I am closer to disclosing that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My reasons for disclosing are that I want to share how marvelous the procedure of healing is AND that I refuse to be a part of the silence that surrounds this subject in the American society. Thirdly, I seek to be the person, if needed, for men? and women to talk with if they wish. I guess that I want to stand up as a sort of normal person who is not letting this information define her.
I do know that my best intentions have sometimes backfired so I am checking with you. Please advise if there are things I should not say and things I should say. I do not want to engender questions, just share that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and have a far better quality of life through expert therapy.
Is this what I call my situation?....childhood sexual abuse.....childhood molestation which is a word I don't like......I am new with all this terminology.
I think it’s wonderful that you want to share your truth with the world and help other people with their traumas as well. You are a strong women and a real advocate — we are on the same team!
I guess what comes up as I imagine into you sharing this with your family members is the first question they will ask — “Who did it to you?” From that point, you will be required to somehow explain that you know it happened, but don’t remember exactly what happened or who it was. Then you might get the question “Well if you don’t know what happened or who it was, how do you know it happened at all?”
Do you see where I’m going with this?
It has been my job to care and look out for you and I might suggest waiting until you have more information about what happened? I just don’t want to see you subjected to a gauntlet of assaulting questions that would be challenging to the safety you are developing for yourself and your child self.
One of the biggest risks for survivors coming forward is the kind of reactions they get — which are often not very supportive (to say the least). Does this mean, don’t say anything — absolutely not! What is important though is to really look inward to determine what your expectations are in sharing this information with other people. What do you imagine happening as a result of sharing AND if you get a different (or negative) response, will that be ok?
Another thing to consider when sharing with family members is, you might tell someone who has a very personal reaction — someone who is defensive, either because they are themselves sexual violence survivors (or perhaps a perpetrator?). Not everyone who has been through this sort of trauma is ready to face it, so by shining a light within your family, you could really threaten someone who wants to keep a tight lid on their shadows and demons. Again, not a reason to not come forward, but something to keep in mind.
If you are going to speak out to your family, I might suggest personal phone calls or something more private, like talking to someone in person so you have a conversation around it — vs. a declaration of sorts. This approach might give you more of a chance to be responsive to the experience the receiver is having — and get any love and support they want to offer in return…could be an opportunity for more closeness to develop.
I would preface what you are saying with, “I want to share something that I am becoming aware of in my childhood that I wasn’t aware of before and all I need from you is to listen and ……(whatever you need/expect from them as the listener)” — this way they have some sort of context for what you’re about to share and framework for how to best hear/support you in your sharing. I would also be honest with “the details are still fuzzy, but the traumatic feelings living in my body are real” — something like that so they don’t hound you with 20 questions. People who love us want to feel successful in being supportive, so setting up the situation the best you can to make it successful (vs. awkward, tense, etc.)
Lastly, you can call what happened to you whatever you feel good calling it. This is a deeply personal thing and there are no “PC police” that need to have control over what comes out of your mouth to describe your very personal experience — one that no one will ever understand the way you do.