The Most Important Thing You Can Say to a Sex Abuse Survivor

Couple walking together under umbrella by streamA friend, loved one, or family member pulls you aside to talk. He or she is normally quiet and reserved; this seems out of the ordinary.

“I have something very important to tell you. It’s very hard for me to say,” the person admits. “I have been sexually abused.”

How do you respond?

Do you recognize how powerful this moment is for the person talking?

For mental health professionals and non-mental health folks alike, being in the position of listener may seem daunting. In my work as a therapist, I have encountered many survivors of sexual abuse at various stages of the healing process. Most often, such people describe abuse starting in childhood and reoccurring throughout life.

In addition to the trauma inflicted by the abuse itself, many survivors, if not all, describe a bad experience when they chose to disclose the abuse to someone they trusted. Disclosing abuse is an enormously important and highly stressful event that can mark a golden opportunity for the survivor to begin the healing process.

If navigated poorly by the listener, however, it can easily be a step backward.

Many survivors of abuse hold on to memories of their abuse for years, typically denying, avoiding, or dissociating from them. It often takes an unthinkable amount of trust and vulnerability to motivate a survivor of abuse to disclose these events and make them “real.”

For those of us who have been on the listening end, it can be difficult to know what to do. The experience can be scary, and the unexpected and uncharted nature of the event may make us feel anxious. We may feel dismissive or defensive if the person identified as the abuser is a close friend, loved one, or family member. In some situations, inadvertently or otherwise, we may even shift blame to the victim by saying things like, “Why didn’t you say stop or call for help?” or, “Were you drunk when this happened?” or, “What were you dressed like?” These reactions are antithetical to the help that the survivor worked so hard to seek.

Before we cover what a person in the position of listener should do, let’s explore what may have prevented a survivor from disclosing abuse earlier. Sexual abuse, especially if perpetrated by someone the survivor knows and has an ongoing relationship with (family member, friend, friend of a friend, etc.), typically comes with threats if the survivor speaks up or alerts authorities. Aside from direct threats from the perpetrator, survivors will often harbor their own fears of consequences of disclosure, including:

  • Threats that the abuser will harm nonabusing peers or loved ones
  • Fear of judgment, embarrassment, alienation, and abandonment from nonabusing peers or loved ones
  • Consequences to the survivor’s social structure and/or family, especially if the abuser is a valued person within his or her social or family structure
  • Worry that because the events were so confusing to the survivor, he or she will not be able to properly communicate what happened
  • Concern that because the trust of nonabusing adults or peers had previously been damaged, he or she cannot turn to them for protection or help
  • In the event of childhood sexual abuse, the child may fear dissolving the only relationship he or she currently has

When someone tells you about his or her experience with sexual abuse, simply saying “I believe you” is the most valuable form of help you can offer. Validation is the first step in breaking the cycle of fear and isolation. Survivors of sexual abuse are often groomed or primed by their abusers to fear the revelation event, so feeling socially rewarded for it will introduce a much-needed new perspective and sense of safety. Additionally, feeling believed when disclosing abuse may also lead to breaking the person’s negative coping skills (denial, avoidance, dissociating). Once the abuse has been revealed and validated, the person may finally feel able to fully confront the reality of what happened and begin the healing process.

Abuse often leaves the survivor feeling powerless. An individual who has felt out of control of his or her body, emotions, and environment may feel a rush of empowerment and hope knowing that someone believes his or her truth. It might even be the impetus to the survivor going to the authorities or seeking legal protection.

What happens when we react with skepticism, blame, or defensiveness? The fears and paranoia nurtured and reinforced by the abuser are validated instead. Rather than seizing an opportunity for healing, the survivor may feel rejected and thus retreat into hiding. In psychotherapy, we call this retraumatizing. When a person feels retraumatized, it may stand as an obstacle for the person to seek help in the future.

If someone you know and love tells you that he or she has been sexually abused, remain calm, listen and speak with empathy, and leave the person no doubt that you are on his or her team. You may help the person take the first step out of a very dark place.


Sanderson, C. (2006). Counseling adult survivors of child sexual abuse (3rd ed.). London; Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.

© Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Garen Amirian, LMHC

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Beau

    February 26th, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    It can be so comforting to know that you have someone who is not judging you and who is on your side

  • sadie S

    February 26th, 2015 at 12:18 PM

    Saying that you believe them is going to be so much better than going out on a limb and telling them that you know how they feel.
    But do you really know how they feel?
    Even if you have gone through the same thing yourself, since everyone experiences things so differently you have no idea what thoughts and feelings that they are having.It is best trying to make a connection with support, not by trying to pretend that you know what they are going through.

  • Kathleen F

    February 26th, 2015 at 4:48 PM

    I am so lucky to have not one but two great therapists and to be in a supportive DBT group. My therapists have been a lifeline for me and they are genuine when they empathize. They have stressed the importance of self compassion; something that abuse victims are not at all good at for a variety of reasons. It’s about validating but also getting me to move forward using DBT skills. Easy for abuse survivors to stay stuck so I’m lucky I have therapists who help me acknowledge what happened but encourage me to not stay difficult to do both sometimes…

  • SS

    February 26th, 2015 at 5:38 PM

    It’s especially hard after being repeatedly shunned by those you thought were there to help. I’ve become an introvert because I cannot handle the looks of shame I’m given. I bite my tongue. Maybe one day it’ll get better…

  • rob

    February 27th, 2015 at 4:05 AM

    that you are there for them and will always be there for them when or if they need you

  • Liz

    February 27th, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    All important and spot-on points! On a slightly different but related note, it’s important to be empathetic to the adults, usually women, who stay in all kinds of abusive situations because of fear of retribution toward their beloved animals… Besides empathy for the pet’s safety, the pet may represent one of the only safe relationships the person has. Please be understanding of that relationship and the strong motivation it poses for the person suffering or having suffered the abuse. Fortunately, shelters are starting to make provisions for animals so the person who is being abused doesn’t feel they have to choose between their safety and that of their dog or cat.

  • Garen Amirian, LMHC

    February 27th, 2015 at 1:50 PM

    Thank you all so much for the comments and input!

    Beau, Sadie, and Rob: I completely agree. The power of unconditional positive regard is imperative in situations like this because at that moment. A hint judgment, dismissal, or someone claiming to know how you feel can be so discouraging and detrimental.

    Kathleen: I’m so pleased to heard that you’ve had positive experiences with seeking support. It sounds like you have great people working with you. The healing process is so much harder when our supports make it difficult to seek the help we need…

    Liz: Excellent point about the importance of relationships with pets. I had not considered that, but I can see how that could certainly be a barrier for someone in an abusive situation. Spread the support for everyone!

    SS: I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had such a struggle with finding support… I certainly hope it does get better, but I’d love to be able to help if I can. Please feel free to call or email me through my GT profile. Even if you’re not in the NY area, I’m happy to help locate the best resources that may help bring about that change.

  • brenda

    February 28th, 2015 at 9:09 AM

    That can be a terrifying confession to make to another person, even if this is someone that you would consider to be a close friend, so I think that first and foremost you should express just how brave that you think that this is to that person. I also think that you should stress to them just how understanding you are and how willing you are to listen to them and just be there for them if they need you. I think that there are probably a lot of times when others think that they are imposing on our time and they are afraid to ask for help just because they don’t want to put us out. Tell them how this is not true, that you are there and that you want only the best for them as they go through this healing process.

  • Garen Amirian, LMHC

    February 28th, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    Great points, Brenda. It sounds like you’ve had a lot of experience with offering positive support to folks in need. Keep up the great work :)

  • brenda

    March 2nd, 2015 at 3:40 AM

    Unfortunately that is true Garen. I have been so blessed in my own life but sadly know a lot of people who have not been so lucky.

  • Clay

    March 3rd, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Why is it so easy for us to blame the victim?
    What is it about the way we think about others that we would ever believe that this is something that the victim brought on themselves?
    I can promise you than when something bad like this happens to someone, this is not a person who ever asked for this to happen to them.
    Not one of us ever would.

