Why it’s Hard for Teens to Talk About/ Tell About Sexual Assault:
Common Feelings: Following a sexual assault, it is common to experience a range of emotions.
Doubt/Disbelief: “Did this really happen? Am I imagining this? Am I exaggerating or reading into it?”
Shock: “I feel so numb. Why am I so calm? Why can’t I cry?”
Guilt “Maybe this is my fault. If only I had…”
Anxiety “I’m a nervous wreck!” (Anxiety is often expressed in physical symptoms like difficulty breathing, muscle tension, sleep disturbances, change in eating habits, nausea, etc)
Powerlessness “Will I ever feel in control again? Maybe this is just how life is. Maybe I’m blowing it out of proportion.” Loss of Friends, Social Status “No one is going to talk to me after this—I won’t have any friends. He/she will get kicked off the basketball team and everyone is going to blame me.” Belief that ignoring the feelings will make them go away “I should just forget about it.”
Shame/Embarassment “It’s embarrassing to even think about it. How could I ever talk about it. I don’t think I can do it.” Having Mixed Feelings “My step-father will lose his job if anyone finds out about this. I don’t want to hurt my family by telling.” People who are abusive, aren’t usually abusive all the time. Sometimes they can be fun and nice. Sometimes they buy gifts or take you on special trips. Maybe they have said they would have a heart attack if you ever told anyone and then you’d be to blame. Maybe they have promised to stop and have cried because they feel bad for hurting you. You may have enjoyed the special attention you received or enjoyed the physical sensations in your body. This does not mean you enjoyed being abused; the body responds to physical touch and you cannot control those feelings.
Believe: A survivor of sexual violence might be worried that no one will believe them. Tell her/him that you do believe them.
Common Fears In the aftermath of a sexual assault, you may feel scared or confused about many things:
Fear of not being believed “What if people think I’m making it up? It’s going to be my word against theirs.”
Fear of the process of telling “Will I have to go to the police? Will it go to court? Will I have to testify in front of a courtroom?”
Fear of friends and family finding out “My parents are going to be so mad I was at that party.” “People won’t look at me the same if they find out what happened.”
Fear of the perpetrator “If I tell, they said they would hurt my sister or kill my dog. They said I’d go to jail for lying.”Why some teens DO tell:
Freedom From fear, from secrecy, from hiding, from shame
Power Realizing you can reclaim your life, get help and heal Things To Keep In Mind When Telling Talking to someone about what has happened is an important step in the healing process, but how and when that happens may be different for everyone. When considering who to tell, keep in mind:
Who do you consider trustworthy? If you are under the age of 18, remember that all adults in NH have to report child abuse. They likely will not be able to keep what you tell them a secret, even if they are trustworthy. If you’re planning to tell a friend, consider whether they will respect your privacy.
Who will give you the support you need? Even people who care very much about you may not respond in the way you hope, or in a way that is helpful to you. It may be hard for friends and family to hear about what happened to you. The people you tell will have their own emotions about what happened. They may feel overwhelmed, angry, sad shocked, or numb. TPN can help you sort out who to tell, and when. And remember, while you are figuring this out, you can Call us anonymously. We’re just a phone call away. 1-800-639-3130