Child Abuse: Speaking Up Is Not A Crime
As a person who has survived childhood sexual abuse, there will likely be times when you will feel as though you are bearing an invisible burden. Even though other people can’t see it, you know it’s there and you know it’s real. The thought of disclosing can be overpowering and frightening, but at some point, you might give some thought to doing so in order to take the invisible and make it visible to others.
It is actually quite common for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to not come forward with their experiences. An analysis of previous research on sexual abuse found that “significant proportions of adults have never disclosed” their own histories of sexual abuse and that “significant numbers of children do not disclose experiences of sexual abuse until adulthood.”
People keep secrets for a variety of reasons, including embarrassment over what took place, concern that the abuser will seek revenge in some form, a desire to shield a member of their family, and even uncertainty regarding the veracity of their memories and whether or not the abuse ever took place. The unfortunate reality is that the younger a child was when the abuse occurred and the closer their relationship was to the offender, the less likely it is that the child will come forward with their story. If you haven’t told anyone about the abuse, you have nothing to feel guilty or bad about. Every survivor faces the difficult decision of whether and when to disclose their experience.
Disclosing something is typically not a straightforward process that takes place all at once. It is a complicated process that typically entails making a series of partial disclosures to individuals in order to gauge their responses to information and determine whether or not it is secure to reveal further details. Many people who have survived traumatic experiences have said that the “emotional and cognitive processes involved in the decision to disclose, are overwhelming.” If any of these are questions that you are pondering at the moment, you should know that you are not the only one.
We are aware that even considering disclosure can be nerve-wracking. As a point of fact, it may appear to be impossible. On the other hand, there are some potential benefits that could come to you while you are on your journey to healing. Remember the backpack that blended incompletely? Sharing your experience of abuse with others can help you feel less burdened by it. When people are able to put themselves in your shoes, they are better equipped to offer assistance.
Keep in mind that your story is important and that your story is uniquely yours. Disclosure may result in benefits; however, it is important to do so at the appropriate time. Disclosure of abuse puts one in a position of vulnerability; therefore, it is important to confide in people you can trust. You do not have any influence over how other people will react to what you say to them, but you can surround yourself with family and friends who will love and support you.
In the end, the choice of who to tell and how much to say is entirely up to you, and it is critical that you give careful consideration to both of these questions. When you bring your story out of the shadows and into the light, being thoughtful and purposeful about what you share with others can help you open a new door on your path to healing. This can happen when you take your story out of the dark and shed some light on it.
Through our youth amplify project, HACEY is consistently having an impact in the fight against sexual abuse by educating young people about their sexual rights and the services available to them. For further information, please Visit hacey.org.