What To Say When Someone Discloses Childhood Sexual Abuse

How to Support a Friend or Loved One Who Has Been Sexually Abused as a Child…

You are stunned. Maybe a little scared. You don’t know what to say, but know that you need to say something. A friend or a family member has just disclosed that they were sexually abused as a child.

How could you not know this?  What do you say now?

Here’s what NOT to say:

  • Is it real?
  • Is it true?
  • Are you remembering correctly?
  • Are you sure?
  • Maybe the therapist told you/convinced you that you were abused?
  • Could it be a false memory?
  • Really?

Just because you don’t want to believe that this happened to your friend or family member doesn’t make it any less real. Not only will saying any or all of the above responses be unhelpful, they are likely going to hurt and cause more damage. The individual needs your support, caring and compassion. Believe what you are hearing. Brains do not make this stuff up.

A more helpful and empathetic response would be, “I’m so sorry, what do you need?”

  • Allow the individual to talk
  • You don’t need to fix it or make it better
  • Understand that they may not want to share details with you at this point in time or ever. Not sharing details does not make it any less real
  • Avoid asking probing questions
  • Don’t assume that they want a hug or to be touched in any way
  • Feel honoured that they trusted you enough to share something so private
  • Allow them to be in control and wait for whatever comes next

Help for Survivors of Childhood Abuse

If you, a friend or family member is a survivor of childhood abuse please contact me, Annette Poechman. I have extensive experience working with survivors. I can help. Reach out today and take the next step towards better mental health. For your convenience, you can book an appointment online.

Did you know? Many extended health plans cover “Registered Psychotherapy” and/or “Supervised Psychological Practice”. Check your plan for coverage. I also work in conjunction with a number of Employee and Family Assistance Programs. Learn more about me, Annette Poechman.

Listening. Guiding. Caring.