I've Been Sexually Abused. What Should I Do?
This isn't an easy question to answer, depending on your situation.
Try to go somewhere safe, if at all possible. If you can share what happened with somebody you trust, do so and ask for their help to ensure you are safe from the abuser.
Talk About The Abuse
This is easier said than done. I get it and I've been there.
If you don't feel like you can talk to a person about it, talk to a pet, or write about it in a hidden journal or diary. This may sound silly, but it can be just as effective as talking to a person about what happened to you. It will help you get it out and not hold it inside. It can help you express and work through your feelings about what's happening to you. Most importantly, you won't feel as alone and isolated.
If there is somebody you can trust, talk to them when you're ready. It's not easy the first time. I know that it feels like nobody will believe you, but there are people who will believe and who want to help. Choose somebody who will listen and let you talk, who will respect your privacy and your decision on what to do next. They can offer advice, but they shouldn't pressure you to do what you aren't ready for.
Statistics show that many people confide to a friend initially. There are many resources within your community if you are looking for support or somebody to talk to who has experience with child sexual abuse. Your doctor, a family member, or a co-worker are others you may want to consider.
I do encourage you to talk to your parents about the abuse (I realize in some situations a parent may be the abuser, complicating the situation a lot more) when you feel ready. They will be able to protect you from the abuser, offer you support, and talk about options.
Report the Abuse
Choosing to report the abuse is not an easy decision and one that should be thought through.
I believe that every situation is unique, and it is the victim's decision whether they choose to report the sexual abuse to the authorities. I personally don't believe a victim of abuse has an obligation to report to the authorities; reporting to the authorities is a very personal choice, depending on the victim's circumstances. I am not discouraging anybody from going ahead and doing so - I would encourage you do some research so that you know what to expect and feel that you are ready for it. Healing from sexual abuse can be a long, challenging journey so make sure you feel strong enough before making your decision.
If you think you are strong enough, start to do research on child sexual abuse. I have identified some Resources and Statistics on my site that may be a good place to start. As you read more, you will realize that you are not alone and what you are feeling is normal for a victim of child sexual abuse. The more you start to learn, the stronger you should feel and the sooner you can start your journey towards healing.
There are quite a few self-help books on sexual abuse. The one that was most helpful for myself was The Courage To Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis. These authors have published a few self-help books for victims who wish to start their journey towards becoming a survivor.
Stop the Abuse
This seems obvious to anybody who hasn't been in this situation. However, once you are in the situation of being sexually abused as a child, you will realize how impossible this may seem.
If you have not yet told somebody about the abuse who can help protect you, there are things you can do to protect yourself:
- avoid being alone with the abuser, if at all possible
- understand how abusers control their victims and understand that IT'S NOT TRUE
- they may convince you that nobody will believe you
- they may convince you that the abuse is your fault, happening because of something you did
- they may convince you that nobody else loves you and that this is how the abuser shows how important you are and it's normal
- they may threaten to hurt you or somebody close to you if you don't do as you are told. Usually this is not true. However, if the abuser has a history of violence then this is one situation where I strongly encourage you to ask for help from somebody as soon as possible.
In most situations, child sexual abuse is about control and manipulation. It's the control that the abuser feels over their victim that often causes the abuse to happen over and over. If you can break the control the abuser has over you, they are often powerless. If you start to understand some of the methods the abuser uses to control you, perhaps you will gain the upper hand and be able to start saying NO.
I do want to state again, some abusers may show signs of being violent (the majority aren't, but some will be). The most important thing is you protect yourself and seek assistance if there is any sign of violence. Your safety always comes first.
Last Updated July 26, 2013