professionals. And I think this is largely the case because throughout the abuse, I felt so completely failed by all the professionals in my life at that time who didn’t recognise – or who did but ignored it – the fact that I was exhibiting literally so many of the signs that I was being abused. And for all those professionals, every single one of them would have had extensive training and teaching on this subject and everything to look out for. And so, the recognition that they either had paid no attention to being taught something so incredibly important or they had learnt it but had chosen to ignore my experiences; was so anger-inducing that I felt it almost seep into my soul and my heart and it shaped my views on literally any other professional who walked into my life!

It's saddening too that their failings and ignorance mean that I now not only struggle to trust professionals who have done little to be undeserving of it, but I also appreciate the most basic (and extremely warranted) signs of compassion and empathy that really, should almost be expected in some situations e.g., with Doctors, Nurses in A&E when I’ve self-harmed or made a suicide attempt, and staff from the Crisis Team when I’m struggling.  

ü  The idea that they put themselves in a situation that provided their abuser with the opportunity/reason/excuse to be capable of initiating the abuse.

ü  The thought of anything and everything they might have ever done ‘wrong’ in their life that somehow equates to them being deserving of something this horrible.

ü  The abuser likely may have made numerous comments and threats around the survivor deserving what they are doing to them or accusing them of being responsible in some way.

ü  The many reasons why they feel unable to tell someone what is happening to them can leave the survivor believing that they are responsible for the abuse being able to continue.

1.       Validate why they might feel this way in the first place by acknowledging that it’s a reasonable, understandable thought or feeling. This should build a trust and connection that will provide a heightened chance of them listening when you begin to encourage them to think and feel differently.

2.       Begin explaining your take on their guilt and give effective, understandable reasons why you disagree that they are guilty of anything because simply telling the survivor that they shouldn’t feel this way, often isn’t enough to inspire or give them reason enough to start to reconsider their thought process and feelings on this.

3.       Initiate a discussion on proposing and suggesting alternative, correct, and balanced thoughts and feelings – there’s no use saying “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “you’re wrong to feel like that” if you can’t provide an alternative emotion or thought process that might fill the void from them losing the familiar notion that they’re to blame.

4.       Flip things – suggest the survivor look at the situation as though from the other way around and ask what they would be saying to you and would they deem you to be guilty. Talk about how, if they wouldn’t, why should they be any different and be careful with this because there’s the chance it can trigger thoughts around feeling alone in the experience.

5.       Take your time – doing this can take a lot of time as the survivor may feel they’ve believed they were guilty for forever so it can’t be changed in an instant. So don’t be in a rush or feel hopeless or defeated if you feel like you haven’t helped the survivor to make much change or progress with this after just one conversation with them.

Trust typically means a lot to so many people; you don’t have to have experienced abuse for trust to matter deeply to you, your relationships, and your opinions and thoughts of others. However, if you have survived abuse, trust can become especially important and essential to you and not just your relationships but your entire mental health and safety as well because where someone betrays your trust or abuses it in some way, you can be left feeling failed, let-down, embarrassed… It can bring forward a lot of thoughts and feelings that might even resemble those experienced during the abuse because typically, an abuser is someone who the survivor once trusted – or who they were beginning to develop a trusting relationship with. And if they could betray them in this way, why would they consider you to be much different?

1.       “What’s changed (to make you want to talk about it)?”

2.       “Why didn’t you talk about this sooner?”

3.       “Does it not upset you to talk about it?”

4.       “We don’t have to talk about this.”

5.       “I don’t want you to get upset.”

6.       “Are you going to be safe if we talk about it?”

7.       “That’s so hard to hear.”

8.       “I can’t even imagine what you went through.”

9.       “Is now really the best/right time to talk about it?”

10.   “Yeah, you mentioned that before.”

I feel like the topic of children has come up a lot recently – not just for me, but in the media too – I’ve seen so many women talk about the experience of others asking them when they’re going to have children. Typically, these women state that key reasons why you shouldn’t ask this are that the woman may, in some way, be unable to have children. Another reason I’ve heard is because some women simply don’t want to have children and being asked about the topic can leave them feeling pressured and isolated in their decision. I – personally – haven’t ever heard anyone talk about the chance that the woman you’re asking might have been sexually abused or raped and might therefore struggle with the idea of sex, let alone the thought of having children…

I think that there’s a lot of importance put in control when interacting with abuse survivors because the abuse was completely out of their control and so I think it’s almost natural to find yourself desperate to regain an element of that, literally anywhere in your life! But this can become especially true where current issues or instances are linked to the abuse or trauma you’ve survived e.g., talking about sex.

ü  Have an awareness – be informed and cautious of just how much detail of abuse you can tolerate and are able to cope safely with.

ü  Remember that if you don’t seek help to manage with everything you’re being told about the abuse, then you’ll be unable to help and support the survivor.

ü  Utilise coping techniques and helpful means of distraction from the upsetting and difficult details you might hear.

ü  Know – if you’re a family member or friend – when it’s appropriate to direct the survivor to a professional or more appropriate person to talk to about the abuse.

ü  Seek professional help and support yourself if you begin to struggle or find yourself unsafe in trying to cope with everything you’re being told.

Abuse helplines (UK based)

Domestic Violence & Abuse:

Home | Refuge National Domestic Abuse Helpline (

Getting help for domestic violence and abuse - NHS (

Domestic abuse: how to get help - GOV.UK (

Domestic abuse - free counselling & mental health support London (

Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence Charity - Halo Project

Home - Women's Aid (

Home - Refuge

Home (

Respect not Fear |

Ashiana Sheffield | Violence & Abuse | Support | Help | DonateAshiana Sheffield

For Children & Young People:

NSPCC | The UK children's charity | NSPCC

Help With Bullying (

YoungMinds | Mental Health Charity For Children And Young People | YoungMinds

Sexual Abuse:

Lifecentre - Your story. Our journey.

Rape Crisis England & Wales

Home | CIS'ters (

Home - Safeline - Believe in you - Surviving sexual abuse & rape

Mankind – for men in Sussex affected by unwanted sexual experiences (

General Useful Links for Abuse Survivors & Their Loved Ones:

Hourglass (

NAPAC – Supporting Recovery From Childhood Abuse

Guide to support options for abuse - Mind

Bi Survivors Network


The Survivors Trust

Home - Victim Support

To Find Your Local Helplines & Support Services (UK based):

Mental Health Support Network provided by Chasing the Stigma | Hub of hope

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