How Do I Disclose My Abuse?

Aug 19th, 2010 | By | Category: All Posts, Articles

by Christina Enevoldsen

I talk about my childhood sexual abuse very publicly now, but I didn’t start there. The first time I ever told anyone I’d been abused it didn’t go very well. For years, I’d repressed most of my childhood memories when suddenly, in my early twenties, I knew I’d been abused. The knowledge came in a flash. I didn’t have any specific recall, know who my abuser was or feel any pain, but I was sure I’d been sexually abused.

I thought my parents would want to know, so the first chance I got, I visited them. When I walked in their house, my mom stood in the kitchen. We made small talk for a few minutes, but I couldn’t wait to tell her the reason for my visit, so I blurted out, “I was sexually abused.” I heard a booming voice from the other room where my dad was watching television, “NO, YOU WEREN’T!!!” My mother responded without interest, as though I never said a word.

Years later, when the memories flooded back and I realized that my dad was my abuser while my mom looked the other way, their responses made so much sense. I didn’t know it then, but now I know that telling my parents wasn’t the best place to begin disclosing my abuse.

Breaking the silence of abuse is a vital step toward healing. The secrets you hold actually hold you, keeping you captive to the abuser’s power. Telling is a way to break free from the bond the secret created between you and your abuser.

The way you take the first few steps in disclosure can influence whether you advance or withdraw in your healing. Telling a safe person who validates you makes it easier to go on to the next part of the process. When you disclose your abuse to someone who is compassionate, understanding, and accepting, it’s a relief to know you’re no longer alone. However, sharing emotionally vulnerable moments with someone who is unsupportive may cause you to feel even more isolated and can hinder your progress.

Though many survivors of abuse assume that their family will believe them and comfort them, that isn’t always true. In fact, it’s very common for families to reject rather than support the survivor. Sometimes parents reject the possibility that their child was abused because to accept the truth is too painful. Sometimes the disclosure brings up pain from their own abuse. They might also feel personally threatened. They may view it as an accusation that they aren’t good parents for failing to protect you.

Many victims of sexual abuse are abused by family members. In that case, other family members may have divided loyalties. If the daughter was abused by Grandpa, parents have to choose one family member over another. Many family members are unwilling to do that, especially if they have their own unmet needs from the relationship with the abuser.

If you are a survivor of incest, there’s an excellent chance that you’re not the only victim in your family and your abuser isn’t the only perpetrator. In incest families the family system has a culture that protects itself by keeping the secret. That system’s survival depends on the secret being kept. They will sacrifice one member for the sake of the system. In most cases, the survivor who is willing to talk about the abuse is the healthiest person in the family. The survivor is the one who recognizes the truth the earliest and seek change and healing, while the others see survival by maintaining the status quo. That is a threat to the family unit and the person who wants change is often viewed as the enemy. Because of personal defenses, your family isn’t always likely to be the best source of support and understanding.

The best chance to receive a supportive response is to begin by telling a friend who’s trustworthy and comfortable with emotions. Choose a friend you feel safe with and who doesn’t know your abuser—someone who doesn’t have anything to lose in believing you.

A few years after telling my parents, I was validated by a group of women who openly discussed their own abuse. I learned from them that talking about abuse is nothing to be ashamed about. I was accepted and believed and I felt like I belonged. With their support, I had a firm foundation and I started to see that healing was possible.

I had mostly good experiences for many years. Occasionally, someone would get a blank stare and put up a defensive wall and I knew they didn’t want to hear anymore. That was okay. By then, I was well on my way to healing and I understood that people have their own issues and their own needs may not allow them to hear me. I didn’t take it personally anymore.

My next stage in disclosure was speaking to a group of about forty people, many of whom knew my father. I wasn’t sure what their reaction would be, but I felt ready to share it, no matter their response. I had enough of a support system, within myself and with others, so I was secure and didn’t need anything from them. I just wanted the opportunity to share the truth. They were overwhelmingly supportive.

I was validated by the group, but when I went home that night I heard a little girl’s voice in my head saying, “You told,” in an accusing tone. I recognized that the little girl was the little girl inside of me. She was the one who was warned not to tell. She was the one who was afraid and felt threatened. But as my adult self, I wasn’t under my father’s power anymore and he couldn’t do anything to hurt me. So I comforted myself with that and validated my progress—and continued to tell.

After that, I published the story of my abuse history online. I wanted it to be public. I wanted the whole world to see it. I wasn’t afraid of my dad finding out. I wanted my parents to read what I wrote. I wanted them to know I was talking about it. I felt empowered and strong.

My last step was talking on the radio. It felt natural and comfortable to talk about it. It was an affirming step and I felt good. But the next day, I was exhausted and felt defeated. In hearing myself speak about it, I accepted and understood my abuse in a different way, which helped me to tap into new levels of grief I hadn’t touched before. It felt bad, but it was part of the process and I was happy to be taking another step.

Even if you’ve been telling for years, you may experience new feelings as you take different steps. Take time to evaluate how you feel after each new step. Those feelings need to be validated and expressed. Emotions are good, even if they’re painful. Just as in all parts of the healing process, it’s important to take small steps and proceed at your own rate.

Part of telling is choosing who you tell and don’t tell. You don’t have any control over how people will react, but you do have control over who you share it with. You don’t have to publish a book or post it online. Talking about your abuse to someone is important, but you don’t have to tell everyone and you aren’t a failure or a coward if you choose not to.

Talking about your abuse is important, but how you disclose it can make the difference in how beneficial it is. These are some things to remember to increase the chances that your disclosure will be well-received:

1. Start with someone who is emotionally available and who doesn’t know your abuser.
2. Start small and privately.
3. Evaluate your emotions and practice self care after each new step in disclosure.
4. Take time to validate yourself after you disclose.
5. If you want to make your abuse experience known to more people or disclose to your family, establish a base of support with trusted others first.

No matter how anyone responds, what happened to you was serious and you deserve to be treated well. Don’t allow anyone to keep you from doing what’s best for you. You may not get the validation you need from everyone, but you can validate yourself.