  • joann k

    March 8th, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    Thank you, I live this everyday, people say it is not your fault but their alienation once they know about your a use is like being abused again. The stigma of mental health and the lack of focus on this atrocity is heart wrenching. I tell the world all of my details and will continue so the next child can be saved and the next survivor supported. I offer classes and support groups but yet it is hard to get anyone to really want to learn!

  • Jacqueline K.

    April 6th, 2015 at 1:56 AM

    Hi Joann k…
    I say the same thing. I was thinking it should be a mandatory class for children to go through to teach them from get go to speak up on what’s not right and to express their emotions freely and not to be suppressing them. I’m so disgusted by the people who say “oh we don’t talk about those things” … BULL!!! It’s enabling these scumbags to keep doing what their doing. And unfortunately it causes vulnerability to other similar acts of disgrace. I personally think that the world is sex sick… And children should be sheltered and kept innocent, not subjected to sex on every aspect of media. Anyways, it’s nice to come across this article and these threads. And I’m happy that you’re advocating to stop the sickness too.

  • Sue

    March 18th, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    I just learned that my now 30 y/o son was molested by who at the time I thought was a friend.

    Your website gave me very good insight in this matter.

    Thank you

  • Garen Amirian, LMHC

    March 18th, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    Sue, I am so sorry to hear that… I wish all the best to your son with coping and to you in your support for him. I am very glad to hear that this article was helpful and if there is any other help I can offer, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

  • Sue

    March 19th, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    Dear Dr. Amirian,

    Thank you so much for your reply. You might be sorry to offer your help. My biggest fear is that I was not told by him and I am not sure if he will ever tell me. I don’t know whether to approach him 1st or let it be. He has a 35 y/o brother who came out to me last year and I wonder if this so called friend molested him as well. Do I ask him? Is it my place to tell him about his brother?

    I am just numb from this and now that I know this my heart aches even more for my son. Needless to say he has had many problems growing up which stupid me thought it was the divorce we went through.

    I looked to see if you have a facility here in NJ but I could not find one. It could be me.

    Thank you again.


  • Garen Amirian, LMHC

    March 20th, 2015 at 6:11 AM


    I apologize, I left out my contact information in my last post. Please email me directly at We can talk more about what services you might need, and I’ll be more than happy to see if we can find someone in your area that can help.



  • Malik

    August 26th, 2017 at 9:55 AM

    What if your partner has yet to exprest her abuse & you found out through a family member ? The information I found out was devastating & I’ve seen signs that something has obviously happened but how do I go about I go about letting her know I know?

  • Sue

    March 20th, 2015 at 11:31 AM

    Good afternoon.

    No worries. Thank you.


  • jason

    March 30th, 2015 at 3:53 PM

    I was a victim of physical and mental abuse and I’m not sure how to find help. I’m 33 now and its destroying my family that I have now, I have talked to my wife about it but I don’t know how to fix what its doing to me.

  • The Team

    March 30th, 2015 at 8:23 PM

    Hi, Jason. The best way to look for a therapist on is to go on our advanced search ( and use it to find exactly what you’re looking for. You may also call our toll-free Find-A-Therapist line at 888-563-2112 ext. 1. We hope that helps!

  • Garen Amirian, LMHC

    March 31st, 2015 at 6:25 AM

    Hi Jason,

    I’m so sorry to hear about what’s happening… I would restate what the folks at stated above. The site is really a tremendous resource – and if there’s any way I can help in the process, please let me know.


  • Heartfelt

    April 5th, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    i have been sexually abused. Talking to a therapist. The hardest part is talking about it with emotion. One night I began falling apart but kept myself from losing control. Last time I went back couldn’t get in the mode to talk about it. I go again this week and she has a list I gave her last week. I don’t know how I’m going to do it except to write it all out and try to put myself in it or I am
    Going to want to quit therapy

  • Jessi

    April 5th, 2015 at 8:55 PM

    I’ve actually never came out about things but I will say this. Mine was with a family member, a cousin, and he was only a year older than me at the time. We were preteens when this happened. I was 9 and he was 10 or somewhere in that age. I’ve suppressed it so long I don’t remember when it happened exactly. So yeah.

