Revealing You Were Sexually Abused: 3 Ways To Make It A Positive Experience

16/07/2015 8:08 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Shutterstock / dragon_fang

Breaking the silence is an essential part of breaking the taboo that is child sexual abuse, as well as healing. However, this may not be a straightforward process. You may have tried to disclose to your parents or other trusted adults as a child, but perhaps no action was taken or what happened to you was minimised. Or your parents or guardians avoided talking about the abuse, thinking that this was what was best for you. But not talking about the issue may have inadvertently given you the wrong message that you were somehow to be blamed for the abuse.

Deciding to tell can be self-affirming. Never doubt your right to speak your truth. Speaking those words -- "I was abused" -- means putting it out there: you have shared your experience, and it is no longer necessary for you to suffer in silence, alone. When you are able to open up and the person listening to you acknowledges what you have been through, this can be a powerful experience. You may be receiving empathy and compassion for the first time as you disclose in a safe setting.

"You may begin to doubt yourself, that the abuse even happened. You may even feel terrified that the abuser may come after you..."

The following three things are what you will need to do to ensure as positive an experience as possible.

You don't have to rely on language to tell your story

As a child, you may not have had the vocabulary to articulate what was happening to you. The abuse may have been so traumatic that you may not be able to remember everything, or remember only in bits and pieces, and/or via physical sensations, that can be triggered by something visual, or even smell. There may be no coherence to your story: no beginning and no end. You may wish to explore telling your story through drawings, dance, poetry and/or music instead.

Be gentle with yourself

Be gentle with yourself and remember that telling may not be easy. You may begin to doubt yourself, that the abuse even happened. You may even feel terrified that the abuser may come after you, especially if he/she had threatened to do so when you were a child. However, telling will put you in the present, and that the abuse was what had happened to you in the past, and that your current behaviour may stem from past conditioning. By moving past the isolation that has held you prisoner, speaking out -- when you are ready-- will enable you to come to terms with what had happened to you. You will be able to seek help and get in touch with your feelings, and to begin the process of healing. However, you must work on building up your support network of trusted family members and close friends who will be there for you as you move through the various stages of the healing journey.

Choose listeners wisely

Choose carefully whom you wish to tell your story to. When you first disclose, you may be dispassionate, and speak in a matter-of-fact voice. However, as your listeners express their outrage and their sympathy, this may affect you. It may then really hit you. You may get angry and in your imagination, you may want to attack your abuser, make him/her realise what you have been through. With intimate partners and loved ones, your inner child may come out -- the scared child that you had been protecting all this while. Survivors often feel that the more often they told, the stronger they felt: less the victim, more the survivor.

"Breaking the silence is important. Reclaim your voice, what was rightfully yours in the first place."

Ask your family or friend whether this would be a good time to talk so that he/she would be ready to listen. Find a suitable place that feels safe for you, where there are no visual or other triggers. It may be helpful for your listener to be specific in terms of what you would like from them: would you like to be hugged or would you prefer not to be touched? Would you want them to listen in silence, or to express themselves afterwards? Your friends and family would want to offer their support, but with such a difficult topic as this, it will certainly help if you could provide them with some guidance. Try not to be upset if the listener's initial reaction is less positive than you expected: it is often difficult for people to absorb what they have just heard. Give them time. Keep the door open for more conversations.

Breaking the silence is important. Reclaim your voice, what was rightfully yours in the first place.

Fight child sexual abuse. Speak out.

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