PLEASE NOTE that there are situations where your safety would be put in jeopardy if you speak of your abuse publicly. Ritual abuse is one example of that. Please use extreme caution if your disclosure would put you in danger.

Related Posts:

Why Do I Need To Tell?

Christina Enevoldsen is cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse, an online resource for male and female abuse survivors looking for practical answers and tools for healing. Christina’s passions are writing and speaking about her own journey of healing from abuse and inspiring people toward wholeness. She and her husband live in Los Angeles and share three children and four grandchildren.

[read Christina's story here]

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60 comments
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  1. wow, christina, between you n darlene my mind is spinning abit.
    your words on who u trust to tell is a big issue, yeah i have done alot of work on the blame n shame side of things and speak freely about those experiences n how they affected me then n now, but this mental understandin is now pushin me towards that core that i have skirted for years because it family behind the door stuff. not stuff done by those outside the family and not by ny walls tha have become my prison, but wot made my walls, wot actions put what breaks in what wall. i have been able to put skylights n knock a few bricks lose but never enough in one place to make any sense of the true reasons i react the wayi do/ did. i am changin n gettin mentally stronger, i hope it will serve me well in this last few barriers that need breakin

  2. Wow, girl. That was an excellent teaching and I am saying teaching because it was with authority and empowerment. I couldn’t agree more with what you say and believe it to be a needed subject. I’m trying to remember who was the first person I told, and I can’t remember, but I do know, that there were different stages to telling others for me. i used to be very general….. I was abused. Then I started to say… I was sexually abused. As time went on, and I got stronger, then I was able to say……. i was sexually abused by so and so. And as I grew stronger and more empowered, I now say…… I was sexually abused by so and so and he did this to me.

    Thanks for sharing such a powerful message.

    Patty.

  3. Carol,
    I’m glad the article was helpful to you. The family issues are usually the most difficult to deal with. Once we deal with those, the rest is relatively easy. I’m happy to see how much progress you’re making and how much truth you’re willing to acknowledge in such a short time. I’m planning another blog soon that covers the next step: “What If My Family Rejects Me?” That will be really good, too! Thanks for all your encouragment, Carol! :)
    Hugs, Christina

  4. Patty,
    That’s a good point about telling in stages–that we only have to tell as much as we choose. Hey, did you know that you were part of the group of people I was referring to in the article? You were one of the first ones to ever give me support all those years ago. Look at us now!!
    Love always, Christina

  5. Thank you for writing this out so clearly .. it is true we must be careful to whom we confine in. I have learned just as you have stated that there are many who can not be there for you .. maybe it is due to their own personal struggle or maybe they just don’t want to deal with it at all or get involved, however not everybody is going to be that way.

    Though I will admit not having the person or persons that you think you should be able to go to not be there for you is traumatic .. that in of itself is like going through a death because in my own experience the way I viewed that individual was also changed thus the person whom I thought they were cease to exist. I am not saying that i hold it against them just that the relationship changed ..

  6. This article so cuts to the chase. The way it addresses the invalidation, secrecy and nasty family dynamics that go on in the incestuous family. Being shut out from “the family” has been the most disappointing yet empowering thing that has ever happened in my life, yet in reality it is the way it’s always been.. Kudos to us survivors, we have to be among some of the strongest people on this earth!

  7. Nikki,
    I agree that rejection when we disclose can be traumatic. As children, we were forced to carry the secret alone and more isolation when we finally get the courage to tell can be very painful. And you’re right– it does require a change in the relationship. The other person is no longer comfortable knowing and accepting every part of us. In my life, that means that I have to be careful and guard my words– which reminds me so much of what I did to keep the secret all those years.
    Hugs, Christina

  8. Sam,
    I can really relate to your statement, “Being shut out from “the family” has been the most disappointing yet empowering thing that has ever happened in my life,” That’s been my experience as well. Their strong reaction woke me up and required that I either stay in that system with the lies or break free and live my own truth. It’s been so liberating!
    Hugs, Christina

  9. Christine – thank you for such a wonderful article. This is very helpful to me as I continue to learn to share the story. Over the years I’d attempted to share what I had experienced; I’d dropped hints that I wanted to talk only to be brushed aside from family and friends to the professionals. Of course I don’t know why my experiences weren’t validated – today I assume it was because they didn’t know how to help me with this.

    It’s only been in the last 15 years or so that I came to realize then that what I’d experienced was not “normal” as these issues became more publicized in media and the subject started to be less of a dirty little secret. I told the majority of my story for the first time in a sexual assault support group – and as the story started to unfold, for the first time outside of my head, I began to see just how subtle the grooming was and just how not normal these experiences were. The other thing that happened is I started remembering more incidents – and being able to face the pain and grieve the past.

    Telling the story helped me to begin to let go of the shame and the blame.

    Thanks again – what you are doing here is so vital and so helpful to others who have “been there and done that”.

  10. The problem w/ telling mine is that a defense attorney invalidated it to the point where a judge was forced to agree and let the defendants go free. Since then, I’ve never wanted to talk about it in detail again.
    I don’t feel like I should have had to prove anything, but going through the trial in what looked like a kangaroo court-to me, anyway-changed the desire to tell anyone else any particulars. Especially since, when every particular I told was cross-examined and re-cross examined, as per their rights as defendants. O_o
    And now they’re doing the same thing to a friend’s daughter, who’s 11 years old. And this guy is a real tool. He broke into their house and trashed the daughter’s bedroom but, b/c they can’t prove he actually did it-no witnesses-they can do practically nothing about it.
    Whatever happened to motive? He’s the only damn person w/ a reason to do that a day after he’s released on his own recognizance-whatever the hell THAT means.
    I thought the laws would have changed at least a little since it happened to me, but this is the same old stuff.
    I think the defense attorney should have to go to prison WITH the accused whenever you can prove they were defending a person knowing full well he was already guilty.
    See how many of them would still fall all over themselves to prove the innocence of a guilty person.

