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Ask Selah R, M.S. LPC Your Own Question

Selah R, M.S. LPC
Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 582
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor; over 13+ yrs exp working with adults, teens, & families/couples.
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My sister has just informed she was sexually abused at a young

Resolved Question:

My sister has just informed she was sexually abused at a young age. She is 10 years older than I am and those people were not around when I was young. But we are very similar personalities to an extent. I am worried it happened to me. I have no reason to think it did, I have no memories. I am not sure if it is because I am so horrified it could happen to her that it means it could have happened to me. Her relationships are very different to mine, I waited to find someone I loved before I slept with him, she has always had bad boyfriends. But did I wait because I was frightened? I don't believe so, but this news has me second guessing everything. I do not want to assume I was safe just because I am happy and have no major issues with the more obvious self harming/alcoholism/bad relationships. Should I just be content that even if it did happen, I am a happy positive person so I worked it out? I am horrified for her.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Selah R, M.S. LPC replied 3 years ago.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Thank you for trusting JustAnswer with your important question.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

I am sorry to hear about your sister's abuse.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

What you are going through is common. Many siblings and other family members can really question things when they find out about abuse. They worry about what they missed, why they weren't able to stop it, and like you they wonder if that means others were also hurt.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Sometimes we see "survivors guilt" when siblings feel like they should have also been hurt, or hurt instead of, their abused sibling.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Since you have no memories of abuse, then try not to panic. Most abuse survivors do maintain some of their memories of the abuse, even if they only remember a small snippet of a traumatic event, before they enter therapy.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

And many survivors who don't have a clear memory of the abuse still have a strong feeling that something is not right, or that certain people are not safe, or have a strong feeling that they have been "running away from things" internally.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Right now you need to be there to support her, and deal with your own grief at learning that this has happened. You're going to have a lot of emotions, from depression to anger to fear to guilt. It's just part of the process of learning that someone you love very much had carried a painful secret that you didn't know about and couldn't help them deal with before now.

Customer: I feel so selfish that I even have been thinking this way. The problem is our mother is a counsellor who deals with a lot of this stuff, adult childhood abuse. I know a lot about it in some ways and I don't want to run away from it. As my sister said those specific people were not around when I was, but other weird people were. I have always had a radar for weird people and now I am questionning where that 'street smart' comes from. I was very like she was as a child, I think she worries that I was the vulnerable sort
Customer: We are very different in our relationships with men now though, I feel her boyfriends always treated her badly and never wanted that for myself
Customer: Why am I making this about me?
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

There is no guarantee that you weren't abused, given the frequency with this this happens to female children in our society. But the biggest damage we see is the damage abuse survivors do when trying to run from or avoid their abuse memories.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

And you're not aware of that type of thinking happening inside of you, right?

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

I think it's human nature. We want to protect ourselves, and we want to empathize with the other person. So the first thing we normally do with bad news is try to see how it matches our own lives.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Kind of like when one kid gets lice and all the kids itch. Or when a friend discovers a lump and we all suddenly worry about breast cancer in our own bodies.

Customer: No I'm really not, apart from some very sullen teenage yrs (nothing dramatic) I feel like my reaction to men has been normal, considering my mam never welcomed boyfriends
Customer: I feel like inadvertantly I was warned boys were bad, so I never had a serious relationship until my husband...that's when I realized boys could add to your life
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Then try to see the worry as a normal part of your grief process at hearing her news. Just don't get stuck there and don't beat yourself up. You're not selfishly making this about yourself. Your brain is just looking to see if you're in any immediate danger by reviewing your own environment and memories. They it will move on and be able to focus on her.

Customer: I said to my husband I would rather accept I was abused, because I am ok now
Customer: I think that might be because I want her to be ok
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Yes, that's part of the survivors guilt.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

You want her to be ok and you want her to have hope that she can be ok.

Customer: She is dealing with it, and seeing someone.
Customer: Yes I do want to think there is a way out for her. Right now she is 40 and still miserable
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

That's good.

Customer: I appreciate your wisdom, your frankness and reality check
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

It's never too late to start trying to heal.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

You're going to see a similar, but probably much stronger version, of this same thing when your mom finds out.

