Statistics say 20% of women and 5% of men are sexually abused as children, which would mean 30 million women and about 8 million men in the U.S. are victims…so odds are you or someone you know have dated someone who was abused. As someone with two decades of experience coming out to partners about the complexities abuse adds to one’s sex life, I can report there is a lot of ignorance in terms of knowing what is or isn’t an acceptable response. I offer the following one-question quiz in the hopes someone somewhere learns something from it.
(Note: all the answers listed are things people have actually said or done. I wish they were jokes. They’re not. They’re all real.)
(I’ll give you a hint. A through G = incorrect answers. H = correct.)
Q: You’re about to get intimate with your partner when they tell you they were the victim of sexual violence in the past. This is the first time they’ve mentioned it & it’s obvious it’s difficult for them to do so. How should you respond?
A) Tell them you don’t believe them because you don’t want to.
B) Make a joke about molesting kids.
C) Say you’re not really good at “being there for people” and steer the conversation toward yourself.
D) Top their story with your own shocking tale of abuse.
E) Abruptly change the subject, because sex crimes that happen to a gender you don’t identify with don’t matter.
F) Excitedly tell your partner their being molested is “a blessing in disguise” because you’ve wondered if your own child’s ever been abused, and now you have your own “expert” to quiz on what signs to look for.
G) Act supportive while you’re in the same room as your partner, then as soon as you leave spend the following days/weeks slowly and silently drifting away, wordlessly, until it’s obvious they’re never going to hear back from you.
H) Listen. Hug them. Tell them you understand, even if you don’t, and that you’re comfortable working with them on what they need to be comfortable too. Be patient. Then enjoy the perks of intimacy with someone who’s spent their life killing themselves to find it.