It Happens Here Too: 5 Ways to Stop Minimizing Sexual Abuse

That doesn’t happen here.

It’s not so bad here.

We’re not like them.

Yup, these have been my thoughts. After returning from the States, watching the American debates, and hearing the onslaught of media reports, I’ve become a bit smug.

A recent article in The Washington Post challenged my prideful ponderings. It’s called What it’s like to experience the 2016 election as both a conservative and a sex abuse survivor. The author, Nancy French shares her story of betrayal when family, faith, and political parties choose to minimize sexual abuse.

I haven’t experienced the same kind of minimization as Ms. French. I’m not American, nor involved in the political arena. But as the spouse of a sexual abuse survivor, I have experienced the minimization of sexual abuse in my part of the world: by culture, by churches, and by family.

To minimize means to make something less important or smaller than it really is.

  • undervalue
  • reduce
  • diminish
  • downplay

So outside of the media storm, on a personal level, what does minimization look like?

It can look like questions and statements:

  • Don’t focus so much on the past
  • Let it go
  • Just forgive
  • Maybe you need to read your Bible, pray, go to this group. . .engage in an activity to fix it
  • Why is your recovery taking so long?
  • This shouldn’t be affecting you so much
  • Give it to God

It can also look like actions:

  • Giving uninformed advice
  • Talking too much
  • Praying too much
  • Changing the subject
  • Avoiding contact
  • Talking about yourself (when you’ve just asked about the other person)
  • Touching someone too much, or too little (survivors can be uncomfortable with hugs, handshakes, or shoulder pats; or, they may need it)

All these gestures, even if well-meaning, can convey a message of minimization.

Get over it. Move on. Quit making such a big deal about it.

The damage from minimization is deep. It can feel like a betrayal. For some, it creates further trauma.

 

What can we do differently?

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  1. We can learn how to be comfortable with another’s traumatic story, without trying to fix it.
  2. We can learn how to re-frame questions and statements.
  3. We can seek resources and education on the topic of sexual abuse.
  4. We can examine and challenge our beliefs and stereotypes about sexual abuse, and its impact on individuals.
  5. We can apologize and make amends when we are insensitive.

The Resources page lists two organizations that provide resources and education on the topic of sexual abuse. They are excellent starting points to help us disengage from minimization.

No matter where you live, Canada, USA, or elsewhere, the pull to minimize sexual abuse is strong. Let’s do what we can to change and stop it.

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Copyright © 2016 Heather Tuba