How do I help my girlfriend who I think was sexually abused as a child?

by Beth
(Indiana, USA)

I'm a lesbian, and I think my girlfriend of 2 years was sexually abused by her adoptive father. She doesn't trust, and she is very jealous. Could these be signs of sexual abuse as a child? If we talk about her father it doesn't go very far, she just says he is weird.


Last night in chat she said something about taking secrets to your grave. She is going to counceling for her jealousy, but I don't think that's the root of her problem. Personally, I think her father abused her sexually and she never told anyone. I try all the time to build her self esteem and tell her that I love her unconditionally.

Well, now we are apart. She left me and cheated with someone else. They are having problems, and she has since contacted me. Can you please just give me some insight. I think she was possibly abused, and was wondering if jealousy and untrust worthiness are some of the signs. Thank you for your assistance.

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Jun 21, 2008
Lingering effects of child sexual abuse...
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

Beth, lack of trust, severe jealously, cheating in a relationship CAN be signs that the person suffered abuse in childhood. What you've described can be the lingering effects of child abuse, but they aren't conclusive evidence. Nor do such signs determine the type of abuse that went on. Although your girlfriend's behaviour does suggest sexual abuse, there's no way to know unless she discloses and is willing to talk about it. Evidently, she doesn't want to talk about it.

Adults don't disclose or talk about sexual abuse for a variety of reasons, fear being at the top of the list. Often, the very fears that prevented them from disclosing as children or youth continue to plague them into adulthood: fear that they won't be believed; fear that if they disclose the family will be torn apart; fear that they will be harmed by telling. The sad reality is that the first two fears are warranted.

It is not unusual for adults who were victims of childhood sexual abuse to continue to believe the lies their offenders told them: that they "asked" for it; that they themselves were to blame for being too seductive, too "loveable," too beautiful, etc. It is even more complicated when the child experienced involuntary arousal and perhaps even achieved an orgasm during an assault; which by the way is not at all uncommon for both boys and girls. When the body betrays AND the offender uses that to convince the child that s/he enjoyed the experience, the brainwashing is often carried into adulthood.

You said your girlfriend is in counselling. Whatever happens in those sessions are between her and her therapist, unless an invitation is extended for you as her partner to also attend. But you've already stated that the two of you are no longer together. Add to that the fact that she is an adult; there really isn't much you can do to help her, other than to provide support for her when she asks for it.

Beth, I'm concerned about YOU. I'm asking myself why it is that you feel so compelled to continue a relationship with someone who has hurt you with infidelity, lack of trust and with her severe jealousy. What you have described above amounts to a form of relationship violence. I'm asking myself why it is that you don't feel worthy of someone who will treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve. While I admire that you want to help your girlfriend, it would be remiss of me if I didn't suggest that you seek out some form of counselling for yourself. You need support too. Your girlfriend isn't the only one worthy of a healthy and loving relationship, Beth; so are YOU.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Jun 21, 2008
child abuse
by: violet

Darlene,

Thank you for the response. her and i are talking again and that is why i'm concerned. I have been to couciling with her and all she says is its her fear of abandonment. I love her and that is why i ask the question. She is such a wonderful lady and i only want her happiness. However, since we are talking i was hoping i could find a way to maybe get her to tell me, and both of us work on the problem since we are talking about getting back togther again!

Jun 21, 2008
To Violet:
by: Darlene Barriere - Webmaster

I sincerely wish you all the happiness, and I hope all works out with your girlfriend.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir



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