  • Garen Amirian, LMHC

    April 6th, 2015 at 2:00 PM


    I can only imagine… It’s completely normal to feel this way. Working through trauma like this is no easy task. Set reasonable goals, don’t push yourself, and I hope you can work with your therapist to move at your own pace. It’s important that nobody defines your process but you. I wish all the best for you :)


    I’m so sorry to hear that… And not to sound like a broken record – but issues with memory are also absolutely a common experience for trauma survivors. Thank you for sharing. I know that you said you’ve never come out with these things so I can imagine it was difficult to do so. I hope that you’re doing well now, but if not, I would invite you to entertain the idea of reaching out for help. It can really make a world of difference in regaining a sense of hope and control over the whole situation :)

    Best to both of you,


  • Kay

    April 21st, 2015 at 9:11 AM

    I was molested by my step father for about 8 years. He also physically and mentally abused my mother and me. I’m impulsive and irrational at times. This once led to me sneaking out of my home when I was 14 and I ended up being raped by one of my “friends” and my boyfriend. I went through six years of counseling and I still struggle with it. I still have nightmares. Counseling ended 3 years ago for me. I’ve since gotten pregnant and I have a beautiful son. My life may be moving on, but I feel like I’m still stuck. I know these remaining issues effect my relationship with my son’s father and I’m just lost as to what to do. I’ve “worked through it.” I’ve been on medication. My son’s father and I have talked about my history over and over. But I’m still scared of him. I’m still angry at my past. I’m still hurt and fear abandonment, making my son’s father uncomfortable. (We didn’t mean to get pregnant, we hadn’t known each other for even a year before we found out that we were having a baby). I’m 21. He’s 24. He had a great life growing up. Very loving family. Close knit. I grew up taking care of my little sisters because their parents were too high and drunk to change a diaper or feed them. Technically, I’ve had children since I was 5 years old. I had to fight my step dad (200 lbs heavier and a foot taller than myself). He repeatedly tried to kill my mother and myself. The cops came often but never helped us, my mother wouldn’t allow them to when they wanted to put him in jail.

    Even after counseling, after meds, after life moving on without me, I don’t know how to live. I don’t know how to be normal or if I ever even had a shot. I want to love and feel love. I get this from my son, but I want to feel it on an adult level as well. What do I need to do?

  • Kathryn

    April 23rd, 2015 at 6:07 AM

    I think you are doing a kickass job of surviving so far. I have a lot of admiration for your strength.
    You will get there, I can tell from your determination.
    Never give up , but also don’t be too demanding of yourself. Getting healthy takes time.

  • Kay

    April 23rd, 2015 at 9:52 AM

    Thank you… it feels so good to be told that I’m doing alright. It’s something I’ve only heard rarely (I could probably count on one hand). I beat myself up about it all on the daily.

    I really can’t express how uplifting it is to be encouraged like this. Thank you

  • Muserudita

    April 24th, 2015 at 9:33 AM

    Hi Kay- it sounds like you are struggling, but doing everything you can to recover. I have a similar background to yours. You said one thing that worried me. You said (or implied) that your son is the source of all the real love you need in life. Babies are so wonderful! However, he is completely dependent on you. He will change and grow and pull away eventually. If you continue to seek love and validation from only him, you will end up disappointed- and you may skew your son’s perception of love, too. Because, you see, when a parent depends on a CHILD they force the little one to grow up too quickly and feel that their role and responsibility in life is to care for their parent.

    I am NOT calling you a bad mother. I imagine you are the picture of care and nurturing! But I just wanted to caution you about seeking love and validation from only your child. It is hard, but you need to get clinical help to be able to find love from other adults.

  • Kay

    April 24th, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    Saying that I get love from my son was one little piece of my comment, I also stated that I wanted it from an adult. I’m not relying on my son for this. I know how damaging it can be, I just don’t know how to go about having a normal relationship with another adult. Having a normal life. That’s my question.

