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How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Abused as a Child

Maybe it’s time to tell someone that you were raped or sexual abused, but who? And how do you say “I was sexually abused as a child” or “He molested me”? Telling someone you were sexually abused or raped won’t be easy, but you need to tell what happened so you can heal. You won’t always feel this scared, alone, hurt and sad. You will find healing and strength if you learn how to tell someone you were raped.

These tips were inspired by a reader’s comment on my article about sexual assault and relationships. “My problem isn’t my boyfriend, it’s my mom. I was raped by my older brother when I was 10 years old,” says a She Blossoms reader on What to Do When You Were Raped and Your Boyfriend Can’t Cope. “He also molested my little brother but I didn’t know that until recently. I haven’t told anybody about the childhood sexual abuse, not even my mom and dad, because I didn’t know how to say it. Now that my little brother told me what my older brother did to him, I want to tell my mom we were molested but I don’t know how.”

You experienced something terrible that no child should ever have to go through. Childhood sexual abuse is horrible, terrifying, and devastating. And none of it was your fault, no matter what he told you. But guess what? You survived, and you will heal. You may have wanted to die at the time, you may have felt dirty and ashamed and worthless…but you are here. Alive!

You are not alone if you’ve been hiding from or dealing with feelings of constant guilt. You didn’t tell anyone you were sexually abused because you weren’t ready then. But you might be getting ready now — and it does take time to figure out how to tell the truth about what happened to you. Take a deep breath, and know that it won’t be easy to tell someone, “I was sexually abused as a child,” but it will start you on a new path of life.

How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Abused as a Child
How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Abused as a Child

Rape and child sexual assault was NEVER part of God’s plan for your life. I don’t know why it happened to you, but blaming God won’t heal you. What will help you heal is to turn your face to Jesus and feel His gaze on you. He loves you, and He was with you through it all. He won’t let go of you. And God will use what happened in ways that will surprise you, and help others heal from their own experiences of sexual abuse as children.

I am writing this article not just for Courtney (my reader who commented on the article about a boyfriend not being able to cope with a girlfriend’s rape). I’m also writing it for a 16-year-old young woman who recently told me that her brother started sexually abusing her since she was 10 years old. She hadn’t told anyone about it, partly because he told her that brothers and sisters do those things together. Her brother told her sexual abuse and rape is normal in a family. He lied.

How to Tell Someone You Were Raped or Sexually Abused

You’re here, and I’m glad.

Somewhere deep down you know that telling someone – your mom, your dad, your boyfriend, a teacher or counselor – is the best way to cope with the rape or child sexual abuse. Talking and writing about your experience will help you heal.

“I know you’re in a world of pain, but that pain will lessen. At the beginning you can’t see that,” writes Ellen Bass, a survivor of child sexual abuse. “You can only see your pain and you think it will never go away. But the nature of pain is that it changes – it changes like a sunset. At first, it’s this intense red-orange in the sky, and then it starts getting softer and soften. The texture of pain changes as you work through it. And then one day, you wake up and realize that life isn’t just about working through your incest; it’s about living, too.”

Focus on the reason you need to tell someone about the rape

My 16-year-old friend – I’ll call her Jane – feels like she needs to tell her mom about the sexual abuse she survived because her younger brother also experienced the same thing. My friend said she would not tell her mom about the rape if it had only happened to her. But now that she knows her older brother is molesting her younger brother, she wants to protect him. She asked me how to tell her mom or someone that her older brother is a rapist because she loves her little brother.

Maybe the reason you need to know how to tell someone about the childhood sexual abuse or rape you experienced has nothing to do with protecting a younger brother or other girls from child sexual abuse. This is okay! You had good reasons not to tell anyone you were raped, and now you have good reasons to start telling someone about the child sexual abuse you survived.

The most important reason to tell someone you were raped as a child is for your own healing and growth. If you keep this secret locked inside of you, it will grow bigger blacker and uglier. It will gain enough power to kill your soul and destroy your spirit. Do not let the darkness win.