Customer: I really don't think anything happened to me, but I think I may be stuck on the horror of the fact it actually happened to her
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

It's horrific, but it also makes us wonder "How did no one see those changes?" and "What could have been different if I had ____"

Customer: She refuses to tell my mam. I will hold that secret for her but I think that is adding to my confusion
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

And you start grieving how differently her life could have been if this hadn't happened.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

This type of secret rocks everyone to their very core beliefs.

Customer: Yes...her life could have been so much better
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

That's ok for now, but at some point it will probably be something she has to do as part of her recovery.

Customer: I am now worried about our older sister who is 4 years older. She recently came out as a lesbian but before that lived a very withdrawn life
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Well, don't forget that even in healthy families siblings can be amazingly different from each other.

Customer: Maybe I shouldn't go there...now she is an outer lesbian she is much happier.
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

It's part of our personalities, and it's also part of us making choices to be different from our siblings.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

That's good that she's happier :-)

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

That's another one of those secrets that keeping it makes you miserable.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

If you have an Employee's Assistance Program or insurance, you may benefit from meeting with a counselor for a few sessions to process this.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

So that you don't feel like you've been given this secret to now keep and shoulder.

Customer: I think you said it best. My whole beliefs have been rocked. We new there were weird people in our early lives, my sister made weird comments about being touched in appropriately. I was shocked....I have no thoughts that touching is ok.
Customer: I think I will take your recommendation to talk to someone. It's a lot to process.
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

And most perpetrators only abuse one child in a family, to reduce their risks of being caught (except when it's a case of a close/powerful family member).

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

And they are usually very gifted in seeming normal and coercing the child to keep the secret... which is how so much abuse goes unnoticed.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

I'm glad she's getting help and that she trusted you enough with knowing her pain.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

It's not easy to hear the news, but it shows a great deal of trust and respect that she has towards you.

Customer: Until this news I was pretty happy if not smug about my life. But I have made decisions with what I believe to be some real knowledge of what would make me happy at my core. I just panic that those decisions (such as moving to a different country) are reactionary.
Customer: My parents were immigrants, two of my siblings live abroad.
Customer: But since this, I just am questioning everything.
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Have you been happy with those decisions?

Customer: Very much so, my life feels very 'right' right now
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Then they were very good reactions ;-)

Customer: Yes,
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Everything we do is reactionary. But it doesn't sound like you've been repressing or running away from things. Those type of decisions usually leave us just as, if not more, miserable.

Customer: Ok, it's just I never wanted to stay in the same place I grew up I always had visions of better things. That's normal, right?
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Absolutely normal.

Customer: This is very hard...I have never felt so out of control and unsure as I do now
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

When did you find out?

Customer: About 8 hours ago now
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

If you'

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

re not feeling more settled and rational in the next 2-3 days when the shock wears off, think about seeing a counselor.

Customer: She lives in a different country, we talked for a long time about other stuff then this came up at the end
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

If your employer offers and EAP, they usually pay for 3-6 sessions.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

If not, consider using your insurance, a church counseling services, or even a rape crisis and domestic violence agency in your area might offer free or low-cost counseling if you don't have insurance.

Customer: I will look into it, unfortunately my employer is my husband and two kids ;)
Customer: Should I see someone who specializes in abuse?
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Most states offer a 211 service from landline telephones, which connect you with a call center than can help you locate free and low-cost help in your zip code.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

But my guess is that in a few days you'll be feeling much more yourself.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Most counselors work with abuse, it's just so common of a problem.

Customer: I do feel more 'calm' having talked to you too. It's almost like I just need validation that I am really who I am.
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Good. Now be sure to take care of yourself the next few days (sleep, nutrition, exercise, etc) and know that you may be more emotional the next few days just from the stress of this.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

But it sounds like you've been a pretty healthy person psychologically and you'll probably navigate this just as well as you've tackled other issues in your life.

Customer: Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX do appreciate this
Selah R, M.S. LPC :

You're welcome.

Selah R, M.S. LPC :

Have a good night.

Customer: You too, thank you
Selah R, M.S. LPC, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 582
Experience: Licensed Professional Counselor; over 13+ yrs exp working with adults, teens, & families/couples.
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