  11. Vicki,
    I’m so sorry that the truth was invalidated in court. But the truth is the truth, no matter who rejects it. I hope you can affirm the truth within yourself enough to speak about it again.
    Hugs, Christina

  12. Hi Chris

    After many years of keeping this secret of abuse within me, I wrote about it to a therapist, the thing is theres alot more than what i wrote on that paper, I’m finding myself constantly thinking about it, the numorous times it happened and all the diffrent abusers, the fact that it lasted for so many years. I find myself wanting to block all those memories the pain. I know that I remember everything that happened but i choose not to remember. I trust this therapist but i just cant open up on paper let alone speaking about it. I just cant. its affected my life and contiunes to affect my life in everyway..What do I do??

  13. Sandra,
    Keeping the secret was necessary for survival and it’s hard to let go of that. Even when we recognize the truth to ourselves, it takes time to let it sink in. When I’d get a new memory, I’d accept it and then a day or two later think, “It COULDN’T be” I’d give myself a break from the reality by spending a few minutes in denail. I was still keeping the secret from myself. But after some time, I’d finally accept it as the truth.

    I think it’s a similar process to telling others. Taking it a little at a time–not telling everything and just testing to see how that feels. Baby steps. One of my memories was too disgusting to tell anyone for a long time. It haunted me, but I couldn’t tell anyone either. I started out by just saying I’m keeping something to myself that I’m not ready to talk about. I imagined myself talking about and got used to it that way. And eventually I told two people and it wasn’t so bad. Then I was able to open up a little more. It’s all just a little at a time and being gentle. We didn’t have a choice about what happened to us, but we do have a choice how and when we talk about it.
    Christina

  14. When a friend “liked” the OSA page on FB, I checked it out too, and “liked” it too. I wrote some comments on it, not realizing they were going to show up on friends’ pages. Whoops! So I outed myself without meaning to, but it’s been good–the ones who have stayed my friends now know why I’m a little off, and perhaps they’ve learned something about the ongoing consequences of child sexual abuse–that they don’t end when you turn 18.

  15. i am trying hard 2 break my silence but have 2 b aware of my own safety as i was ritually abused within a strong masonic paedophile ring which is still active ……. my abusers maintain a strong presence around me locally and i am under constant threat of death from disclosure ….. i go under this name which has allowed me 2 speak out 2 some extent ………. i am fearful but i will not be completely silenced ………

  16. MZC–I’m glad your unintentional “outing” yourself turned out to be a good thing!

    Rosie–Good for you for protecting yourself and for finding creative ways of raising your voice anyway!

  17. I don’t really know what it’s like to keep it secret, not the rape anyway. I was too afraid I might have some terrible disease-it happened in 1985, when the AIDS scare was brand new w/ no cure for the disease. Back then I had to wait 9 months to find out if I had a disease that would kill me. They didn’t have any tests for it like they do now, and I had to sit there waiting to find out if I had AIDS.
    It was the worst 9 months of my life.
    The Victim Advocate-something else that was brand new in 1985-said that about the truth too.
    I’ve always wondered why everyone else is confident about it, but I’m not, even though I was there and should know better than anyone that it’s the truth.
    Their attorney tried to make it sound like, b/c I was living in an Orphanage when it happened, that there was doubt as to whether I wanted to have sex w/ them-even though I DIDN’T want to and said so.
    He tried to use my background almost as if he was trying to say orphans can’t be raped b/c they’re sluts or prostitutes.
    They aren’t allowed to use that as a defense anymore, but they could and did in the beginning of 1986.

  18. Christina, I am BLOWN AWAY by how your story could easily be my own. With the exception that my father died 5 years before I remembered. But my mother didn’t believe me and I was shunned by my whole family. I started a blog recently, as my “coming out” party. If you start with the first entry from new years eve 2010, it sort of tells my story. Maybe you could have a look and share your thoughts with me? Your site and others like it have given me strength. God bless you and thank you for what you do!

  19. Oops, I thought the link to my blog would show up in my message- here it is: http://youmeantheskyisntblue.blogspot.com/
    thanks, Gabrielle

  20. Thank you so much for the work you and and for being so brave and courageous with your own experiences as well as supporting the rest of us out there on our long, arduous journey towards healing.

    I was repeatedly abused as a minor by my middle school “boyfriend” and have struggled for years (happened when i was 13, I am now 28) with understanding what happened, not blaming myself, and most of all dealing with the humiliation that still follows me around. During the abuse, my abuser told everyone about what had happened except grossly exagerated some details, made it look as though i was an eager and willing participant instead of a child and was the catalyst for what amount to a public shaming that I have still not dealt with properly. Some of the stories were so gross and hurtful to my sense of self worth (and SO sensational when you’re in gossipy middle school) that I have never been able to even disclose them, yet live with the knowledge that others have completely out of context knowledge of some of the humiliations I endured, causing me an extreme amount of social anxiety whenever I visit my hometown.

    I have tried to deal with the pain, the shame and all the residual effects through some counseling and even by going into sexual assault counseling myself as a career (for a while), yet it’s been very tough to deal with emotional flare ups and triggers. I have never been able to tell my family, as I just can’t bear the pain and suffering it will cause them, but my fear of further trauma/humiliation is now getting in the way of my hopes and dreams. I am a musician, but fear any recognition for my art lest my story become public and I am faced to deal with more humiliation. Nobody in my town knew that all the hurtful and gross sexual rumors they heard about me were a result of abuse and somehow, as is common with girls, I was painted as some dirty, promiscuous girl despite having no prior knowledge of sex and being a child when it happened. I have spent years trying to recreate a “first time” with new partners as mine was taken and have no idea how to claim and own up to some of the most disgusting incidents that went on. I spent so long trying to make excuses that I sometimes doubt if anyone would believe me anyway but I need to find way to fight the hold this has had over me for so long. I’ve made progress, I’ll say. I am now able to utter the words “i was raped/i was abused” which took me YEARS to even be able to say out loud due to the power those words hold. I have confided in a handful of ppl and find that the longer i’ve known someone, the harder it is for me to tell them what i endured (as their response somehow means much more, as one reader noted). I think it may be time for me to join a women’s group so I feel less alone and more supported. I wonder though, if you have any suggestions or resources for dealing with public shaming/humiliation that often goes on after abuse. That has been, by far, the hardest area for me to find any peace of mind and healing.