  • Cassandra

    June 15th, 2015 at 8:47 PM

    Kay, have you forgiven yourself? Often times we put the blame on ourselves, that we caused it to happen or somehow deserve it. No one, and I mean no one, deserves to go through that. Try directing any anger toward the perpetrators and letting go of any shame. I also wonder if you have ever grieved the loss of your childhood. You may want to consider going back to therapy to help you heal some more.

  • Rosie

    September 27th, 2018 at 11:19 PM

    Hi Kay I’m sorry to hear you had to go through all that pain and abuse as a child. I had some of the same experiences but I’m a lot older than you are now. I think you’re doing really well, keep talking about the abuse as much and for as long as you need to, anybody who loves and cares about you should be prepared to listen to you. I don’t think it’s ever a case of just getting over it, I think it’s more a case of accepting and loving that little girl part of us of us who should have been allowed to be an innocent child who was protected from sexual predators. Love your baby boy and do your best to educate him about the threat from sexual predators when he’s old enough to understand. I think that worked to protect my daughter, abusers of any kind know how to spot vulnerable children and adults who don’t know how to protect themselves or have nobody they can tell about the abuse.
    Love and hugs Rosie.

  • Amanda

    April 21st, 2015 at 11:53 PM

    I’m a survivor of molestation and rape. I see a therapist almost every week now. It’s gotten worse recently. My daughter is 8 years old and showing signs that she may have been molested or something. All I hear is that she’s just curious and stuff. There are other children who seem curious too from my husband’s side. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know who it could be. I’ve taken her to see a therapist and now they’ve quite seeing her. Because she won’t say anything. All they did was talk body safety and not to keep secrets if anyone asks her to. the therapist said she seems to be protecting someone. nothing is happening and I can’t press charges because I don’t know who it is. My heart is breaking. I reached out and getting nowhere.

  • Muserudita

    April 24th, 2015 at 9:46 AM

    Hi all-
    Something that has worried me for years- even and especially when I let my family members in on what was happening in that house when I grew up is this: they always seem to only care about the sexual abuse. They exclaim horror about that and blow off the rest. My brother and I were isolated- even from one another, not given adequate food, had so many detailed and restrictive rules that we were constantly getting hit for SOMETHING, subject to chores that were complex and hard physical labor before our bodies were not ready for, rec’d no help with school work but were subject to harsh punishment if we did not perform adequately, and severe punishments and physical abuse. Of all of these, I think the constant isolation and hunger was the worst. It was possible to “go away” in a way during the beatings. I wonder if that makes sense for anyone else? We lived in an alcoholic home, and often you could look in the fridge that was empty except for beer and condiments. But when the food WAS there- my mother marked it, made traps on the pAntry door so if we opened it she would know and punish us.

    Anyway- I don’t want to take a huge amount of space with all that, but I wonder- why do people only care about the sexual abuse- and act like the physical abuse was no big deal?

  • Mona

    August 22nd, 2015 at 6:42 PM

    You’re brave for sharing your story. I too, was raised in a dysfunctional household. Alcoholic Father (verbally abusive). Older Brother was the other abuse. Earliest memory of abuse – 5 yrs.

  • Trace

    October 2nd, 2018 at 7:10 PM

    True. In fact research has shown child neglect causes the most serious psychological issues in many more people that sexual or physical abuse combined. Sexual abuse probably gains more attention as it seems more shocking and disgusting than the others. Children need protection and good care everywhere!

  • Rosie

    October 3rd, 2018 at 3:09 PM

    I think you’re right neglect can often go unnoticed, even by the child who’s being neglected, they don’t know anything different.

  • Kent

    June 16th, 2015 at 8:06 AM

    I believe the tide has turned in most areas in the US, and its much easier to find and get help today than in the past. However abuse perpetrated by mothers and women is still broadly denied and rejected today. A boy is supposed to consider it “getting lucky.”

  • shelia

    August 22nd, 2015 at 6:20 PM

    So true, Kent! Society is still in denial that women are sexual predators. Even when they do get prosecuted, they typically seem to get “lighter” sentences.

