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Sex, Sexuality & Queerness

What are some experiences around sexuality and queerness that relate to child sexual abuse? What are some harmful assumptions you risk making to someone disclosing to you?


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About your hosts

A short description about the episode co-hosts


Sex, Sexuality, Queerness & Child Sexual Abuse Podcast (Video or Audio Options)

A more in-depth podcast episode, giving context and personal stories associated with the topic.


Things you should and shouldn't say to someone disclosing Child Sexual Abuse (Sex, Sexuality and Queerness)

A short video episode, focusing on two things you should and two things you shouldn’t say to someone who has experienced (or is experiencing) child sexual abuse.


Episode transcripts

Full transcripts and subtitles are available for you to download


A Recap

A written summary of the key advice in these episodes


Additional Tips

Any additional resources mentioned are highlighted here


 

About your hosts


Sophia - Founder of Secrets Worth Sharing

Sophia (she/her) is a survivor of child sexual abuse and the founder of Secrets Worth Sharing, where she builds a community of having these difficult conversations with 'serious joy'.


Dr Ray O'Neill

Ray (he/him) is Assistant Professor in Psychotherapy with DCU's School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health and a Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist in private practice working mainly, within the LGBTQ community and survivors of sexual abuse.


 

Disclosing Child Sexual Abuse Podcast

More In-depth Podcast, 20-28 minutes.


Don't like watching videos? Listen on Spotify instead!

Questioning your sexuality, narratives around disclosing and coming out, physiological responses to abuse... regardless of whether you define as queer, these are all incredibly important narratives that affect many people who were sexually abused as children. But what are some additional barriers and experiences which particularly relate to queer people? Join Sophia (she/her) and Irish psychotherapist Dr Ray O'Neill (he/him) as they discuss.


 

Things you should and shouldn't say when someone is disclosing Child Sexual Abuse (Sex, sexuality and queerness)

Video episode, 8-10 minutes


What should you say when someone tells you they've been abused as a child, and how does this change if the person is queer? Join Sophia (she/her) and Irish psychotherapist Dr Ray O'Neill (he/him) as they discuss.




 

Download the Episode Transcripts


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Sex, Sexuality and Queerness_SWS_podcast transcript
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To recap...

Things you should say/do if someone tells you they were abused as a child

Why?

“Look, you said this to me last week. It's been on my mind. I wonder, would it be okay to come back to you at some point in your own time just because it's important?” And then the other person has freedom, the other person has time, they're not being demanded, but they see that you have a desire to know more about what they went through.

This type of statement is called witnessing. Witnessing is an act of being in the other person's presence, which was likely absent during the person's abuse. There was no one who witnessed it or chose to witnesses or it. You can communicate that you are 'with' the person and on their side, through eye contact or through touch, if appropriate, or through a hug. Try to make sure that that person knows they are not on their own anymore because it literally is the loneliness of going through this experience as a child which adds to the pain.

Thank you so much for saying that to me. If ever you want to talk about that again, would it be okay if I checked in with you?

It's okay if you don't know what to say, because sometimes we are totally blindsided for a thousand different reasons. It's okay to admit that you don't know what to say, as we are not socialised to talk about abuse often. for many years the person who's just disclosed to you doesn't know what to say. So long as you make an effort to make sure that this isn't the only conversation you have about the person's abuse, and ask them if this is a conversation they want to explore together.

How would you like to be touched Is it okay if we touch? Can we explore this together?

Someone still might want to explore sex and intimacy, even if they have been sexually abused in the past. The only way you will know is if you ask them.

Things you shouldn't say/do if someone tells you they were abused as a child

Why

Do not say "Do you think that's why... For example, "Do you think that's why you're gay?" "Do you think that's why you're such, you know, a sexually ravenous person?"

Trying to use someone's abuse as a way to explain their identity is flawed and tries to find an 'excuse' for the person to explain parts of their identity and can be particularly damaging where queerness is concerned. Psychologically, cause and effect is complicated. For one person, trauma might be a reason to explain certain parts of their identity, for others it's much more complex than that. There just might be a reason why something is the way it is and it has nothing to do with the abuse. Like, don't look for that to explain every question you have about person. If you feel the need to explore this question, ask a more general version of the question like "how do you think the abuse has had an impact on you?".

Do not say "The abuser did this because they thought they might be [gay/queer/trans]"

Some abusers use homophobia, transphobia and queerphobia to their advantage to try and justify their actions. They try and think of something that is also historically controversial and then just completely divert non-abusing adults attention onto that. Some groups can compare queerness and child-sex offenders to further harmful, queer-phobic and anti-trans/drag queen messaging. It is important to remember that being queer, gay or trans has nothing to do with being an offender, and questioning sexuality does not at all condone abuse. Exploring queerness between consenting adults is a beautiful and natural thing, and is not at all the same as abusing a child who cannot consent.

Do not say "oh, I'm so sorry.”

Sorry is one of those catch all words that people use to kind of cover every kind of awkward situation. Unfortunately, you're not the person that should be sorry. Sometimes, it can feel a bit of a lazy response and highlights to the person that you don't know what to say or do. “Thank you”. It's a much, much more affirmative word to say to someone. So “thank you for trusting me. Thank you for telling me that”.

Try not to put words into somebody else's mouth like “that Must have been really difficult for you to say.”

Just acknowledge what somebody has done and just thank them instead of making assumptions.

[When bringing up children] Do not say “don't wear your skirt above your knee or make sure you cover this area of yourself, ...because, you know, there's there's men watching this, adults watching”

In some more conservative cultures, children can be bought up to be extra attentive to dressing modestly. While their are many reaons for this, one negative consequence that from a young age, the child feels responsible for how other adults sexually perceive them. For some survivors, can take a really long time to undo that thinking and realize actually, what they wore did not cause their abuse and they were not reasponsible for it. We need to think about how we bring up our children and how we encourage them to have conversations about their body and how they're sexualized and who is sexualizing them.

Do not say “so do you like, not be like be in touched then? shall I just not...”

Intimacy is part of all of us. It's something that we all want to enjoy and have a right to enjoy, as well as have moments where we have boundaries. Sometimes, we ask about sex and touch out of fear of hurting our friends and partners and express this clumsily and hurtfully. A more helpful way of phrasing that is “how would you like to be touched?” “Is it okay if we touch? Can we explore this together?” It's all about having questions that are more openers and conversation starters, instead of assumptions.

 

Additional resources and tips


Wolfenden Report (mentioned by Ray), which recommends that: "homosexual acts between two consenting adults should no longer be a criminal offence"


There are additional resources specifically for queer communities and people in our resources page.





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