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How Do You Tell Your Parents You’ve Been Sexually Abused?

For a lot of us, it’s much easier to sit down with a friend or write a post than tell our parents about our abuse.

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Life
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These past few days have been extremely emotionally and mentally exhausting, with all the #metoo stories coming out. Some of the incidents I read gave me shivers, while some of them brought tears to my eyes. They made me feel utterly helpless as a woman, as a mental health worker – and most especially, as a human being.

Our culture doesn’t really promote having tough discussions. Growing up, very few parents had heart-to-heart conversations with their kids about the facts of life – and somewhere along the way, we just learnt to not talk to our parents about our emotional and mental health.

For a lot of us, it’s much easier to sit down with a friend or even write a post which thousands of strangers will read than to talk to your parents about the abuse/harassment you’ve faced.
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For some reason, it makes many of us feel shameful and that’s just wrong. Your abuse is NOT your fault. You may feel embarrassed, hurt, guilty, angry and confused. But you have people supporting you and you deserve to get support and love from your parents.

Having a conversation like this is incredibly scary. While there’s no right or wrong to it, these few tips might make it easier:

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1. Prepare First With Someone You Trust

Many times when we are opening up about something important we fear the reactions of other people. Will they believe us? Will they create conflict or be in denial? Will they support us?

Unfortunately we cannot control the responses of our parents, but we can try to be better prepared to face it. Talking to someone before about it – maybe even a psychologist if you’re going for therapy – will help you determine what would be the best way for you to open up to your parents. Role-playing with a friend or your therapist is an excellent way to reduce stress about the conversation. Maybe writing a letter for some will work best, maybe for some a face-to-face conversation is needed.

If you are mentally ready to tell them about your abuse, chances are you are better prepared for their reaction as well. While spontaneity, no doubt can be good at times, having this conversation unprepared might leave you feeling drained.

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2. Try to Tell Them Together

While it may not be possible always, telling your parents together would be most ideal. It alleviates the need to keep retelling the story – hence, sparing you from having to keep reliving those horrible moments.

Having the conversation isn’t easy, and hence you should try to do what you can to make it easy for yourself.

You might even want to ask someone else like a sibling or your therapist to be present for emotional support – and that’s okay. Everyone’s relationship with their parent is different so there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. What’s important is that you tell your story and feel confident while doing it.
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3. Know Why You’re Doing it

It’s important to know why you want to share this story with them. Not that you shouldn’t, you absolutely should – but what are your reasons for doing it?

Do you want to warn them about a predator who might be a family or a friend? Do you want to express your sorrow and anger about going through that traumatising event? Do you want their support in legal action?

Having clarity about this will help you not get side-tracked and come out of the conversation feeling good, no matter their reactions, because you will be clear as to why you did it.

Again, enlisting the help of your therapist for this is a good idea.

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Speaking out about your sexual abuse is the first step in removing shame from the incident, as well as encouraging others to do the same.

And that’s what ultimately stops the predators. They win when they know that you can do nothing about it, and if that no longer remains true – the victory is ours. Speaking out is our ultimate defence.

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(Prachi Jain is a psychologist, trainer, optimist, reader and lover of Red Velvets.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Sexual Harassment   Rape   Sexual Abuse 

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