  21. Vicki,
    That’s horrible to be treated that way! I’m glad things have changed in some ways, but there are still so many things that still need to be changed.
    Christina

    Gabrielle,
    Thanks for sharing your blog. I’ll check it out. Writing has been so instrumental in my healing. I look forward to reading what you’ve written.
    Christina

    Anon,
    I’m sorry for all you’ve been through and all the pain it’s caused you. The abuse is bad enough without it continuing through the lies told about us. I’ve experienced that too and I know how painful it is. As for dealing with the public shaming, I’m not sure it’s any different from the way to deal with any other type of shaming. It’s still requires getting to the source of our own belief in the shame– confronting it as a lie and validating ourselves. That’s what my process has been all about. I don’t always get the responses from others that I want/need, but I can always validate myself. It’s taken me a long time to be able to really be there for myself inspite of the betrayal of others, but all the baby steps have been powerful.
    Hugs, Christina

  22. I know I haven’t read all the way through, but I really need advice on what happened when I told the only person I CAN tell about what happened to me.
    I told him I was raped by two guys at the same time. I was thinking he’d be angry at them, maybe even disgusted. That wasn’t his response. His reaction was as follows:
    He wanted to know their first and last names and where they lived when it happened.
    This isn’t just a blustering person. He has lots of money and he knows how to find people w/ just their names and the name of a city they previously lived in.
    My first reaction was that I wanted to tell him, but then I DIDN’T want to-but not for the right reason. I just don’t want him to go to jail if he avenges what happened. Also, I’d feel like it was my fault if I gave him all the information and he used it, like I KNOW he will.
    Since I didn’t expect that reaction from him, I didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, I convinced him not to go find them-but he’s only promised that he won’t find them “for now.”
    So I’d like to know. What would other people do in this situation? I mean how do I convince him to not do it?
    I can’t believe I’m even asking, but I don’t want him to get in trouble either.

  23. Vicki,
    I’m sorry you didn’t get the kind of support you expected or needed. It sounds like his needs are conflicting with your needs. He seems to need to “do” something and you needed someone to empathize and listen without “doing” something.

    It’s not your responsibility to convince him. That conflicts with his boundaries. How he thinks and what he thinks are his business. What is within your boundaries is to explain how that would only cause you more pain than you’re already in if he went through with his plans. If he doesn’t listen, then you are empowered in this since you have the names and he doesn’t. It’s your choice not to give him the names and his attempts to get the names from you when you’ve expressed your fear is a violation of your boundaries. If he keeps pressing you, he’s putting his needs above yours.

  24. Thank you. He hasn’t really asked for the names. Not since this morning. I wouldn’t be able to tell him it would hurt me though, unfortunately, I just don’t want him to get in trouble over them.
    That’s probably the wrong reason to not want him to do anything, I don’t really care if someone WANTS to hurt them-and I guess I SHOULD care, but I don’t-I’m only concerned that he’ll get in trouble for it.
    I think he was angry about it. He said he was angry. But he hasn’t asked for the names again.
    We’ve been doing other things, like discussing this book I’m reading that’s about a gorgeous black cat that helps a family through a terrible loss.

  25. There’s one thing I forgot to mention the first time I read this. The first person I told about being molested, someone I thought was a friend for over a year, blabbed my story to the whole 6th grade. After that, I lost any possibility of making any more friends at that school and, for two more years, was forced to endure people making fun of me and disliking me just b/c SHE told them all what I told HER.
    And her mom did the same w/ the adult portion of the small town I lived in. To this day, I hate living in small towns. If that’s how they’re going to act, I never want to see another small town as long as I live.

  26. Christina Dear,
    I found this blog 3 days ago, & with every new article I read, I feel more and more reassured that I can get past the sharp physical & emotional pain stemming from a drunken, abusive stepfather and a hypocritical mother who ignored my pleas to keep me safely away from him. After years of sticking my toe in the water by thinking surely others had it worse, these posts have helped me dive in headfirst and know that my pain is warranted and that the people who were supposed to protect me did God-awful things to me instead. I used to beg my stepfather to punch me in the face so I could call the police with proof I was being hurt.
    No one heard my cries, and those who did obviously didn’t think it was their business to interfere. I was used to having no voice, no power, and I was taught that my instincts were completely backwards.
    Ur words are like a safe, warm blanket. I feel I will heal & I am so grateful to have found u all! Xo rachel

  27. Hi Rachel,
    Welcome to Overcoming Sexual Abuse! I’m so glad you found us and that you’re finding hope and encouragement. Have you checked us out on Facebook yet? It’s another excellent source of daily support.

    Thank you so much for you comment. Your words are very encouraging to me!
    Hugs, Christina

  28. Hi I am going through Psychotherapy which is very hard, I have told my husband most things,but I hid everything for a long time,I shut it away and got on with my life the best I could,my sister told 10 yrs ago and also I being diagnosed with Bipolar 1 & 2 , having fits and also total memory loss during stressful times, I still tried to shut it away, it is not that easy now and have found myself looking for others to share my abuse with that have gone through it tooits still not easy to find this the UK seem to find it a disease to avoid talking about,im glad ou have found a way through this Christina xxx

  29. Hi Sara,
    I’m glad you’re willing to open up about your abuse. I know it’s not always easy to find people who are willing to listen in an understanding way, but you deserve to have the support you never had. I hope you keep trying because there are people who will understand.
    Christina

    P.S. Have you checked out our facebook page? It’s full of supportive people who understand since we’ve all been there.

  30. OMG your story is really what i needed to hear! I was abused by my stepdad and when I told my mother she hated me!! All I ever wanted was for her to love me! Ill share more when i can.I just heard last year that it was thought to be an affair!!!!! GOD knows my heart and how I fought for it all to stop!!! It was not an affair!!!but i think my mom says that so its OK for her to stay with him!! GOD help me but I hate him I feel he took my mom from me with alot of other things Ill pray for you and plz pray for me !!! will this ever be over?

