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How do I tell someone close to me about my sexual abuse?

Written by Gail O'Keefe and kindly used with permission.


See Gail's website at

Sharing with someone close to you about your sexual abuse brings up many varied emotions and enough fear to sink the titanic! 

When I was preparing to tell my husband about my sexual abuse memories that surfaced after 37 years, I felt very scared and vulnerable. I had thoughts of: 

- Will he think I am damaged goods now?

 - What if he thinks it was my fault?

 - What if he doesn't believe me?

 - What if he asks me why I had only remembered NOW? 

- What if he leaves me?

 - What if he asks me a lot of questions that I don't even know the answers to yet?

 - How the hell do I tell someone I love more than life what I experienced before we met?

 - What if...........?????

 - What if...........?????

The questions were never ending and the fear was overwhelming initially. I did not know exactly how I was going to explain to him what had happened, but I knew that it was an important step for me.  I was so distraught he would ask me what was going on any way.  So I set about preparing to speak my truth. 


You can create more safety in talking about your abuse if you think through the interaction ahead of time. 

You can choose the best time (when your partner isn't running out the door) and the best circumstances (when things are relaxed, when you've established that you want to talk about something personal).

You can also ask for the response you want (a hug, not to be touched, verbal responses, silence) and set limits on whom, if anyone, the other person repeats your story to. 

Here is an exercise to help you:

I'm thinking about telling _______________________________________ 

I want to talk about ______________________________________________ 

I don't want to talk about ________________________________________

I expect __________________________________________________________ 

I'm going to do it (when) _________________________________________

I'm going to do it (where) ________________________________________ 

 I'm going to set it up ahead of time by ___________________________ (example: having the children babysat by my friend) 

The response I'd like is __________________________________________ 

 I'm going to ask for ______________________________________________ (example: a hug, verbal response)

 It's okay for ____________________ to tell ________________________  but it's not okay for them to tell ________________________________ (example: any of my family; anyone; or my best friend yet) 

When you are first telling, you will probably care a great deal about how people react when you talk about your abuse.  That's why it is important to choose carefully in the beginning. You want to pick people whose responses you can predict fairly accurately so you build up some successes.  Once you've had more practice and have a few positive experiences under your belt, you may wish to branch out and share with other's whose response is a little more uncertain.

You may, in fact, go through a period where the response you get isn't the important thing - telling is. Many survivors go through a stage when they tell everyone they meet.

When healing from sexual abuse is all-consuming, often there's little else you can talk about.  Accept it.  Talk freely.  Over time your need to disclose will change. 


No matter how careful you are in choosing people to tell, you will probably have a mix of satisfying and disappointing experiences. You can't control other people's reactions.  People respond to stories of sexual abuse with their own attitudes, experiences and history. 


I had prepared my plan, set the scene, got rid of any distractions, picked the ideal moment, took a deep breathe, asked God for the right words and then told my husband that my father had sexually abused me when I was a young girl and then proceeded to burst into tears. 


Of course he was shocked to say the least!!  He simply held me as I let out the pain of the memory.  I had asked for him to hug me. We both then set about an arduous journey of healing.  He has been beside me every step of the way and has loved me unconditionally. For this I am grateful.


I hope that the guidelines are helpful for you. Gail O’Keeffe  © 2007


Gail O’Keeffe resides in Brisbane, Australia. Gail is referred to as The Healer of Lost Childhoods.    Gail's passion and purpose is helping others break the isolation and silence of sexual abuse, awaken their Inner Spirit and to quench their thirst for healing.  Gail incorporates life enhancing tools and techniques along with practical knowledge .After studying many disciplines, spirituality became the clearest path for the expression of her highly intuitive and extrasensory healing gifts.

Gail is a Sexual Abuse Survivor, Certified Life Transformation Life Coach and Teacher, the IHSC Life Coach Teacher’s Director.  Gail is also a qualified Divinity Decoder, Thought Field Therapy Practitioner, Pellowah© Healing Practitioner and Shell Essence Practitioner.

For further free resources, authentically empowering articles and access to the Survivor to Thriver Online Support Community visit her website by clicking on the following link  

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