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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I am a survivor of rape and incest; I've been through psychotherapy. I have recently started dating a really great man. Our relationship has progressed slowly which pleases me. However, I have started to worry about telling my story. I fear that he will reject me and think I am a terrible person. When do I tell him the truth? Is it better tell him earlier before I am too invested or later when I think I can really trust him?

Answer

First, it appears that a bit of your thinking may be projection. That is, many victims of rape and incest blame themselves and feel as though they are terrible people. They tend to think that they should have done something to prevent what happened and believe that they will be rejected. These thoughts are then projected onto others. I wonder whether a some of that thinking may be operating here as well. Secondly, if he is as great as you say he is, rather than reject you, your friend will be empathic and sympathetic. He will see that you were the victim, not the perpetrator. If he does not respond with tenderness, compassion, and understanding then perhaps he is not as great as you think he is.

In the case of rape it is never the victim's fault. It doesn't matter what the circumstances. Rape is a violent act; it is about power and anger, not sex. Some forms of incest -- brother-sister incest for example -- may or may not be violent or abusive. Father-daughter incest and mother-son incest, on the other hand, are an abuse of power. The son and the daughter are being used by their parents for the parents needs. Hence, the children are victims; it is not their fault.

Whether you should wait until you can trust him depends on your degree of comfort in talking about your past. When you speak of "trust," do you mean trust him not to leave? Or do you mean trust him not to use your history against you, judge you, and/or hurt you? If he leaves or hurts you by his reaction, you have learned something about him. But if he is all that you say he is, he will cherish the confidence you share with him and it will bring you closer. Your own level of comfort with sharing should be the main determiner of when to share your experience.

You might want to visit our Resources Department for more information on rape and incest.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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