Telling Yourself the Truth

The recovery process following disclosure of your child's sexual abuse involves telling yourself the truth. The truth includes: what is going on right now in your life, what happened in the past, and what may happen in the future. It requires rigorous honesty with yourself. It also requires acknowledging who is responsible for what and assigning that responsibility. That also includes examination of all the ways you feel guilty and responsible and reality-testing your thought process. This truth-telling includes all of life.

Telling yourself the truth is about acceptance. It is accepting life on life's terms (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2001).  The Serenity Prayer asks for the serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed. This is paradoxical because without acceptance, serenity cannot be achieved. Without serenity, acceptance cannot be achieved. Without acceptance of things as they are, you will continue to be disturbed about all aspects of your experience. 

The practice of mindfulness fosters increased ability to feel your feelings, be aware of your thought patterns, and accept the reality of your life at this time. This includes the abuse disclosure, post-disclosure process, your feelings, and the short-term effects to your child. The opposite of acceptance is denial. Denial, except in the earliest stage of grief, is not a positive coping strategy. When in denial, we usually want to escape reality and may use other unhealthy ways of coping. Mindfulness fosters awareness, rather than denial. Mindfulness also contains a nonjudgmental aspect, which will help you decrease your anger and judgement towards yourself and others. 

A common response to sexual abuse when it involves family members is to pretend that everything is fine. It is going along and denying the reality of the pain. It is not telling yourself the truth. If your child has been abused over a period of time, she will experience consequences of that abuse. Depending on her age, the severity of the abuse, the use of force, the identity of the perpetrator, the length of time it was experienced - all these factors impact the extent of consequences.

If a child is believed - and that requires mothers facing the truth - and if she supports and protects her child, he or she may not experience the long-term consequences of the abuse. However, if the mother does not believe, does not support, does not protect, the probability is that the victim will grow up to experience many of the consequences common to sexual abuse.

Telling yourself the truth does not mean telling everyone else the truth. This is your process. And it is a private, alone process. You need to choose who you can trust so that you protect yourself. This is not paranoid. It is self-care and boundary-setting. You do not have to say out loud to anyone else, unless you choose to tell a counselor, close friend or family member, any of the thoughts you may have about your truths.

Some possible truths:
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • Motivations
  • Goals
  • Values
  • Responsibilities
  • Roles

All of these truths involve what is, not what you want things to be or hope things were or thought things were, but what is.

Patricia Wiglund in Sleeping with a Stranger (1995) provides questions to ask yourself in this process of telling yourself the truth. She includes groups of questions about:

  • Activities - What do you do?
  • Opinions - What do you think about different issues?
  • Feelings and beliefs - What do you feel and believe?
  • Values - What are your values?
  • Needs - What are your needs?
  • Responsibilities - What are your responsibilities?

Telling the truth means facing it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.



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