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Relationship Tips For Survivors of Sexual Assault Raising Daughters with Non-Survivors

Jul 21, 2023

TW: Sexual abuse themes

Raising daughters is a challenging task for any parent, but it can be especially difficult for survivors of sexual assault when raising daughters with non-survivors. As a survivor, it can be challenging to navigate becoming a new parent and the relationship adjustments while also dealing with the trauma of your past.

These formative years not only lay the foundations for our daughters development but also our own development as parents. Together, with our child, they teach us who they need us to be, and we start to get an idea of who we want to be as parents. And nothing can prepare us for the wounds we think we’ve healed, masked, buried and tried to forget. That shit comes back to haunt us when we become parents. The boogie man under the bed, we thought we’d fucked off, suddenly grabs us by the feet and we’re suddenly transported back to that scared shitless place that only our nightmares know about. The wounded inner child awakens but you don't have time to deal with this shit because your life’s just been turned on spin cycle and you don’t know what time it is, let alone what day it is and you’re both just surviving on love alone. Cue relationship crisis. Here’s some helpful tips to help you on your way:

1. Seek therapy: It is essential to work through your trauma with a therapist. They can help you develop coping mechanisms and provide you with tools to manage your emotions when talking to your partner about what you’re experiencing.

When the doctor told me I was having a girl, I began to cry hysterically. For hours. Mitch was ecstatic and was surprised by my reaction. Not in a negative way but in a way that he just didn’t understand. I was feeling sheer panic, fear and a need to protect my daughter from the world and all the 'some' men I had crossed paths with in my life. I felt helpless, powerless and terrified that my baby girl was about to experience what it's like to be a girl and a woman in a world where 'some' men feel entitled to her time, attention, energy, choices and her body.

I was in the process of writing my book and then it became a sudden compulsion that I needed to fix the world and make it safer before she was born. That was the nest I was trying to build for her. A nest that's still not finished and realistically will never be complete but I know it will keep me busy until I draw my last breath.

I tried to tell Mitch how I was feeling but Mitch laughed as he often does; his sense of humour his most attractive trait but also be a survival reflex from childhood which can sting when used at the wrong times. He offered his kind smile and gave me a hug, attempting to reassure me.

Mitch: "Babe, you're being silly. Of course she'll be safe."

Safety note to all non-survivors - Don't ever tell a survivor that their silly for having very real emotions and fears. You're welcome.

I argued the point.

Me: "How could you possibly understand what it's like for a girl growing up living amongst unsafe men. And how can you be so certain that no harm would come to her. You can't promise that."

His worldview could never understand because he hadn't grown up as a young girl with 'some men' wolf whistling from their cars, 'some men' slapping you on the backside, 'some men' telling you you're going to be a heart breaker, 'some men' staring at you in public, 'some men' sexually abusing you, 'some men' trying to peep on you whilst you shower, 'some boys' trying to convince you to give them a blow job because they have blue balls, 'some boys' trying to do things to you that they've seen in porn, 'some boys' bullying you because they like you, 'some boys' that can't seem to look you in the eyes when their having a conversation because they’re too busy checking out your tits or some other part of your body, 'some men' trying to masturbate over you next to your car on your first week of university, 'some men' who walk pass you on the street yelling 'I want to fuck you,' 'some men' who pull their dicks out in the back seat of the car who think it might impress you, 'some men' who pressure you for nudes, 'some men' who send dick pics without request or consent, 'some men' who threaten to cheat unless you give them what they want or when 'some men' who are supposed to be your friends rape you.

This is the dark reality for girls and women. And I refuse to sugar coat it. And as much as I've tried to educate Mitch over the past 13 years, he will never get it. That's why you need a good therapist to talk to who does get it. And that’s why I recommend my good friend and PACFA registered Counsellor, April Brophy from Progressive Counselling who is an expert in this area and works with individuals and couples.

  1.   Communicate openly with your partner: If you are in a relationship, it is crucial to communicate openly with your partner about your trauma and how you want to raise your daughter. This will help ensure that you are on the same page and can support each other in the process.

I have had to do a lot of work on accepting that Mitch will never totally understand my perspective and the trauma I'm healing because he's never walked in my shoes. And that's ok. But that's why it's been important for us to talk openly and honestly.

When we began to take turns changing Sofia's nappy after we brought her home from the hospital, I felt like Mitch was taking too long to wipe Sofia. To me it seemed like he was hovering -'get it done' was my attitude and it seemed like he was taking his time, quickly triggering me into fight mode.

Me: "WTF are you doing?"

Mitch: "I'm changing Sofia's nappy. What does it look like I'm doing?"

Me: "You're being a creep is what you're doing."

Mitch: "Are you seriously going to accuse me of wanting to harm my baby?"

