Surviving childhood sexual abuse, or any abuse, is tall order in and of itself, but another dynamic that isn’t always talked about, is coping with how family members respond to our healing journey.
When you reach out and tell family members that something traumatic happened to you as a child, it’s impossible to control how they will react. We’d like to think that they will be supportive, understanding, and compassionate, and in a perfect world that would be the case. Well honestly, in a perfect world, childhood abuse would never happen in the first place, but unfortunately that’s not the reality we live in.
Knowing that, moving forward with revealing the secrets of a childhood taken away by the acts of a family member, friend, or any other perpetrator is an incredibly brave and vulnerable thing to do. We are reaching out of the shadows of our past and looking for the support of those who are supposed to love and take care of us. Perhaps we are also reaching out in hopes of mending old wounds and repairing relationships, seeking to understand what happened so we can move forward in a healthy way.
There’s the element of forgiveness, where we may be looking for that family member who caused these horrific acts to take responsibility, own up, and work with us to overcome that traumatic past and find some way to be a family again. Or perhaps we are looking to forgive ourselves for what happened, to understand that those events were not our fault and that we didn’t deserve them, so we can release the shame, blame, and guilt that’s haunted us for far too long.
Whatever the reasons that we reach out and share, it’s important to understand that we do indeed have that right to use our voice and bring the past to light, in order to heal. We deserve to have our voice heard, to be understood, validated, and supported.
That’s the topic of my podcast with Miranda Pacchiana, MSW; coping with family members in the wake of revealing a traumatic past of childhood sexual abuse.
Miranda is also a writer and speaker, and created the online resource, ” The Second Wound: Coping with Family while Healing from Sexual Abuse.” Her writings have been featured in The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Trigger Points Anthology, MomsRising, and other publications.
From the first time that Miranda contacted me about sharing her story, I knew it was something that I wanted to help her share. Trying to deal and cope with the family dynamic surrounding trauma is something that so many survivors can relate too, myself included for sure.
During the show you’ll hear how she confronted her brother, who had sexually abused her a child. After receiving an initial apology from him, and having the validation of him owning up to what happened, the recovery and healing began, but not in the way that one would have hoped.
Rather than using that as a building block to work together in healing as a family, it was instead used a way for the family to no longer deal with what happened. Instead of getting the support of her mother and siblings, she was met with the response of, “You got what you want, that should be enough”.
Unfortunately just getting a simple apology, especially when it was used as a tactic, doesn’t exactly constitute any real type of healing. As you’ll hear, that admittance by her brother was where the family would rather have left it, but as survivor, Miranda wanted and needed more. She deserved more.
She shares how over the years after she disclosed that the abuse that happened, her brother began to make a name for himself in the entertainment industry, garnering power and wealth. Her family began to align themselves more with him, and as a result, Miranda felt more and more pushed out of the picture. Her story was not being heard, her healing was not being supported, and the realization that she was not going to get what she deserved as a survivor, was painfully evident.
Situations like this, and many others that Miranda talks about with us, eventually led her to put up healthy boundaries in regards to her mother and brother, and eventually go as close to no-contact as possible. She realized that in order to heal, it was going to be incumbent upon her to find a way to move forward, and she alone had to understand that she was worth it…regardless of the lack of support from many family members.
In addition to explaining further why family members can align themselves with one and in the process alienate others, Miranda also gives us insight into some various reasons that families would simply rather not deal with the aftermath of trauma. From not wanting the family name to be tarnished or the desire to simply not acknowledge what happened because it would ruin the existing dynamic, the information you’ll hear is sure to validate you if you have been in this situation.
Through research, working with a therapist, and surrounding herself with a loving, compassionate, support system, she has been able to put in the hard work of healing and find a life that she had dreamed of, a life she wanted and deserved regardless of her past.
This is a powerful episode that you don’t want to miss, as Miranda Pacchiana tells not only of her story of survival from childhood abuse, but a healing journey that has brought her to a place of having a loving husband, wonderful kids, and a strong sense of self, that she uses to inspire and encourage others both in her practice and in her writing.
Thank you again Miranda for sharing so openly and giving hope to all who are struggling. I’m honored to help share your story and encourage all who are working their way through their own healing journey.