Hold on to the truth, the light, the life and the power

If you keep hiding and holding on to your secret, it will torment you with pain and suffering. But you will slowly heal if you learn how to tell someone “I was raped as a child and I am a survivor of sexual abuse.” It may always sting to say those words, but you will heal.

How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Abused Raped as a Child

“The truth about our childhood is stored up in our body, and although we can repress it, we can never alter it,” writes Ellen Bass and Laura Davis in The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. “Our intellect can be deceived, our feelings manipulated, our perceptions confused, and our body tricked with medication. But someday the body will present its bill, for it is as incorruptible as a child who, still whole in spirit, will accept no compromises or excuses, and it will not stop tormenting us until we stop evading the truth.”

The Courage to Heal is an inspiring, comprehensive book that will give you hope and healing if you were sexually abused as a child. Although the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term and severe, healing is possible. Authors Ellen Bass and Laura Davis weave together personal experience with rape and childhood sexual assault with professional knowledge. They provide clear explanations and practical suggestions for healing from the trauma of molestation, and offer support throughout the healing process. In this book, you’ll also read hundreds of moving first-person stories drawn from interviews and the authors’ extensive work with rape and sexual assault survivors, both nationally and internationally.

Don’t shove away the pain of being raped or sexually assaulted

In How I Survived an Attempted Rape in My Bedroom, I describe how I got away from a rapist who attacked me in the middle of the night in my own bedroom. I also describe how I grieved and got over the pain of being sexually assaulted in my own home.

When my friend Jane told me that there are worse things that could happen then sexual abuse as a child, she was dishonoring her own feelings of grief and pain. That is, she wasn’t allowing herself to fully grieve and feel the weight of the horrible thing that happened to her.

How do you feel about the sexual abuse you experienced? You may feel like you’re in a very dark, painful place right now. My heart goes out to you, just like my heart went out to my friend Jane. She has to deal with stuff she should never have to deal with as a 16-year-old girl. She knows things she should never have to know. It is wrong and it is sad.

You, too, know things that no child should ever have to know. If you’d like to share your story in the comments section below, I’d love to hear from you. Even if you don’t write about it here I encourage you to write about it in your own private journal or some other safe place. Writing your of being raped and surviving child sexual abuse will not only help you heal, it will also help you learn how to tell someone what you experienced.

Practice talking about child sexual abuse

How to Tell Someone You Were Raped or Sexually Abused as a Child
Telling Someone You Were Raped

The more you talk about being raped, the easier it will get. The more you say the words “I was sexually molested when I was a child”, the easier it will be to tell the truth. So, one of the best ways to learn how to tell your mom or someone else that you are raped is simply by practicing.

Who have you told about the rape? If you feel like you cannot tell anyone you know, practice saying it out loud somewhere by yourself. Go for a walk somewhere alone and tell your story. I think writing is one of the most important ways to survive and even thrive after child sexual abuse and rape, but talking about it out loud – even by yourself – is one of the best ways to learn how to tell someone what happened to you.

Write a letter instead of telling someone in words that you were abused

Jane and I talked about writing her mom a letter instead of telling her face to face. I encouraged her to write down everything she remembers and feels about the experience of being raped by her older brother. I also told her to write down her feelings about her younger brother being sexually molested by her older brother. She doesn’t have to give her mom the letters if she would rather tell her about the rape in person. But if she has the letter with her she will be more likely to tell everything that happened instead of letting her mom’s response change what she planned to say.

Here’s what one rape survivor says:

“Write your mom a letter and give it to her,” says Au on How Do I Tell My Parents I Was Raped? “You can even put it in the mailbox. I know it’s not the best way to tell someone that you were raped, but tell her in the letter that you just couldn’t say the words out loud. That you can’t look her in the eye. I know what you’re going through, I was sexually abused as a child. I told my sister when I was drunk over the phone very late at night. We don’t speak about it because she knows I don’t want to. I’m the type I handle it better when it’s just forgotten and never spoke of again.