  31. Leigh,
    That’s so painful to be betrayed by both parents! I’m so sorry you were treated like that. I can relate to being angry with HIM because he took your mom away. That’s the way I felt too. I thought if my dad admitted to abusing me, my mom would suddenly love me. But I was just making excuses for her because I wanted her love so much. The truth is that she was protecting herself from the awful truth and it wouldn’t have mattered if he confessed. I was the enemy, not him, since I was expendable.

    I hope you see that her reaction to you (really, both of their treatment of you) has nothing to do with your value. You were rejected by her because of HER, not because you aren’t worthy of her love and support. It doesn’t have anything to do with a deficiency in you; it’s due to a deficiency in her.

    This is a painful process, but it gets better. Keep going! I’ll say a prayer for you.
    Hugs, Christina

  32. Christina I hope you understood what I ment when I said It was what I needed to hear! I’m sorry for what you went thru and was thankful for someone who knew how i felt!Thank you for your kind words!!Thank you for stepping up and giving woman like us a way to exspress our feelings.

  33. This is coming at the right time for me. Thank you, you are a blessing. Your messages are clear, well thought out and needed. I, too, am “waking up” and am in need of gentle guidance and support. Have looked for it and not been too successful over the years. Your page is helping me to “mother” myself so that I can proceed with my healing. Without your voice (and a few others here on the web) I would still be lost.

  34. Leigh,
    Yes, I completely understand what you meant by it was what you needed to hear. I’m so glad you read it at the right time and that it was helpful.
    Christina

    Deirdre,
    I’m so glad you’re blessed by what you’ve read here and that’ you’re learning how to mother yourself. It’s so encouraging to hear that what we do is helpful. Thank you so much for letting me know.
    Christina

  35. Christina
    I can feel how Your family hinder You from healing process ……. they are doing the same here …… becoz they want me still under the power of being abused an not to be free …….. it hurts me alot

  36. Martha, it is so hurtful that family would do that. I found it so hard to believe MY family would hurt and betray me. I’d concocted such a fantasy about who they were that it was a shock to see the truth.

    My family doesn’t hinder me anymore, though they have sure tried. It was easy to get away from them physically but getting away from the dysfunctional thinking and behavior that they taught me has been a process. The more I change my belief system, the less influence they have and they really can’t keep me down anymore.

    I’m so sorry you’re hurting right now, but I hope you can make yourself safe from anymore harm from the ones who should love you.

    Christina

  37. wow! i hope i can get there one day… i’m still so scared to talk about it. everytime i try, i feel like people don’t believe me.

  38. Rachel, I hope you keep trying!

  39. Really enjoy your articles. I was abused by my father from the time I was 3 to 12 years old. I finally told my mom at 19 when I was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer (stress induced). I told her because I still had a little 4 year old sister at home who would be the next prey (my older sister was abused as well). She didn’t deny it (because he admitted up to it in a very vague way), but she denied its effects and was not interested in protecting my little sister. I was so full of rage that a mother wouldn’t want to protect her child…because I realized she wouldn’t have protected me either, had she known. It was about her own convenience (she wanted to stay with him and pretend nothing was wrong). But I believe that results from her own brokenness. We prosecuted as the only way to protect my little sister. The defense attorney said “I don’t see what his (older) children are so concerned about.” and other demeaning and belittling comments that make us out to be the enemies of peace. My father got away with 20 (combined) years of abuse by serving a jail sentence of 18 months and allowed back in the house with my little sister…with my mom being deemed an appropriate “supervisor”! (Barf!) Unfortunately our justice system isn’t interested in protecting little children.
    It’s been 10 years now trying to heal….I’ve often wondered when I’ll be “done with this.” I go though periods of intensive healing and “work” followed by periods of inactivity and “the rest of life”. Then the cycle begins again. I call them “onion layers”. I think I’ve reached a healing point….later to find that I have deeper to go. It gets frustrating, but a lot of what you wrote in your articles help to place this. Thankful for the work you do in helping to sort out these messes in life and keep people working towards healing and peace. :) Thank you.

  40. One more thing. It might be scary to think that people won’t believe you, and that you will feel rejection AGAIN…. and this is very possible. But the FREEDOM and the PEACE you can find in telling is beyond words. Truth has one condition: that is that it be told. There is a verse in the Bible which says the “truth shall set you free.” It is soooo true. It is not the easiest thing, it doesn’t come overnight. But like the poster above said – she told different details in stages….this was true for me as well. At first I was really general…then became more specific the more times I told it. I think it is hard for us to be comfortable with the truth…even harder to say it. But it is so important and brings so much healing! It can’t be rushed, but will happen in time.

  41. Chloe,
    Yay for standing up for the truth! Even though your father didn’t get much of a sentence, YOU spoke the truth and that’s so important. I agree that the truth sets us free. After living in lies, secrecy and denial for so many years, the truth is liberating and it’s actually much more comfortable than the lies. Thank you for sharing your story!
    Christina

  42. i wish i would have found this article years ago. the first time i was abused i panicked. i was attacked by my brother at my grad party. my dad and i had been really close, so after a few days i went to him. looking back now i wish i hadn’t told him first. he missed the first half of my brother’s life and defends him constantly because of it. i stopped going to family gatherings and have been homeless at times because i was so scared to be at my dad’s after that. no matter how many times i asked my dad and his fiance, they would not let me know ahead of time if my brother was coming over. they encouraged him to talk to me to work things out. and the only way i was allowed at my dad’s wedding was if i “got along” with my brother, which included taking pictures with him and his family. i’m finally on the road to recovery, which is how i came upon this site, and reading this article even years after the fact is healing. there were points touched on in this article that really helped me to fit all of my own pieces together, and that has played a huge part in regaining my self esteem. i find myself doubting what occured, saying that he didn’t mean it “like that” and i was overreacting. my dad has told me the same thing several times. its validating to read others’ stories. thank you so much.

