How do I tell someone I have been sexually abused?

If you are a young person who has been or is currently being sexually abused, you might feel confused about what is happening to you and unsure about how to make it stop.

The idea of telling someone can feel really scary, especially if you are worried about getting into trouble yourself or getting the person who has done this to you in trouble. It’s really normal to feel this way.

You may or may not feel ready to tell someone about what has happened to you. Whether you feel ready or not, this page can help you to think this through and to get some support to make a plan for when you are ready to tell someone.

Why you might tell:

It can be important to tell someone if you have been sexually abused in the past or if you are being sexually assaulted currently. Sexual abuse is a serious crime and there are laws in place to help protect young people who are being abused.

Reasons young people might tell someone include:

  • Other people can help problem solve and think about what steps might need to be taken next.
  • Help to protect you and to make sure that you are safe.
  • Offer emotional support around how you are feeling and also help you to get the right support so you don’t have to cope with this alone.
  • May also help by telling other people or services or supporting you to tell other people or services about what has happened.

Who you might tell:

First it is a good idea to think about who you might tell. Letting an adult know is the best way of helping to make sure the abuse stops. However telling a close friend can also be a good option for many young people.

The most important thing is to choose someone you trust to tell this to.

How can you tell who to trust:

You may know that you can trust someone because:

  • They have helped you in the past.
  • They are reliable.
  • They show care and concern for you.
  • They are easy to talk to.
  • You feel safe with them and they treat you respectfully.

Some examples of people you might choose to tell include:

  • A relative
  • A close friend
  • A teacher or school counsellor
  • Your doctor.

Some young people find it easier to tell a stranger about what has happened rather than someone they know. There a specially trained counsellors available on telephone lines that can talk with you about what has happened and provide support to help make sure that you are safe.

Some helplines include:

  • Kids Helpline
  • Sexual Assault Crisis Line
  • Lifeline
  • Headspace
  • 1800Respect

How do you tell:

It will be important to find time to talk with someone when you can be alone with them. You might want to start things off by telling them that you have something important to say to them.

What do you say:

It can feel really scary and hard to find the words to tell someone that you have been sexually abused or assaulted. There is no right or wrong way to tell someone. You might chose to tell them by speaking to them or you might want to write down what you want them to know and hand that to them.

Either way the most important thing is that you give them enough information for them to know and understand what has happened to you. You don’t have to talk in alot of detail about everything that has happened. However sometimes young people try to tell someone what has happened but find it hard to say enough information for the other person to know how serious the situation is. So no matter what words you use be as clear and direct as you can.

What might happen when you tell?

The person you tell may seem really upset or shocked after you tell them. This is normal because they care about you and it’s hard for them to know that you’ve been hurt. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tell anyone, or that you are to blame for the person being upset. It is the abuser who is responsible.

What if they don’t believe you?

If the person you tell doesn’t believe you or doesn’t help you – tell someone else. Keep telling until someone helps you.

What you might do next

After you’ve told your trusted adult or close friend, you can talk together about what to do next.

It can feel really scary to think about telling, because it’s hard to know what might happen next. It takes a lot of energy to keep such a heavy secret so telling someone will probably be a big relief.

Things will change after you tell. Some changes will be good, some might be really hard. You can get support to help with the hard stuff.

If you don’t tell, you can’t keep safe. When people live feeling scared all the time, it affects their mental health. This can mean that it’s harder to concentrate on school and other normal growing up stuff.

Telling is a first step in taking care of yourself and your future.

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