How to Tell Your Partner About Your Past Sexual Abuse

Relationships always start out on a high note. You feel the attraction and see yourself in them. This stirs up your feelings and you start to see what you have in common. Then, finding out about your differences and exploring the world together makes things fresh and exciting. When your relationship starts to become more serious, you may start to wonder. When is the right time to open up to your partner about your past sexual abuse?

Even though you may feel alone in this, being a survivor of sexual assault is, unfortunately, no uncommom. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men in the United States experience some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime. So, when is the right time to open up to your partner about your past, and how do you tell them?

Be Ready
It’s important as a survivor that you are in control of when you share your story. Center yourself around your own needs and share only when you’re ready, and not before. You may need to discuss it first with a therapist, counselor, friend or support group.

Know What You Need
Know in advance what you’ll need to get through this discussion. You may need your partner to not ask questions, or to not touch you while you’re talking. Be honest and upfront, and ask for support when you need it.

Go Slow
Many people with a history of sexual assault feel the overwhelming weight of this fact almost like the weight of a bad secret. When you feel ready to talk about it, often it can come out in a rush. But beware letting the rush happen. Afterwards, you may feel more vulnerable, and this can be a big trigger for PTSD symptoms. Instead, focus on how you feel while you are talking. If you start to feel really strong feelings, get overwhelmed, or start to feel nothing at all or like you are talking about someone else, stop talking. Let your partner know you need a break. Look around the room and notice things that feel safe. Once you feel grounded again, you can try going back to the topic. If you feel better, great! If not, you may want to postpone more details until after discussing it with a therapist or counselor.


Prepare for a Response
How people respond to your story will vary widely. Hearing sexual abuse disclosures affect both the person telling the story, as well as the person listening. Your partner may be silent for a while as they take the information and consider what to say. They may feel anger towards the perpetrator or a wide range of other emotions in hearing your story. Give them time to process it. If it will make you more comfortable, you can ask them to give you some time before you discuss the matter again.

Opening up and discussing difficult, sensitive topics with your partner is never easy. But these challenging times are often the ones that create milestones in your relationship, and will ultimately bring the two of you closer than ever.

Are you a sexual assault survivor and in need of guidance and counseling? A licensed therapist can help. Call our office today and let’s set up a time to talk.

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