  43. Brittany,
    I can sure relate to doubting what happened. My parent’s reaction (even to later events) seemed far from what I “knew” of my parents. The two things that helped me accept the truth was reading the dynamics of an incest family and putting all their behavior together. I had separated each incident where they rejected me and the truth, which allowed me to excuse it away or to dismiss it. When I saw the long history of that kind of treatment, my eyes were opened.

    I’m glad you’re on the road to healing. Thanks for sharing your experience.
    Christina

  44. I have always wished that someone would tell me what to do about my family abuse situation. My mother was abused by her father and I was abused by my father (not her husband, I was adopted at 9). My mom protected me from my dad for years and I received therapy and everything. Then when I was about 16 apparently there was a lot of pressure for me to speak to my dad in person…at a funeral! It was a big surprise to me but I was kind of forced into it. Anyways, to make a long story short….years later I have my own kids and so do my siblings and I am closer to my Dad than ever. I have never been able to talk about the abuse with him even though he has tried. I was so scared when he brought it up that I told him that it never happened. Then later, I told him that I never wanted him alone with my daughter b/c of the abuse and he reminded me that I said it had never happened. No one ever talks about it in my family and my sister even leaves her daughter with him even though I have told her that it did actually happen. I guess I feel that this is unresolved and don’t know how to deal with it without destroying my family. Any ideas?

  45. Anonymous,
    I understand how you’ve come to think that by telling the truth, you’re destroying your family. My daughter was afraid to tell me about her abuse for the same reason. The truth is that TRUTH doesn’t destroy families or even the abuser. Exposing abuse gives the entire family an opportunity to heal and to learn more healthy and functional ways to relate to each other. For incest to occur in a family, it takes more than just an abuser and a victim. It’s part of an entire dysfunctional system of discounting emotional needs. Unfortunately, when most families are confronted with the truth, they don’t choose to heal, rather they blame the truth-teller victim so they can continue in their dysfunctional ways.

    As my daughter wrote in her post “Underprotected”, at least seven adults (other than her abuser-father) knew about what he was doing to her, yet nobody protected her. She was so angry to discover that. She wondered just how many adults it took to protect ONE child. She was right. She didn’t have any power to act, but others did and chose to protect themselves instead. The truth is that there is no well being for anyone when the most vulnerable in their midst are being preyed upon. When the truth is hidden, abuse flourishes. With the truth is revealed and accepted, it can set people free. No matter what you decide to do, there is going to be pain–either pain to the children your father abuses or pain to those who would rather look the other way.

    Whatever you decide, we’re here for you.
    Christina

  46. Thank you so much for responding. I have decided to remove myself from get togethers at my fathers house for the time being and I have talked to other close members of the family….one of which I was surprised to hear was completely uninformed of the past situation. I am going to talk to him (whenever I get the courage) and tell him that I need to admit what he has done, apologize and get help. If he refuses, I will be done with him. That is really sad I know but it feels like the right approach. What do you think?
    I agree with you that the truth sets us free…..but man…..its going to be an all out attack on me…I am quite sure. It seems out of the blue to everyone else I bet, but it has just taken awhile for it all to come together for me. I am not sure it ever would have if I hadn’t seen your site. Thanks for being here. =)

  47. Anonymous,
    My separation from my family (the ones who didn’t want to hear or see the truth) was painful but liberating too. It gave me so much more clarity. I hope your decision yields the same.
    Christina

  48. Thanks for this very useful and empowering information, I’m in the process of really telling my parents everything that my brother’s did to me. i’m so scared to hurt my father, he is so proud of his sons and what they are today. I feel like i would be destroying his life if he knew the truth.
    I know i need to work through this, it’s hard, it feels like i’m destroying one for another.

  49. Well as my blog says this is something I have been dealing with this wee. right now as far as I’m concerned if people are not 100% behind me they are out, especially the “family.”

    http://survivechildhoodsexualabuse.blogspot.com/

  50. This is my first time telling this!
    I am telling this because I think this is the only way for me to be truly healed and happy.
    Please dont judged me for I was only a child when it happened, I hated my life and I been constantly hopeless about life, but I want to be healed, I dont want to suffer anymore, Please help me.
    I have been sexually abused by 4 different men when I was young.

    I am very curious kid, I was 4 when my one member of the family accidentally played an Xrated movie to us, being to tally curious what is shown in the tv my friend and I decided to show our private parts with each other and we started to copy what was shown to us not knowing that this was a bad thing, we playfully hugged each other but never went beyond that until one of my older male cousin saw us and we stopped what we were doing, I have learned that what we did is simply Playing the doctor, showing each private parts of your body to an opposite sex but my cousin made me feel guilty of what we did, I was only four so I didnt know what to do, he threatened to tell every member of my family of what we did if I didnt agree of what he wants me to do. He would constantly follow me wherever I go and asked me to have sex with him, I would always refused him and he would always threatened
    me. We do not have our own house so I lived with my cousins, one day I went to the bathroom alone when I saw my cousin standing on the door and threatened to scream what he saw if I didnt gave in, feeling so scared and helpless I finally agreed to what he wants me to do, he then begin to put her body against me, and started to undress me, then the horror of my life begin when he put his ***** over my private part, I want to scream but I am so scared I feel so helpless and what disgust me is a part of me enjoys what he was doing to me. It happened four times, I would constantly refused him but he would find a way to make it happen either by threatening me or by telling me that what we were doing is okay because other people are doing it as well. I remember saying to him that I dont want to do it because God will get mad with me and I will go to hell if we did it and its bad to do it and he will always tell me not to believe on this thing because its normal to do it but I always felt guilty after he touched me, like I am broken.
    Another male cousin abused me, I dont how it happened because I cannot recall them but I think it happens when I was 6 years old, I am sorrounded by male teenagers during this time, my cousin were my playmates since I am the only young girl in the family the would always asked me to play with them. One night when I was sleeping I feel something hard pressing at my butt, I dont know what to do I wanted to stand up and scream but my cousin is stronger than me and he told me to that he knows my secret with the other cousin and would tell them to my mom if i didnt stay still, so I didnt move he then began to kissed me all over my body, I feel so dirty when he did it but cannot do anything about it, I cannot recall everything he did to me but he would forced me to hold his ***** and if I wont do it, he will get mad at me and would put his **** over my private part. He touched two times, and he would always tell me not to fight with it but to enjoy it instead because what he was doing to me is a good thing and I felt guilty when theres a part of me who feels good about what he was doing.

