The secret they don’t tell you about disclosing familial sexual abuse

Trigger Warning- includes content of the dynamics of incest, sexual abuse patterns in families, emotional abuse, bullying, and Retraumatization. This article was written for victims of abuse.

This is going to be a different post. I am not going to quote any authors or cite professional literature. I am not going to use a great deal of professional jargon. There will be no pretty images. There will be no names. Because this is not going to be a pretty article. In fact, you may want to stop reading it now. Especially if you have a history of sexual abuse yourself. Because it may trigger you. But I hope it doesn’t. And actually, this is for you. This is for the victims, survivors, and thrivers. And this is also a warning. Because I want to tell you what most people will not. And I want to tell you before it’s too late. Maybe your story can end up differently. Or at least you will know the consequences of disclosing.

The consequences of disclosing familial sexual abuse is well known by most therapists and survivors. And yet, it’s rarely discussed. In fact, there is this giant push from not only mental health professionals, but our culture in general —to talk about being a sexual abuse survivor. Especially on social media in the last several years. Our culture also encourages victims to talk to family, friends, and other support systems about being sexually abused. It is encouraged on the basis that it will be healing. And in theory, that thought process makes a great deal of sense. Because ones support system should and usually does provide comfort during difficult times.

I will throw out one statistic. One in four females and one in six males will be sexually abused prior to their 18th birthday. Just visualize that. Think of a high school classroom filled with females, and count 1.2.3.Victim. And start counting again, until that busy filled classroom has 1/4 of recognized sexual abuse victims. Or imagine it’s males instead. Because we often forget that males are victims too. We are talking about a great deal of sexual abuse victims who we see and talk to, every day. And we don’t know that they are a survivor. Because ultimately for all of the push of “talk about it” there are not many people who do. And you have to wonder why.

Another random statistic, close to 90% of sexual abuse perpetrators are either a family member or a close family friend. When most of us imagine sexual perpetrators we think of a stranger. But that is a misconception. Because the truth… is that the perpetrator is usually a parent, sibling, grandparent, cousin, aunt/uncle, or stepfamily member. Typically it’s the last person someone would expect. It’s the kind and affectionate person. The helpful and thoughtful person who goes above and beyond. The person who buys the best Christmas gifts. And people will wonder, how could this person do something so unspeakable? “Uncle X would never rape a little boy!” “I can’t believe she’s accusing PawPaw J of touching her. He is the kindest man!”  The person and the behavior do not add up. Or does it?

Actually, it makes a great deal of sense. Perpetrators intentionally gain the ability, access, and trust of the victim. Perpetrators make themselves indisposable and needed. They create a reputation of kindness so that they are the last person to be expected of inappropriate sexual behavior. This premeditated and grooming behavior, is how sexual abusers continue to get away with abusing others. On the other hand, family dynamics are a significant factor. Incest and molestation are an ingrained pattern of behavior. Or more specifically, it is a multigenerational history of family incest. This is typically not a one time or one person event. It’s an accepted and unspoken code of behavior passed down from generation to generation. Otherwise known as a family secret and an unspoken family norm. And people generally do not talk about family secrets.

So here is the secret about what happens after a victim discloses familial sexual abuse. It is much easier for a family to side with the perpetrator and discount a victim’s story. This is for multiple reasons. It is highly likely you will not be believed from your family system. You may be bullied. Your reputation may be questioned. You may be ripped to shreds. But sadly enough not by a court room, but from your family. It may be retraumatizing. It may be emotionally, verbally, and mentally abusive. And whether people will agree or not, this behavior is done with intent. The intent to get you to stop talking. So understand if you are ready to talk, that there may be consequences for speaking. The possible consequences include being called a liar, manipulative, attention seeking, dramatic, crazy, mentally ill, incompetent, and many more. You may lose most if not all of your relationships with your family. You may become the black sheep. 

Please understand by no means, am I discouraging you from speaking. Tell your truth if and when you want. But understand speaking your truth, may have serious and life altering consequences. I want you to ask yourself, can I live with my family disowning me over this?  But I also want you to understand that if you don’t speak, then the cycle will continue. Intensive trauma based therapeutic processing is needed to help you make the best decisions for your life.

I do recall reading this statement, “the trauma from telling was more traumatic than the abuse.” I am not sure where I read or heard that. But it’s quite accurate, when it involves family secrets and sexual abuse. If you are a victim of familial sexual abuse, and considering talking about your trauma. Please seek out a therapist who specializes in sexual abuse or PTSD. It’s also important to have hope. Because although you can not unlive what has happened to you, you can make something truly beautiful out of it.

Angie Simonton, LCSW -BACS

Posted on 10/31/2017

Published by Angie Simonton, LCSW

Welcome! My name is Angie Simonton and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in St. Tammany Parish. My office is located in Covington, LA next to Lakeview Hospital in the Fairway Complex Buildings. I am a Private Practice therapist with a specialization in anxiety and mood disorders. After many years of working in various settings “in the field,” I decided it was time to go back to my calling ... in mental health. I am thankful for my experiences at other agencies where I was able to work with children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. I have been able to work in various parishes across our state; including Orleans, Jefferson, St Tammany, Iberia, Lafayette, Washington, Tangi, and more. It has given me a great appreciation for various cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, and religious beliefs. I use a strengths based, holistic approach, that looks at the big and small picture. Some call this Psychodynamic Treatment... I call it individualized treatment. It’s making sure that your needs are met in the best way possible.. to achieve symptom relief and long term recovery.

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