  • Verne

    August 23rd, 2015 at 8:11 AM

    Just saw a story this week about a 40 something professional and a 15 year old teen…she got a very light sentence…good point, Kent.

  • Amy

    June 16th, 2015 at 3:41 PM

    Remind yourself daily I AM A SURVIVOR! Not anyone’s victim. There is a list it’s called The Survivors Bill of Rights. I was 30 before I knew I could feel good about myself as a women. That no one else’s opinion of me mattered. That it was ok to be myself to be mad. So i look to the silver lining I can help others lots of people have confided personal struggles in me I help others by volunteering praying my strength will give them strength. But I still don’t like to go out alone I am vigilant about locking my doors and I arm myself, not only with a gun but with coping skills ways to work through feelings however I still find it hard to trust anyone. I feel I have to PROVE myself to people. But I’m no longer suicidal on a daily basis or to blame for what happened to me. It’s a subject I take very seriously.

  • Loni

    August 22nd, 2015 at 9:08 PM

    Hi, I was molested by my uncle for the first 10 yrs of my life. Also by older cousins. I remember when I was 6 I saw my dad get a substantial amount of money from this uncle and decided right then that there was no use in telling anyone. My dad was an alcoholic any didn’t work very much. When he was in trouble, this is eho he went to. I never told anyone until I was around 26 yrs old. I told my mom and she and my grandmother who lived with us said she suspected it. My mom took me to that house every day and left me knowing this? She told me it happens. Get over it.
    I’ve always been a loner. I’m 55 now and still am. I have such trust issues. I got married at 16. Had a son at 19. I had problems with treating him the way I was growing up. I thought it was the wsy you parent. When he was 10 I had another son. When that child got big enough to discipline I started the alcoholic cycle with him. The oldest told me, don’t you see that isn’t working? It was like a light went on and and I got it. I lived with my husband 35 yrs but never felt loved. It was just a secure place to raise my boys. The oldest had decided I was a monster and hated me. The youngest and I were very close though. It’s the only love I have ever known. Now he’s grown and had pulled away from me and I’m all alone again. Have decided that that’s just the way it’s always going to be. I really don’t have the money for therapy. I finally left my husband and am struggling to get by. Any advice for me?

  • Loni

    August 23rd, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    I just want to add that my behaviour raising my sons was alcoholic behaviour not sexual abuse. I humiliated my son. He could never do anything right. I grounded him for the stupidest things and for extreme periods of time. He id 35 yrs old and still resents me but it’s better than the hate he used to feel toward me. He understands as an adult that I had extreme issues from the way my dad treated me. Thank you Loni

  • Krista C.

    August 23rd, 2015 at 2:51 PM

    Dear Loni. Look up and contact Victims Services. They ll be able to assist with an approved counsellor and I believe that it is of no cost to you.

  • Amanda

    August 23rd, 2015 at 8:21 PM

    Here in England there are counselling services that have charitable status and offer reduced fees – I work for one! Also many of us in private practice offer reduced costs for those struggling financially. Is there anything like that near you? Is it worth investigating? You are a valued person. Get the support you need. I wish you well.

  • Debra W.

    August 23rd, 2015 at 7:21 AM

    I have been a victim of rape and if I told someone about this and they said ‘I believe you’ I would be offended and think ‘ well, yeah, why wouldn’t you?

