Sexual abuse between family members is unfortunately common, and understandably very difficult to confront. If you are the victim of sexual abuse or aware of sexual abuse taking place in your family, please seek help. Do not allow the abuse to continue in silence.
First, speak to a trusted adult, such as a parent, about the abuse.
If your abuser is a parent, speak to another trusted adult, such as another family member, a school counselor, a religious advisor, or a law-enforcement officer.
If the adult you’ve chosen to speak to does not believe you, do not stop. Seek out another trusted adult until you find someone who will believe you.
Be prepared to explain, in detail, the nature of the abuse you have suffered. It is rarely enough just to say you have been abused. While reciting the facts will undoubtedly be difficult, it is important for you to be able to articulate what has happened. The person you go to for help will need to understand the nature and depth of the abuse so they can better counsel you and take appropriate action.
Remember, as you explain what has happened to you, you are not to blame.
If the sexual offenses within a family lie in the past, the most powerful weapon the abuser has is the secrecy that covers the truth of their actions. Keeping the secrets of the family by pretending it never happened or never talking about it empowers the abuser and weakens the abused. The most effective way to regain control over the abuse is to expose it to the light.
But whom do you tell? Who is it that needs to know about the abuse and the identity of the family member who abused you?
- The abused needs to know. They need to understand that what happened to them was wrong. They need to understand that they are not to blame for what happened.
- The abuser needs to know. They need to understand what their actions have meant. They need to be held accountable for the consequences of those actions. They need to be confronted with the wrong they have done.
- Those who are vulnerable need to know. If the abuser has a pattern of predatory action against certain family members, those family members need to know. They need to know so they, or the adults responsible for them, can determine if contact with the abuser will even be permitted. Depending on the type and severity of action, merely avoiding being alone with the abuser may be enough to forestall any abuse. However, the degree of contact allowed is completely up to the other family members. The abuser, family member or not, has broken the trust of the family and has no right to demand any in the future. Blood may be thicker than water, but no blood is thick enough to cover the consequences of familial abuse.
If no family members are currently in danger from the abuser, the question of who should know comes down to why they should know. For example, what if the abuser was an uncle, now dead, who made it a habit to trap his nieces in inappropriate hugs accompanied by coarse jokes or suggestions? Why should his widow be told of his abusive pattern now? His death precludes any reoccurrence. No one else needs protection from his actions. While the nieces can certainly gain strength by talking to each other about their shared experiences, of what value is it to tell his widow? The Bible does teach us to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
The light of truth should be used to illuminate the dark places. It is not meant as a weapon to blind others. Shining the light of truth should facilitate healing in the family, not bring about further wounds. “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” Jesus bid us (Matthew 5:16). When shining the light of truth before men, remember the desired outcome: that they will see what you do and praise God because of it.
If you are aware of sexual abuse that is taking place in your family, it is imperative to seek help. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE is skilled at navigating these sensitive issues, and bringing healing to the whole family. For more information, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak confidentially with a specialist today.