So I wanted to ask after the experiences of men who sought help due to the experience of sexual assault or violence in their childhood. My (24f) boyfriend (38m) is a survivor of childhood sexual assault but he doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it, I only know that it happened when he was very young and it was his older brother who assaulted him. I don’t know where, exactly when or what happened and I’ve never told anyone else.

He very casually references his trauma in conversation as if it’s no big deal, an indicator I recognise as one of severe and unresolved childhood trauma. He says quite shocking things in passing like it’s all good and it’s nothing to worry about, but when I ask if he wants to explain more or discuss it with me further he instantly withdraws and goes quiet.

I immediately believed him of course, and never questioned the validity of his experience. I’m always gentle and don’t try to prove him for answers.

It’s not my right to know since it’s his story and I completely respect that. He told me the first time I asked that “you wouldn’t want to know what happened to me.” So I gently told him that it’s not about “wanting” because nobody wants to know that kind of thing and how it happened to a child, but it’s about need, since I’m his partner and I love him I feel it’s important that he tell me things like that. But I’m not pushing, like I said, it’s his story and I followed up by telling him that it’s his life and when he decides I need to know is entirely up to him. I reassured him that it’s 100% ok if he decides that I never need to know.

But I feel like this has impacted him heavily for a long time. He was in an abusive relationship for about 15 years and I suspect that his ex wife either didn’t believe him, belittled him for his assault, or he never told her. As a result, he constantly deals with thoughts of depression and struggled at the beginning of our relationship accepting simple acts of care and consideration. He never puts himself or his own desires first, in almost every regard. He works himself to the bone and almost never allows himself any free time. He often puts himself down, calls himself ugly and fat and overweight despite looking like a normal man his age and height. He feels he doesn’t deserve good things and has told me that’s how he feels about himself.

So men who experienced the same thing and deal with similar feelings: what can a partner do to help?