  • Bubbles

    October 14th, 2015 at 1:06 AM

    Iam a childhood survivor I was abused at 8 years of age by my step fathers brother and then by my step father .as well as physical life has been very hard .married at young age and although marriage was reasonably happy.he was an aloholic. And could be verbally abusive. I got through all that badly sometimes. He ended the marriage after 13 years of being together. And walked away .which left ed me crushed even though I knew deep down it was for the best .but once again I was not good enough dispite loving with all my heart and taking and putting up with things I shouldn’t have done .the feeling of rejection was awful .over 11 years I delt with my own demons did things for myself and at last at the age of 40 had a happy life and was in a good place.had been single for 11 years and was happy .untill some more unfortunate events took place I lost two jobs in one year one I had for ten years .made redundant. Rejected not good enough once again all my hard work went out the window I was at college at time and stupidly thought I would get a new job in the summer .before I started college again .iI had a mortgage so spoke to mortgage company and they agreed to give me a break.been in my house 18 years .my house was all I had .once again I found myself trying to survive and alone .iI met a guy who was a supervisor in a nightclub cleaning .iI was not interested in relationships. But he made it clear if I played ball the job was mine .that’s when my nightmare began in the two years that have passed in from that day I was assulted physically. Emotionally and sexually by this man .fell pregnant with twins .was homeless as lost my house
    Lost my college place .nearly lost my life giving birth .iI can not go into details as he is on remand for the crimes against me and other girls after I found the courage to report him for what he had done to me and there is to be a trial next year .I’m a single mum of beautiful twin boys .and although they came into this world in such an awful way .they save my life everyday.after everything I have been through and still going through .I’ve never been a victim I AM A SURVIVOR xxx

  • Jocelyn

    June 29th, 2018 at 10:25 AM

    My friend is a survivor of sexual abuse, and while it happened years ago, it still haunts her today. I want to communicate with her about this and help her through her struggles, and your article had some great information to help me do this. You mention that one of the best and most simple things to say is that you believe them, and I’ll be sure to keep this in mind the next time my friend is triggered by her abusive past.

  • Trace

    October 2nd, 2018 at 7:03 PM

    I’m not so sure “I believe you” is always the best thing to say. Sometimes “It’s not your fault” or “thankyou for trusting me to tell me” are more appropriate. It depends on the person and your relationship. Also in some circumstances the shock to disclosure can cause can lead to saying things that aren’t ideal initially. I had to experience of a man I had been in a relationship with for several years disclosing that he had been abused by an older boy when he was young. He disclosed this to me late at night after sex! I was reeling, my head filled with worries, fears and assumptions. Obviously he told me then because he felt safe and secure but it took me a long time to process. I had to balance supporting him and honouring his experience/feelings with my own issues such as questioning why he waited years to tell me, how I felt about homosexuality, was it abuse or experimentation, would he want to be with man, how I would react to the man in question (friend of his family) and my disappointment (maybe silly but real) that such a horrible thing was background to our relationship. I had great empathy for him.

  • Steve

    October 21st, 2019 at 12:10 PM

    what if the person you married is showing signs of being sexually abused but will not talk about it or even verify it what do you do then?

  • BB

    March 8th, 2020 at 1:42 AM

    When I was 28, I finally told my mother that a family member had sexually abused me, starting when I was five. When I was nine, he actually raped me. He was 16. My admission met skepticism. My mom made excuses for him, saying he was just a child himself. Without my permission, she told others in the family who also acted skeptical. This hurt and put a wedge between me and my mother for many years. We became estranged . It also hurts that my abuser is on relative’s Facebook friend list. To me it means that they either don’t believe me or don’t care about what he did to me. He’s always invited to birthday parties and other family celebrations so I don’t go and people wonder why. When my mom was in the hospital dying in January, I emailed him and told him that I didn’t want him to visit her or to come to her funeral as I didn’t want to see him. I was genuinely terrified of running in to him, and I was already dealing with enough over my mother’s impending death. His wife wrote back and said, “You don’t come around for years and then when you do, you want to cause trouble.” Sigh!

    I wrote a “letter to my abuser” without naming names, and I posted it on my website in hopes that he will find it and read it. I’m tempted to post a link to it on Facebook, but I haven’t yet decided. Maybe it would be revealing too much about myself. Maybe it’s something that people really don’t want to know. At any rate, just writing it felt empowering.

  • Cj

    March 18th, 2020 at 5:43 AM

    My ex who I love, and will always love had disclosed that he was abused while drunk, I guessed he wasnt ready to talk about it, as he’d said I never want to talk about it again the following day, from then communication declined, he was always short with me, and physical contact slowly faded out, it had felt like he’d stopped trusting me, or was waiting for me to leave him

  • Shadow

    May 5th, 2021 at 10:01 AM

    My best friend & boyfriend of 5 years opened up to me just a couple weeks ago about his childhood that I had absolutely no idea about. He’s never broached the subject with anyone before so I’m really glad that he was finally able to talk to me. The problem is I have no experience in this subject but I want to be as supportive as possible & try not to do/say anything wrong. This article is a good start, hopefully I can find more material like this in my online search.