You need to tell someone that you were raped so it’s not all in your head all the time. It’s very dangerous to bottle it up. I did that and I pushed myself to suicide. After two attempts I opened up and I’m so much better now. Physically you’re healed, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually you haven’t even begun to heal yet. Take care of yourself sweetie. Let your mom help you heal.”

Be aware of the different ways people will respond to you

child sex abuse survivor how to tell rape
How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Abused as a Child

After Jane and I talked about her older brother molesting her, we talked about how to tell her mom about the sexual abuse. Jane is scared and worried about how her mom will react. She doesn’t know what she wants her mom to do to her older brother. She doesn’t know how her mom will protect her younger brother from more sexual abuse in the future. She doesn’t know what she wants to happen; she just knows she needs to tell her mom about the rapes.

This may be an unexpectedly difficult part of telling someone you were raped or sexually abused as a child: his or her response. Hearing the secret of child sexual abuse is painful for anyone…especially a mother! If you are telling your mom that your brother molested you, she may freak out. Why? Because she loves you, she loves your brother, and even if she suspected it was happening, it will break her heart.

Responses you might get:

  • Shock and/or denial.
  • Crying, sobbing.
  • Anger because you didn’t say anything about the rape or child sexual abuse sooner.
  • Warmth and support.
  • Anger and blame.
  • Confusion.
  • Feelings of betrayal.
  • Encouragement or insistence that you get counseling or attend a rape survivors support group.

Expect anything! Your family members, friend, husband, boyfriend or whoever you choose to tell may be shocked, heartbroken, angry or devastated. Their response may surprise or even disappoint you.

It’s not fair that you have to deal with their emotional response to your experience (in addition to you having to deal with the actual sexual abuse)…but the hard truth is that whoever you tell may not be able to cope well. When Jane told me that she had been sexually molested by her older brother for the past six years, my first response was, “Sh$t!” Because I already knew. She had hinted that her brother was hurting her three years ago, and when I asked if her brother was raping or sexually abusing her, she just cried. She couldn’t tell me that she was being molested. She couldn’t say the words, she didn’t know how to tell someone she was raped.

Hearing that a child you love had to experience sexual abuse and rape is difficult. So, while it doesn’t seem fair, you need to give the person you’re telling time and space to process the shock, anger, and grief of what happened to you. If you feel alone and unwanted – perhaps like you can’t tell someone you were molested as a child – read 7 Things to Remember When You Feel Like No One Cares.

Resources for survivors of child rape and sexual abuse

How to Tell Someone You Were Raped or Sexually Abused as a Child

In It Wasn’t Your Fault Freeing Yourself From the Shame of Childhood Abuse, therapist and childhood abuse expert Beverly Engel presents a mindfulness and compassion-based therapeutic approach to help you overcome the debilitating shame that keeps you tied to the past.

Shame is one of the most destructive of human emotions. If you suffered childhood physical or sexual abuse, you may experience such intense feelings of shame that it almost seems to define you as a person. In order to begin healing, it’s important for you to know that it wasn’t your fault.

With this book, you’ll learn how to develop the skills needed to finally put a stop the crippling self-blame and guilt that keeps you from moving on and being happy. You’ll learn to focus on your strengths, your courage, and your extraordinary ability to survive. Most of all, you’ll learn to deal with shame and even tell someone “I was sexually abused as a child” with love and forgiveness for the man who hurt you.

If you already know how painful this will be for your family, read How to Start Healing Broken Family Relationships.

You are welcome to practice saying “Someone raped me when I was a child” in the comments section below. It never gets easy to say those words, but writing what happened and how you feel about talking about the abuse may help you take another step forward, toward healing. And give yourself a pat on the back – or a hug 🙂 – for coming this far! It takes a lot of courage to search the internet and even click on an article called “How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Abused as a Child.”

