A Loud Secret: Continuing Contact with a Family Member

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“What if I get in trouble?”

“What will happen to him?”

“No one will believe me.”

These are all thoughts that ran through my head that kept me from telling anyone about my abuse. When the abuser is in your family, how do we deal? RAINN.org reports that of the sexual abuse cases REPORTED, 34% of them are by relatives. That number is just of those cases that actually were reported to law enforcement. Many of us know that this is not an accurate reflection of the frequency that this happens.

When your abuser is someone who you are supposed to trust, love unconditionally even, it takes a HUGE toll on us emotionally and physically. If this person is supposed to love you, how could they possibly do you harm? Many victims become confused as to what is actually happening to them when the abuse occurs because they shouldn’t be doing anything bad to you, right? In his article ‘Realizing What Family Means: 6 Ways to Reject Abusive Relatives and Restart Your Life’, James states: “[There are] two disturbing myths perpetuated throughout American culture: 1) That biologically or legally bound individuals would never hurt one another, and 2) that it’s okay when they do. We recognize it’s happening and yet, we don’t. It’s like a very loud secret.”

Often times the abuser will bribe with rewards or promises. They might tell you it’s “our little secret” and that made you feel special. It’s okay, it’s still not your fault. Even if you feel you allowed the abuse to happen, don’t blame yourself. So many thoughts come into play when the perpetrator is a relative. Maybe everyone really likes this person, and you feel like if you told, people might be mad at you. Maybe people wouldn’t believe such a thing. As a victim, I know I struggled with telling my family because my abuser was my step-brother and I felt like I needed to protect HIM for some reason. I thought that if I told, our family would never be the same and it would be my fault. But if safety permits, speak up about your abuse to other family members. Telling them could bring you some much needed comfort.

With the holidays upon us, I know some of you out there are struggling. Maybe you are dreading a holiday get together with your family because you know your abuser will be there. You are allowed to feel anxious and upset. But you are also allowed to take yourself away from the situation. Easier said than done, right? If you absolutely have to face your abuser this holiday season, or any time- have someone you trust on call or even there with you. If you can’t talk to your family or friends about what you’re going through, we are here for you. Come talk to us. We won’t judge you or discredit you. We are here to support you with whatever you need, even if it’s just to listen.

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