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Survivor worried about sharing her story.

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!,

When I was young, there was a guy that lived in my neighborhood that sexually abused me on more than one occasion. I received help years ago, but with the 10-year anniversary of his death coming up, it has brought back many depressing memories. Only a handful of people know about the abuse I experienced as a child, but I am tired of dealing with this myself. I have finally, at the age of 61, realized that I was the victim and it was not my fault. But I am worried what others will think of me just now sharing this. I have to get it off my shoulders-it has been a very trying 55 years of my life hiding this and I need to set myself free.

Response: 
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Dear Survivor,

I am so sorry that you experienced this abuse as a child. It’s incredible that you’ve been able to come so far in realizing that this was not your fault, and I’m so glad that you now want to courageously reach out for support by sharing your story. It’s never too late for healing.

Sharing as an Adult
You mention being worried about what others may think about you sharing this now. I wonder if it would help you to know that many people who have been sexually abused as children may never report the abuse. You may want to read our Advice Column, I was sexually abused as a child. Am I wrong to feel so guilty because I never told anyone?

We hear from many survivors who, as adults, are telling someone about what happened for the very first time. Telling others about the abuse can bring up a lot of emotions, including the worry and fear that you’re experiencing now. You may be worried about what others will say about waiting to tell, or you may be feeling some of the same worries or fears that kept you from telling when you were young. These are feelings that many survivors face, and there is help and support available for you.

Getting Help
Even though you received help many years ago, it sounds like the tenth anniversary of this man’s death is bringing up a lot of feelings for you that may still be very difficult to deal with. Sometimes the effects of childhood abuse can be lifelong, and I want you to know that it’s okay to continue to seek professional help as well as support from family and friends in addressing this abuse. Telling others what happened can produce a lot of anxiety, and it might help you to have that additional professional support as you figure out how best to do so.

You may want to return to your former counselor, or find new professional help. It may also help you to use our Adult Survivor Resources and Support – including online communities and support groups for others who have had similar experiences. You may find others in these groups or communities that have also told loved ones as adults, and can offer advice and support. You might also want to consider searching for a community support group in your area through RAINN’s sexual assault service provider search or search tools like Psychology Today’s Therapy Groups search.

Seeking out support through professional counselors and fellow adult survivors can give you the opportunity to tell your story in a safe space. It can also give you the emotional support you may need to tell loved ones who may not know, and to practice how you may want to share this information with them and prepare for what their reactions may be.

Telling Your Story
As adults, having the power of one’s own story – deciding when and how to share - is often a healing contributor to the recovery and reclaiming process. For that reason, there are also many websites and other public forums through which survivors can share their stories. I’m unsure of whether this is the means by which you’d like to share your story right now. In the meantime, these can give you the opportunity to read others’ stories even if you aren’t yet ready to share your own in this way.

The resources below are not referrals, but a place to start in researching other ways to share your story. Before you share your story in any public forum, you should research that forum carefully to be sure that their goals are aligned with your own. Some sites and organizations are run by survivors, others by therapists or professionals in the field; some are for public awareness or education, others for healing. It’s important that you feel comfortable sharing wherever and with whomever you choose to do so – remember that your story and experiences are yours, and sharing them is your decision.

  • Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation: Online site focused on healing, recovery and enacting change and understanding to confront the effects of child sexual abuse on an adult’s life.
  • Pandora’s Project: Online site that offers information, support, and resources to survivors of rape and sexual abuse and their friends and family. Archive of survivor’s stories.
  • Letters to My Abusers: A survivor’s project to provide a place for other survivor’s to reclaim their voice and power through letter writing.
  • Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) Speaker Bureau: Educates and informs the public about sexual violence. Members will have the opportunity to share their personal stories with students, communities, victim service groups and/or the media.

All adult survivors deserve to tell their stories, and whatever way in which you choose to do so, I hope that you find the support you deserve and the freedom you’re searching for. Every adult who has experienced childhood sexual abuse has the right to support, healing and recovery. Even though it has been a long and trying time for you, please know that it is never too late to tell your story and get support.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: November 13th, 2018