Over the last couple of weeks, both my wife and I have found ourselves in normal, everday conversations where we’ve had to explain to someone that I am a survivor of child abuse. Now, one, that’s somewhat odd, there are people I’ve worked with and known for years where that has simply never come up in conversation, so to have it come up a couple of different times in a short period of time is weird. Secondly, when we compared notes on our conversations the one things that struck both of us is, the socially acceptable responses to “I am a child abuse survivor” are all completely lame.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had the same responses when people tell me about their past abuse. It’s always a “oh I’m sorry”, or “you poor thing”, or, in a few cases, “are you ok talking about this?” There all very nice things to say, they’re what we would expect from poilite people, they express some real sentiment that I appreciate, and they’re all just so predictable.
Here’s the thing. I don’t tell people so they can feel sorry for me, and, obviously, I’m ok talking about it, I brought it up. So those responses, nice as they are, don’t really say anything. They don’t further the conversation, most times they bring it to an end. Maybe that’s what other people want to happen when I tell them. Perhaps, but I refuse to believe that’s always the case.
I want a socially accceptable response that somehow manages to further the conversation. I just don’t know what it is yet….