Be kind and loving to yourself. Take good care of yourself, for you are worth taking good care of.

With His love,



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70 thoughts on “How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Abused as a Child”

  1. I’m 46 year old male and starting when I was about 8,I was sexually abused by my older best friend/neighbor/sitter. It went on for about 4-5 years. I don’t remember much of the early abuse but as I got older to my teen years, I remember it all. I ever told anybody. I’ve been married 19 years, dated my wife on and off for 11 years prior to getting married. High School sweetheart. I never even told her. I self counseled myself with lots of research. Handled it very well and for the most part it never bothered me. You can start putting 2 & 2 together starting here. I never wanted to have kids, didn’t want to bring one into this crazy world, my wife was fine with that, we were enjoying our life together too much. At almost 35 we decided we wanted to try for a child and we may have missed out on something. 2 rounds of In-vetro with no outcome. Our friends started adoption proceedings and we went to talk to them about the process. Almost exactly a year later and I was cutting the umbilical cord in the delivery room and we got to take a our new born adopted son home. What hit me the following week left me up every night for 2 months straight, crying and holding my son after he fell asleep in my arms. I had realized what this man hat taken from me and my wife. 18 years of not wanting a child because of what he did to me. I could have had a child long before now and I missed it. For the next month I ran over and over in my head on how I was going to tell my story for the first time in my life to my wife. It was the worst night of my life. It was the most difficult thing I ever did. But it really was instantly rewarding to me and I felt that change. That was about a year ago. Since then I have been trying to overcome telling my parents. They are both in their early 70’s but in good health mentally and physically. Im concerned about telling them. I don’t want to ruin their life they have left just to heal myself. Today I called my brother out of state and told him the story and that I have plane ticket bought to fly to my parents next week to go tell them and felt I needed to tell him first and be sure he was with me on telling Mom and Dad. So now I’m dreading next week coming. I called my parent 2 days ago and told them I had some very big, bad news that I needed to share about someone that needed help. I was giving them the option of going full in or out. If they chose to not getting involved, NOBODY is in danger, nobody is in trouble, and nobody is in legal trouble and everything would be fine and they don’t need to lose any sleep. But if they go full in, the info they get could negativity change the rest of their lives but they could really help some people out. They agreed to going along with it and I’m flying up next week for the weekend. It’s going to be the worst day of my life. I hope they can deal with it. That’s my story

  2. I was sexually abused by a family member when I was around 4/5 years old for a year or two…. I can’t remember the time scale as it is just a blur, at the same time I was sexually abused by a different family member, I remember at the time not feeling scared as it was normal for it too happen to me and I thought it happened to everyone. The second molester carried on over years until I was 12 when I was raped by this male. it feels weird to call it rape because there was no violence or pressure involved but I was 12….. I feel disgusted and ashamed that I ever let this happen, I didn’t say no. Im now 30 years old and its eaten me up all my life, I told a close colleague who accompanied me to my employments occupational health where I was given eye movement distraction therapy for PTSD after becoming very depressed and suicidal. I spent years prior blocking out the pain by self harming, drinking and sleeping around, I look back and think why would I ever want to sleep with another person but It was the only way I knew how to be loved. To this day I struggle everyday, I have told 2/3 other people in a professional capacity who all offer their support but when I approach them to talk they just pass me on to an appropriate person who is professionally training. I just want a normal friendly person to listen and ask what happened, how does it make me feel etc as I’ve never actually spoke in much depth about the abuse, just that it happened. I feel ready to talk so maybe I can start the healing process, but it seems impossible my doctor just gives me pills to help with anxiety and depression, I feel like people dont want to know the details like im dirty and what happened is dirty. no point to this just felt maybe if I typed my story it might give me the strength to find some words.

  3. I was exposed to and sexually abused by a family friend when I was very young, I don’t even remember how young. I just remember the feeling. I can’t sleep. She’s a teacher. I don’t know if she’s hurt anybody else. She makes me wish I was dead.