I appreciated Mitch's response because he calmly asked me a clear question that helped me gain clarity about my intent. And quickly, I identified my trauma had been triggered and it wasn’t in fact Mitch's behaviour at all. When it comes to our children, I have complete trust in Mitch. I apologised and I kept to the facts. I shared I felt uncomfortable watching him wipe her slowly. Mitch explained he moves slower than me. I explained it made me feel really uncomfortable because it made me think of my own sexual abuse. We both accepted what was going on. And quickly, our conversation became a moment of healing, building trust and it created a new sense of safety that he was doing what he needed to as her father.

I want to add here that these conversations are uncomfortable but we need to make the uncomfortable comfortable if we’re going to heal and be there for our kids when they need us to have uncomfortable conversations with them too.

I’d recommend learning about assertive communication skills which you can google, listen to podcasts or read books about. Personally, I’m a big fan of the techniques Dr John Gottman’s work on relationships talks about particularly his work around 'the four horsemen'.

  1. Seek support from other survivors: It can be helpful to connect with other survivors who are raising daughters with non survivors. They can provide you with support and understanding and help you navigate the challenges of raising daughters as a survivor.

When Sofia was a baby, Mitch would sometimes say inappropriate things. Like once, Sofia sucked his finger and he said,

"Yeah, suck it." In this gross derogatory way. And he laughed. I lost my shit.

Another time, when changing her, Sofia touched her private parts exploring her body and he called out to me,

“OMG, she's touching herself!"

Perhaps this was a new father’s immaturity or the impact porn has on viewers after years of consumption. Probably a bit of both. But to me it was triggering. And thank goodness he doesn't do this anymore because it would send me to the top of the rage metre in a second because it was sexualising our daughter’s normal child development. And it’s the sexualisation of children’s behaviour that pedophiles use to argue consent laws. So the conversation went something like,

Me: "She's a fucking baby and not a fucking porn star. Stop watching porn if you can't look at your daughter like a child." This would then trigger Mitch.

Mitch: "WTF. I'm not looking at her like that."

Me: "Well if she's doing something that makes you think its sexual then just tell yourself, she's a baby and she’s just exploring her body which is normal childhood development and it’s not sexual. Grow the fuck up. You’re the adult.”

*I just want to add here I'm not usually such a bitch just when I'm triggered and then I swear a lot.

For me, it was really helpful to have a friend to talk to who was also a new mum and healing her own childhood trauma in a relationship with a non-survivor. We could laugh about our experiences over coffee and share strategies we were using in our relationships to work through it together. I recommend joining a Facebook support group like, ‘Sexual Assault Survivors! It’s time to tell your story’ led by the inspiring Kris Pedretti.  

  1. Advocate for change: Sexual assault is a pervasive problem in our society. As a survivor, you can help make a difference by advocating for change. Get involved in local or national organizations that work to prevent sexual violence, and encourage your partner to be an ally for survivors as well. Together, you can make a difference in creating a safer and more equitable world for all women.

In all honesty, I have to nudge Mitch to attend my events but his support means so much to me because it's not only about showing up for me as my partner in support of my work but it's also sends a message that he is an ally to all sexual assault survivors and tbh that shit turns me on. Nothing screams sexy AF then an ally to women and sexual assault survivors. That's how you talk dirty to me. And I’m sure there’s a lot of us that feel that way. And there are many ways you and your partner can do this. You can start by challenging rape culture, which you can learn more about from this insta post. I also recommend following Survivor Hub who are always on point and current with understanding the perspectives of survivors and what’s important to know as an ally.

And finally, remember to take care of yourself. As a survivor, it can be easy to neglect your own needs. Take time to practice self-care, including exercise, meditation, or hobbies you enjoy. Remember that you are doing your best and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

For me, it can be easy after a long and sometimes boring day at home to reach for a beer or a wine at 4pm. And I’m an all or nothing kinda girl so the next day I’ll be tired and therefore less resilient if I find myself in a triggering situation. But I'm learning I'm 100% responsible for my energy levels. So in order for me to be the guilt-free mum, partner, friend and leader I want to be, I need to take care of myself in better ways.

For me it's good food, reading, yoga, nature walks, something creative like writing or doing mini-photoshoots with Sofia, lunch with a girlfriend and spending quality with Mitch. But I know the juggle is hard. Real hard. But we just have to keep trying, not to do our best every day, but to do enough. Enough is good enough.

In conclusion, raising daughters as a survivor of sexual assault with a non-survivor can be challenging, but it is possible. By seeking therapy, communicating openly with your partner, being honest about your experiences, seeking support from other survivors, advocating for change together and self-care. With these strategies in place, you can raise a happy and healthy daughter and overcome any obstacles that may arise.

Sending you big safe warm hugs, 

Your friend, Renee. :)

If you found this BLOG helpful please share it, like it or comment. 

Always happy to hear from you if you want to email me on what's happening for you right now. I look forward to it. Otherwise keep being your wonderful awesome self!  




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