Men Who Love Sexual Abuse Survivors

I take a lot of calls from caring, gentle men who are confused and hurt by the seemingly incomprehensible behavior of the women they love. Usually I find that it’s because they’re sexual abuse survivors, and carry those scars into their relationships. Sexual abuse, especially the kind that starts early in life, generally by a family member or someone trusted by the family, creates a wide range of behaviors. These behaviors are symptoms of trust that was never able to develop or was violated during their formative years. Take heart, men, there is hope. You can love these women, but with a patient willingness to learn what to expect, how to handle it, and the knowing that you alone can’t “fix” her.

When dealing with a woman who has been raped or survived incest, the woman exibits varying levels of disconnection, some subtle, and some quite overt because of the secrecy that’s always central in the equation. These women come across as having difficulty in forming healthy, lasting bonds with non-abusive men because of the secrets she keeps and because she simply can’t trust. And don’t we all wrestle with trust issues? The scars she suffers usually aren’t physical, they’re the scars that come from being dehumanized and abandoned by the people who were supposed to protect her but didn’t or couldn’t. She is guilt-ridden, betrayed, and violated, so she learns to distance herself from people as a self-protective mechanism. So breaking the silence and learning to trust and be trusted are central themes regardless of the form of abuse she suffered, when, or the behaviors the abuse has created in her.

These women sometimes have a hard time feeling worthy of a kind man; they feel that they’re too broken for someone “normal” so they exhibit a myriad of behaviors designed, unconciously, to drive away the caring man who makes them feel inadequate. Generally they try hard to be “normal,” as they struggle to gain mastery over these negative behavior patterns, but inside of them something painfully unexplainable fills up and needs release. Gentlemen, you are not the reason she behaves in ways you don’t understand, her issues predated her relationship with you, and it’s not personal!

My best advice for you is to arm yourselves with information. Read books, articles, and anything you can get your hands on about the long term consequences of sexual abuse. There’s a lot written on the subject by professionals who specialize in this area of psychology. One resource I’ve found is (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), who has both telephone and online hotline services at 1-800-656-HOPE, but there’s a lot more out there. Perhaps you can join a support group so you can learn how your behavior affects her and why it may feel like it’s personal, but really isn’t. Make sure that your well-being isn’t dependent on “making her better.”

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6 thoughts on “Men Who Love Sexual Abuse Survivors

  1. Lynn Rose

    I have been in a 12 year affair with a women who was the last woman I ever dated before I married. I wanted her and (at 23) decided to marry my mom’s (dying from cancer) favorite. She was also my best friend since 12. Thinking I fulfilled my mom’s last wish. I married in June, mom passed in Nov. and months later, the woman I wanted to marry was rapped. And because of her figure was hunted all during the 80’s. We spend every weekend together. Passion, travel and soul mates. Together for 12 years in a 20 year marriage (sexless for the last 14). He knew of me in the third week. He is 65, she’s 50, I’m 53. I have everything but the money. Secure, but not rich as he is. Of late, she’s a mess. Thinks herself as unkind and uncaring. (She’s a MD & Aquarian) By Sunday, having to go home. She thinks herself a whore and hates herself. PTSD? We’separated, the longest 8 months. He won’t file.She does everything for him EVERYTHING EXCEPT SEX. She’s become verbally abusive. Why now? She says she loves me. He says he likes me. ?????

  2. rabbit

    Samantha, What about women who love sex abuse survivors? The boys that it happens to grow up to be the men we love. Sometimes we forget victimization is a two way street. Boys get abused and men get raped. Its not something I would wish on anyone.

  3. morganamorgana

    Blessings to you for writing this most timely article. I’ve spoken with these gents myself and they are often the “Heroes” in our world that can’t help but want to save these women. And you are soo right that love alone cannot heal the issues surrounding incest and/or rape. Women who suffer incest or rape in early childhood will spend their WHOLE lives either working on the damage or being victims of the damage. With therapy and love, we can be made whole again. Thank you for helping these lovely men and women!
    Brightest Blessings
    Morgana )O(

  4. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Hi Samantha,

    Very informative article !….

    I’ve worked with victims of domestic violence for many years now, and what the guys out there should also realize is that many of the women who were victims of domestic violence often feel as if they have been thru a war or battle…..and indeed they were fighting to survive.

    As such, they may have Post Traumatic Stress issues that will never entirely fade away, even WITH ongoing counseling. Some of these issues involve trust yes, but may even go further, and involve flashbacks and nightmares, somewhat similiar to the issues that our military people who have served in combat deal with day to day.

    BUT, with patience, time, understanding and love …..comes healing.

    Great article Samantha !

    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500

  5. Cameron ext 5412


    Thank you for this sensitive and informative article. I think it’s going to help a lot of men and women to heal and have greater understanding.


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