Being able to talk about the fact that you’ve been a victim of sexual assault is an important step towards recovery, and it’s also one of the most difficult. Whether you were raped or sexually assaulted in a different way, finding the courage to talk about it can take weeks, months or even years – there’s no set timeline for this. Some people never wish to share their story. That’s okay too.
However, if and when you start to feel you are ready, there are some helpful guidelines you can follow to make it easier to open up about your sexual abuse. Sharing your story can help you feel like a survivor rather than a victim, and it can greatly help in your recovery – and, sometimes, the recovery of others.
How to tell your sexual abuse stories in a safe and healing way
1. Choose the right person to share your story with
The person you confide in must be someone you trust, and who cares about you and your wellbeing. This can help make it easier to open up, and help make you feel better about what happened. Survivors of sexual assault often choose to open up to a close relative: their mom, dad, sibling or grandparent; a close friend; a teacher, counsellor, therapist or psychologist; a doctor or nurse, perhaps where you received treatment for the assault; a spiritual leader, or a sexual abuse crisis line or counselling support group.
2. Choose the right time to tell your story
Never allow yourself to be forced or rushed into sharing any sexual abuse stories you aren’t ready to. Sharing should only happen when you are feeling 100% ready to talk about what you’ve been through, and when you’ve identified the person or people you want to share it with. Forcing yourself (or being forced by others) to open up before you are feeling ready could make the trauma even worse.
3. Choose the right place to tell your story
Find a place where you feel safe, and where you’ll have a sufficient amount of privacy so that others can’t overhear what you’re saying. You want to feel totally comfortable and secure while talking about the trauma you’ve been through; you don’t want to worry about being embarrassed, shy or unsettled.
4. What should you say?
There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ information to share. Tell your confidant as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. Details of the sexual abuse are not as important as explaining how it made you feel then, and how you feel now; what emotions you are experiencing. Take it slow. There’s no reason to rush, and you also don’t have to reveal everything in one go. You can have several meetings with this person and tell your story over time.
Details are only important when you are sharing your story with the police. As for whether to report the abuse or not, this is entirely your decision. It is your human right to report the assault, and it is also your human right to not report it. It is your decision and yours alone to make.
Get help, support and care at Marie Stopes
At Marie Stopes, we’re here to listen, support and help you in a caring and non-judgemental environment. If you or someone you care about wishes to share their sexual abuse stories, we’re here to listen.