How do I confide in family or friends about the abuse?

Some background, some drama

Telling someone about the sexual abuse may be a difficult thing to do. However, telling what happened, putting the unutterable into words, is an important part of healing. Telling is a huge step in making sure that you are safe and in caring for yourself. You may feel a world of emotions; betrayal, fear, pain, vulnerability and a sense of helplessness. Further, you may have been physically hurt as well. The most important goals are breaking the secret and the burden of keeping it and reducing shame.

Do’s and Don’ts

It’s okay to feel nervous, embarrassed, scared or even guilty when telling someone of the abuse. But it’s even more important to accept these feelings and talk to someone…family, friends or a counsellor. It would help to just get immense relief at finally letting out the problem.

The “How Do I" series tries to list down a few Do’s and don’ts to guide and help you to confide in family or friends about the abuse.

Do’s

  • One of the most important steps to recognizing and escaping the clutches of sexual abuse is to realize that it is not your fault that you are or were being abused. Guilt or shame will sometimes arise, but it’s important not to allow this to keep you from telling other people and getting help for yourself.
  • Spend time with people you love. Look for the people who are most important in your life, the ones who lift your spirits and make you feel relaxed. The support of others will help you heal.
  • Reach out to others who have also been abused. Try joining a support group for survivors of sexual abuse to connect with people who understand what you are going through and that you are not alone.
  • However, hard and impossible it is to forget the abuse you should try to move on. It’s time to accept that it happened and stop feeling sad about it.
  • Tell a trusted adult. An adult or other friend can report abuse to the police or child protective services on your behalf.
  • Sometimes the people you tell about incest or sexual abuse won't believe you; if that happens, keep trying until someone does believe you.
  • Building a strong support system around yourself has been shown to be one of the most helpful things for you to do in order to deal with the sexual abuse and its effects.
  • Document all acts of abuse. Take note of dates, times, injuries and any other observations. Your ongoing documentation can help bolster your courage and credibility when you are finally willing to pursue legal action against the abuser.

Dont’s

  • Don’t let anyone tell you that you deserved everything you got. No one deserves to be abused.
  • Don’t tell and talk about abuse in front of the possible abuser. This will only intimidate you and scare you from sharing your secret and seeking help.
  • Don’t take out your frustration on yourself. Show yourself some compassion. Accept that you will need time to recover and that it will be a challenging process.
  • Don’t let people make you feel like crap and ridicule you. Abuse is unforgivable and no one has a right to tell you to take it lightly or ridicule you.
  • Don’t panic. Keep calm and then seek help.
  • Don’t feel pressurised by family or friends to hide the issue of abuse. You have every right to come out in the open and seek help.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask family or friends if you need medical help or examination, especially in case of physical abuse.
  • Do not permit personal doubt to prevent you from reporting the abuse.

Last words

Sexual abuse is a horrible thing to go through, but there are ways to get help. Call the authorities if you are in immediate danger, talk to someone who cares about you or call a help hotline. If you are a survivor of abuse, you may have a lot of emotional pain. Recovering from sexual abuse can be frustrating and take a long time. The problems that victims of sexual abuse face are significant, because this is a crime often kept secret. Keeping sexual abuse secret leads to victims not receiving help, which makes them more prone to depression, alcoholism and drug abuse. Remember telling someone can help you heal and eventually move on.

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