It’s no secret that the company we keep can heavily influence how we feel about ourselves and who we become. When healing from child sexual abuse, the quality of your support system can be a key factor in your recovery. Finding a trained therapist that can help you explore the impact of trauma is important, but the friends and family that you have around you can make a difference too. During my work with sexual assault survivors, some of my most resilient clients have had compassionate and encouraging people that have helped them through their darkest times. When those clients find themselves struggling with shame, flashbacks, and low-self worth, they have a cushion of emotionally safe people to turn too. The clients, who feel hopeless on how to cope, sadly have a lack of support in their lives or are stuck in unhealthy relationships that thwart their healing.
It certainly isn’t your fault, if you were never shown HOW to seek support from the right people. We often do the best we can with what we know. Whatever you have chosen to do, whether it’s isolating yourself or having a series of abusive relationships, is a normal reaction to trauma. It’s never too late to look at what’s hurting you, and to take the steps to create a better life.
To get started, take a look at the type of people you choose to hang around with and open up too. How do they make you feel? Do you feel supported and understood by others, or are you left feeling full of self-doubt and invalidated? When you consider your social media contacts, spiritual centers, school, the workplace, and any meetups that you’re a part of, you have many more people than you realize that impact the state of your mind! But, please don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead-try these steps.
- Make a list of those that are close to you.
- Beside each name, label them as “supportive” or “not supportive.” Go with your gut and how you feel around each person. There is no wrong answer here.
- Take a look at who you have identified as supportive. Consider these people as those that wish to help you, and rely on them to give feedback that’s in your best interest. For those that you do not consider to be as supportive, you may want to decide how much you want to disclose to people that may not be able to offer thoughtful responses.
If you may feel the need at this point to develop new relationships, finding the right support system can be challenging when you aren’t sure how to form a positive and secure relationships. When forming new relationships, here are some tips.
- Define your boundaries-You get to decide what kind of behaviors from other people you are comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with. Listen to your body and intuition, when someone is doing something that you don’t like. For example, maybe you don’t feel comfortable with people that are critical towards you. Maybe you aren’t comfortable with your friends making sexual advances towards you.
- Ask yourself “ What do I need from others?”-Perhaps you would like others to be authentic, trustworthy, understanding, accepting of who you are, sensitive to your feelings, and respectful of your privacy. For me, I know it’s important to be around people that know to communicate in a non-judgmental and pleasant manner. It’s also important for me to be around people that don’t feel the need to “fix me” or control me.
I am confident that these ideas will help you choose healthy people to include in your support system. Remember, the more support that you have from people who understand the impact of your past trauma, the more you can move from “just surviving” to thriving in secure and loving relationships. The more secure and loving relationships you have in your life, the easier it is to empower yourself from your past.
Rupali Grover is a licensed clinical professional counselor, who holds a masters degree in clinical psychology. She currently specializes in working with children and women, who have endured sexual assault. Her counseling style is gentle and empathic, but solution-focused towards what the client wants. She is passionate about inspiring survivors to feel less alone and more hopeful about healing.