  • MB

    November 16th, 2022 at 3:28 AM

    I’m so thankful I stumbled across this website. The articles have been such a huge help and comfort to me. I know this was posted years ago but I wanted to add my thoughts. I don’t know if any of you will see this and the situations may have drastically changed but it might help someone else.

    Steve:. I think the best thing you could do for your spouse is show her and tell her every day how much you love her and make sure she knows that you are always there for her. It’s so hard to open up about being abused and I know I won’t even attempt to tell someone my story if I don’t feel safe, secure, and loved by that person. Depending on the person, it’s possible to say something like, “I just want you to know that if there are ever hard things you need to talk about, you can come to me. I am your safe place and will not stop loving you. We can get through any hard times together.”

    Shadow: You sound like an amazing, loving, supportive partner. I imagine what your boyfriend needs the most from you is what you already provide him with….a good listener and loving partner. I research everything I don’t think I understand well but keep in mind that what he will probably benefit the most from is just feeling like he can talk, cry, be angry, depressed, laugh when it feels right and that you are going to be by his side through it all. I have a husband like that and if there were more people like you and him this world would be a better place.

  • MB

    November 16th, 2022 at 4:28 AM

    I did want to tell a little bit of my story while I’m here.
    I have just begun to process the knowledge that I grew up with a narcissistic mom and as the oldest of 4, I became the part-time care giver, cook, house cleaner, etc. when my mom was sick. My wonderful dad often worked 15 hour days to pay the bills so from 4 or 5 yrs old I felt responsible for the home and my siblings and from that age started to realize that I wasn’t “good enough,” and was too “sensitive” for my mom or her super religious family. I became an extremely introverted, shy, people-pleaser with horrible self-esteem. I married the week after I graduated college thinking I had found someone who loved and understood me unlike my mom and sister only to realize after 11 years of marriage, changes, and SO much trauma (5 kids under 8, major depression, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD from almost dying in childbirth with my 5th child, an alcohol problem, being raped, being cussed out and blamed for being raped by husband and family, completing rehab, and having my husband decide our marriage was over and he was taking the kids from me) that I had fallen in love with a narcissist who had been gaslighting me from our wedding day on and using “Biblical principles” to hide his abusive behavior. He abused me mentally, emotionally, religiously, financially, sexually, and finally physically.
    I didn’t realize I was being abused until after my ex left me and I had found a truly loving relationship with the man (who I’ve been happily married to for 8 years) who saved my life and showed me that I am worth loving and that I am a work in progress but THAT’S OK!!!
    I gained a new and more complete understanding of why some women (and men) stay in abusive relationships. I did because I honestly thought I was the problem and when he started hitting me it was just the punishment I deserved for not obeying and submitting to him like the Bible says. Women like myself need support, love, and no judgement just like every other abuse survivor. Whether we don’t understand that it’s abuse, are afraid for our lives, afraid for our kids, pets, etc. we certainly don’t want to be treated that way. I just wanted to give another perspective for anyone who reads this. Don’t judge and be there for those of us who didn’t leave. We are afraid, beaten down, hurting, desperate, and yes….ashamed of ourselves for “not being stronger.”
    There is hope for all of us who are survivors. I have been through even more trauma since I got divorced. The depression never really leaves me, suicidal ideation is common, nightmares, startle responses, it’s all with me. BUT…I WILL KEEP FIGHTING FOR MY LIFE!!! I will not let anyone beat me down physically, mentally, or emotionally again!!! And yes, that includes me….I am learning every day how to love myself and who I have become. There is hope…tell someone your story when you are ready. If you don’t trust anyone in your life, use the resources on this website to find a therapist, join a support group, find a group on Reddit. Be a LIVING example for those who are being abused or don’t see any hope. Our stories of survival will save lives!

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