Grieving Losses: The Loss Of Your Innocence

Have you been following the #MeToo movement this past year? The hashtag spread virally as both women and men came forward sharing their experiences with sexual assault, a crime that largely goes unreported. The prevalence is often difficult to determine as many victims don't come forward until many years later or, in many cases, don't ever come forward at all. There are so many factors that go into why people don't feel comfortable stepping forward with their stories - often times the pain can be buried from childhood when they weren't even given a voice to say "no" or the shame of feeling like it was maybe their fault. Often times abuse of power can come into play in which the victim feels helpless and fearful.

Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center show that:
·       1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse
·       Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized
·       According to the 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well

This is an epidemic in our society! Clearly, many of us know people and are people that have had sexual abuse in some form or fashion. As our society is seeing a bold roar from victims regaining their voice and saying "this happened to me and it is NOT okay" what is the next step after speaking out?

How do we processing our own pain, confusion, and anger? Or how can we help our friends and support them as they confide in us with their stories and experiences? When starting this journey, we must first realize it is not going to happen overnight. Healing will come over time. Ultimately, this loss is related to losing a sense of power, a sense of control, and often times a sense of our innocence. As with dealing with any loss, there needs to be given space and time to grieve.

If you are not sure where even to begin, here are some questions you can refer to as you help a loved one through their grief from sexual abuse:

First, LISTEN.
Honor their journey and story. Take it all in, give your support, and fully receive however they choose to tell it. This is not the time to ask clarifying questions especially about their actions/involvement. You need to be a safe resting place for them to process what happened to them at a pace in which they feel comfortable sharing.

Gently let them know it was never their fault.
Many victims struggle with a sense of shame and questioning whether or not it is their fault - either from their own internal monologue or through a tactic of the perpetrator trying to manipulate them. Let them know, as often and as gently as you can, that it is NEVER their fault.

Are they safe now?
Are they still in the uncomfortable environment? Are they in any situation where they are around their assailant? Make sure they are feeling safe and supported in all environments possible.

How can I support you during this time?
Every person is unique and has different ways to receive love. For some it may be just sitting together on the couch watching TV so they aren't alone, others do not want to talk about their experiences unless they are the ones who prompt it, while others are comfortable with you bringing it up and checking in on them. The clearest way to know how to help them is to ask.

Redirect to professional.
They have a journey ahead of them for healing and your role is to be the best supportive friend/sibling/parent/spouse you can be, but ultimately there are professionals out there who have experience and the tools needed to assist them in processing this loss. Should you know anyone looking for someone to talk to, feel free to have them email me at or call my office at (310) 614-0323.