When Do I Tell?

In my experience, the disclosure of sexual abuse can sometimes be as traumatizing as the experience itself. When I first told others about my past sexual abuse, I cried more at that time then when I was abused. I felt scared, anxious, and alone when I first revealed my past. I wasn’t certain how people would react and if they would still accept me if they knew what had happened to me. Once I told my story, I was also worried that people would see me in a negative way, thinking that I wanted my abuse to occur or that I was now so completely different from the person they knew before that they couldn’t think of me as a “normal” person. I wish there were some formula for when a survivor should tell others, but I do have some pointers that may help you out if you haven’t done so.

First, if you are in any current danger from your perpetrator, I would beg you to tell someone. You don’t have to let anyone hurt you any longer. Stop the abuse now. I know that it’s terrifying, but this is one of the first steps to your healing.

Obviously, when deciding to tell talk about your abuse, there has to be a person to tell. I advise that you find someone who you trust very well when you talk about it for the first time. There are so many feelings and emotions behind your story. You need someone who will be compassionate, understanding, and attentive to your particular situation. If you don’t have a person in your life who fits those characteristics, start developing friendships where that can happen.

Next, there is no right way to tell a story and you certainly don’t have to dramatize what happened to you. Just say that you were abused as a child. Nothing else needs to be explained. You don’t have to provide details, examples, or situations that describe the pain that you experienced. Those things may or may not come later. By sharing the simple fact that you were abused can release a huge burden from your shoulders and a huge sense of relief may replace that burden. You can always talk or write the narrative of your life later when the feelings and emotions have subsided.

Finally, be open-minded to others and express any expectations you have up front. As you know, sexual abuse is not an easy topic to talk or hear about. You need to be alright with the fact that it may be too much for others to comprehend. Also, if you feel like the person you are telling can be helpful to you, make those request known clearly. Again, my hope is always to get people discussing the topic of childhood sexual abuse. The more that we can get others involved in the conversation, the more we can put an end to this heinous act against the most innocent among us.

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