    A few months later I am still 6 years old, my family decided to left our cousins house and stayed at a family friends house, I remember being so happy when we finally leave my cousins house knowing that I could escape the horror of what happened at that house, and for a quite some time feel totally free, then again something bad happened to me at that house. I dont know how it happened I just remember one night the teenager son of the the family friend lied beside me at midnight then began to rub his pennis againts mine, he was drunk when he was doing it , I feel so scared because he was way older than me he was 19 and we were sleeping beside his sisters, I cant remember how it happened but I just followed everything that he wants me to do and again I feel so horrible because I just gave in on what he want me to do. It only happens once, he could look me at the eye the next morning and told me that he just did what he did because he was drunk and told me to keep this secret.

    When I was seven my family can already afford to buy a house, I was so relieved to have our own house because a part of me felt safe knowing that I will not have to live with boys that can abused me but I was wrong. A close family friend about 45 years old stayed with us for a couple of weeks, he was adored by my parents for being one of the nicest and kindest family friend that they have, but a part of me is scared to him, maybe because he is a new face to me and because I dont know if I can trust him. He stayed at our house for a couple of weeks and he acted very nice towards me and my sister, he always tell us that he saw his children on us, but I never felt safe around him because there were times when I can see him watching me and my sister like an evil but I just ignored what I see because my parents admired him. I always sleep with my parents and my siblings since we do not have a room we only have a bed, and the house guest slept on the floor, one night the guy suggested that we sleep beside him and because my parents were too trusting with him and considered him as a family they agreed to his offer, my parents asked me then to sleep beside him and I can vividly remember that I said No, I dont want to because a part of me doesnt trust the man and I know that he will do something bad, I told my parents that I dont want to but they get mad at me instead and force me to sleep beside the man because its they were ashamed of how I said No, I still said No so my parents asked my younger sister if she wants to sleep with him, my sister is about 4, I felt protective over my sister so I finally agreed to sleep beside him. True to my gut he is a bad man, he began to put his ***** on my back, I was so afraid of him because he is very old and very strong, I remember not turning around though I know that he was doing something bad and then I finally felt broken when he asked me to turned around and told me that he would do something bad to my parents if I didnt, I cannot do anyting about it when he penetrated, He is a big guy, so what he was doing is very painful to me. My parents are sleeping very well when I am going thru hell with their family friend. He even put his mouth on my private part which is so nasty. The next morning, he pretented to be so a good man again, but I am dying inside on what he did to me, he will always asked me to go with him and play somewhere and I’ll do everything in my power to avoid him, he even asked me if enjoyed what he did. I felt so dirty for what he did to me, but a part if me felt Im glad that it happened to me and not my younger sister because I cannot forgive myself if something happens to her. He eventually went home and never saw him after that.

    A part of me is mad with my parents for not taking care of me so well, dont get me wrong my family is very loving but there are also very busy making a living and very trusting to other people not knowing the hell that I went thru during those time that they are away. I love my family so much but I think what I went thru started me to put walls on my relationship on other people specially with my family.

    I am 23 years old now, never had any boyfriend and sexual intercourse eversince those incidents. I grew just fine, and family and friends always tell me how proud they are to for being such a nice person but they dont know the horror that I am going thru.

    I have tried to forget what happened on me on the past, but lately I keep getting flashback so I decided to confront my past and God Knows how desperate I am to be free of my past and to start living finally because I believe that I am deserving of it because I am good person, I just want to be okay. I know I will be okay, god will take care of me, I just need to forgive myself and let go of my past and be okay,

  51. Agatha,
    Welcome to OSA! Thank you for sharing that. None of that was your fault. I understand being angry with your parents for not protecting you. It was their job to keep you safe but they didn’t do that. Acknowledging my anger toward my parents was a vital part of my healing process. It said to me, “I deserved to be protected. I am worthy of protection.”

    Healing is a long process, but it gets better with every step. How do you feel after sharing that? It’s normal to feel a variety of emotions from relief to victorious to depressed to exhausted. I’m careful to be gentle with myself every time I take another step in my healing. It’s part of undoing the damage that was done through the abuse. Abuse sends the message, “You aren’t valuable” but good self-care says, “You are precious and valuable”.

    I hope you continue to participate in our community. You deserve to heal.

    Hugs,
    Christina

  52. Christina,

    Hi! First of all, I want to thank you for reading my story, it meant a lot to finally share this to someone who can understand without judgement. Thank you so much.

    I dont know how to explain this but something happened to me after sharing my story, I was kind of relief after that, it felt that a heavy burden was lifted on me but I know I still have a long way to go and I just want to be okay.

    I dont know how to start, I left our home a week and I am travelling alone right now, trying to get answers and trying to let go of my past, but never thought that confronting your past would be this painful. I just realized that the abuse has taken a lot from me, I have self esteem issues, Ive been depressed, been disassociated with people, also experienced panic attacks but I think the one that one that really affected is my inability to trust people. I just want to take control of my life and live again . I dont want my past to define my future but I dont know what to do next after sharing the story. How can I learned to trust again. Please help me..

    I am very thankful of this site and people like you who are always ready to listen and help, it really meant a lot for people like me who are going thru a lot.

    agatha

  53. Agatha,

    You are making a great start. Have you read our page, “Where Do I Start?” It’s full of information and encouragement from other survivors. The other thing that’s helped me so much is keeping a healing journal. From the beginning of my recovery, I’ve recorded my memories, nightmares, flashbacks and emotions. It’s been so helpful to me as I put the pieces of myself and my past back together. This site is full of stories and blogs from other survivors at all different stages of the journey, so I’m sure you’ll be able to relate to lots of it. I’m so glad you found us!

