Many survivors spend decades suffering in silence, unable to tell even their loved ones about what happened. There are many reasons why you felt it necessary to do this, all of them valid.
But there might come a time when you realise this is no longer the best course of action, or one of the reasons you kept quiet is no longer relevant. Maybe you just realise your silence is only helping your abusers. Or you are finally strong enough, angry enough, supported enough, or not scared any more.
If you are not used to talking about your abuse it can seem truly terrifying. You may open your mouth and no words come out. With practice you’ll get used to it. You may even be able to do it without crying one day. Don’t expect too much the first time.
What about repercussions? Sure, there will be some. People will surprise you. Support will come from unexpected quarters. Those you hoped would put your interests first may let you down. It will hurt terribly sometimes, and make you feel more supported than you ever have before at others. But it won’t kill you.
Do some research. Visit victim support group websites. Read survivors’ stories on the web, or buy books or DVDs. These may be too upsetting, in which case, take it slowly, wait for a good day, or try again later. They may be upsetting but cathartic. Or inspiring.
Recognising similarities between your story and others’ can help you feel less alone, less of a freak. Others’ stories may also help you feel sympathy for their pain, and less likely to drown in self pity.
If you’re not feeling strong enough to tell your story, take your time. Try it out first with someone you know will want what’s best for you. Unfortunately, that is not always your family.
When I first spoke out I had both an abusive birth family and an abusive husband. It did not suit them at all for me to talk about my abuse. They did not support me. In the case of my parents I had to be prepared to face additional abuse for the crime of speaking the truth.
It is no coincidence that when I first spoke about my abuse I had recently developed a supportive friendship with two wonderful friends, who have been an invaluable support throughout my journey. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Find one or more supporters to help you through the tough times. It may not be the person most likely. Revealing your abusive past may actually deepen a relationship and help you to feel stronger and more supported than ever before.
It certainly did for me.
It hasn’t been easy. But it has been worthwhile.
It also helped me deal with my problematic relationship with lots of different abusers in my life. I would never have got to where I am now, having cut myself off completely from the toxic relationship with my abusive parents and older brother, separated from my husband and with our relationship improving constantly, without taking that first step of speaking out about my child sexual abuse by a Catholic Brother.