Why Survivors Often Can’t Tell

Male survivors of child sexual abuse delay disclosure for 20 years on average.  People often ask, why wouldn’t you tell someone you are being sexually abused when you instinctually know it is wrong and it makes you feel gross, dirty, tainted, scared, uncomfortable, and disgusted?  The answer? For some, it’s an overwhelming sense of fear. This sense of fear often prevents a survivor from coming forward and telling someone about the sexual abuse they are suffering or have suffered.  The reality is, many survivors have tried telling someone many times.  He or she may have approached family members, friends, spouses, teachers, doctors, or therapists, with the sole intention of disclosing the sexual abuse, but found themselves overwhelmed by the fear of the repercussions of exposure. 

Exposure? What does that mean?  For a survivor it can mean SHAME.  Researcher, author, and TED Talk speaker, Dr. Brene Brown says, “Shame is the intensely painful feeling that we are unworthy of love and belonging.  It’s the most primitive human emotion we all feel – and the one no one wants to talk about.  If left to its own devices, shame can destroy lives…shame needs three things to grow in our lives: secrecy, silence and judgment.”

Later in life, survivors of childhood sexual abuse often disclose their abuse to someone. If that someone is you, just remember the heavy burden of shame, fear and guilt that the survivor has carried for years. Be kind. Be understanding. Be supportive.