    Christina

  54. Nicole,
    You deserve to be very proud of yourself for standing up for yourself. One of the messages of abuse is that other people’s needs and wants are more important than ours and it’s so common for survivors to put others above us. I understand wanting to protect your parents from knowing something that would hurt them, but it’s a parent’s job to protect their children, not the other way around.

    I hope that no matter their response, you know you’re worthy of protection and support.

    Hugs,
    Christina

  55. Any advice out there for someone trying to heal? I was raped by my best friend three years ago and never really healed from that. The worst part is that almost a year later, I was on vacation with my family and my drink was drugged and…yeah…the same thing just different scenario. It brought everything up from the first time..Now I am just trying to move on. I feel like it has ruined my life..

  56. My daughter was molested by her best friends father at age 10 during a sleepover. We have been friends with this family for over 10 years. She did not disclose it until 4 years later. She buried the pain because she so loved her best friend that she did not want to be the one who took her Dad away from her. We followed the proper channels to report this. Because there were no witnesses/forensic evidence, my daughter was not considered a victim but a witness when we went to Children’s Court. His two daughters were each assigned an attorney by the Court. He hired his own criminal attorney. We were told we would not need an attorney. His daughters swore that he never touched them. His attorney had my daughter dismissed as a witness, so she never got to tell the DA her side of the story. One of the investigators told my daughter to “make sure she tells someone right away if this happens again.” The police believed her, the detective believed her, her therapist and doctors believe her, we/our family believes her, even the attorneys representing his daughters believed her, and they tried to console us after the DA dismissed it. That was 4 months ago. My daughter has suffered in silence for 4 years, and now faces an entirely new set of challenges to begin healing. The fact that nothing can be done to this man has only added to her pain. I want to tell my friends and their friends about this, I want them to know his name. I want them to hear her side of the story, I want them to ask their children if he ever did this to them. My daughter does not have a problem in telling who he is, and at this point it may even help her with her recovery. There is no motive in this accusation by my daughter, she had everything to lose. That is why she kept it secret. And now her life is so scarred. There could be someone else just like her that is afraid to tell. This family is very active with the schools and their friends. I want them to know what he did. Its their choice to believe us or not. We are prepared for that. But he and his family have moved on with their lives and I fear our daughter will never get out of the trenches, not to mention any other victims. I need to do something. Its just not right.

  57. Thank you for this wonderful article. I wish I had read it on Monday. I just started my journey of healing about a month or so ago , when I realized this issue has been hurting those I love most in this world, my husband and my children. To my surprise, it was a huge “relief” to start talking about it and to allow myself to feel the pain that I had repressed all of these many years. I had no intention of telling my parents of the abuse , though I strongly suspected they already knew about it. Well, I am not sure why but I sort of blurted it out in the same way as in this article, very matter of fact. It was the worst mistake I have made. My mother is upset with me for telling her at all, stating that she is 67 years old and I shouldn’t have done this to “her.” Those feelings of shame and rejection came crashing back like a ton of bricks. . ..and here comes the anxiety, the heart palpitations. Last night I woke up every 5 minutes as my body twitched. This morning I woke up once again with my jaw clenched and a migraine, which I have not experienced since before I started the healing. I’m afraid all of the progress I made is now lost. I wish I had not told my mother. I hope I can get back to where I was.. . . I was doing so well.

  58. dear Christina

    for a lot of years I had not remembered my childhood. it only through counselling at my age now 41, that I have discovered why I was so angry as a teenager and was put into care. I was sexually abused by a family member. for the past few years I was in a domestic violent relationship. I have a 2 year son. unfortunately he is in foster care due to this. my past relationship with my now ex. my ex was controlling and violent. when I left my ex I became extremely angry with social worker. this had prevented them returning my son. final hearing for son is in two months time. I feel like a weight has been lifted by talking to my counseller. local authority insist I disclose why I was a angry teenager. I am just coming to terms with. being abused. I fear telling my family as I fear they will dis own me. like you Christina it’s important I tell who I can trust. do you feel I can heal by talking it through with counseller. I am scared of people’s response. you are very brave and I am glad you are hearing.

    a strong role model you are Christina.

    cupcakes x

  59. I started talking more and more as the years went on. I was in the family you described above about incest. I have been hated very much for it. I have been called names and rejected by my dad and his extended family. My brother is treated like royalty. My brother called me a c***. This happened in a loud forum where family convened in the house the day after my mom died. I still hate my dad for allowing that to happen and for treating me with the utmost contempt. I tried to re-establish a relationship with him, but I am still treated as a stranger..as are my children. I am walking away. My life is so much happier on its own and way from the sick filth I called family once.

  60. That’s what the victim advocate said – 20 years later. They didn’t have victim advocates in 1985 when this happened.
    The victim advocate said that I know they did it and so do they, but I’m not sure if they do b/c they were high on cocaine when they did it. I have no idea if they remember doing it. But I kept my mouth closed about it, since I decided she was trying to help.
    The prosecutor was helpful too, but even he didn’t say what the victim advocate did. I liked him anyway b/c he was trying to prove I WASN’T a liar.
    I have a personal friend who’s a defense attorney, but he’s nothing like the attorney in that case. He even knew the name of their attorney b/c he used to work where I live. He told me the guy was not a nice human being, which is “exactly why he chose to use the defense that he did.”
    He told the court I was “out looking for a good time, and that casts a shadow of a doubt as to whether it really was rape or that I wanted it.” Then he put two witnesses on the stand that said we “were out looking for a good time.” The way he asked the question there was nothing else those two COULD’VE said. We WERE looking for a good time – but not with sex.
    This guy was a damn master at the craft of making me look like a no-good whore who’s from the bottom of the barrel in society just b/c I lived in an orphanage when this happened.
    I’m glad the prosecutor explained all the jobs of the people who would be in the courtroom beFORE I met them. If I hadn’t known, it would have come as the nastiest surprise of my life.

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