Q. When I was a child I was molested every day after school. I never told anyone and recently I’ve been having flashbacks. I have severe mood swings, and I find that I truly hate people and have been spiraling into binge drinking and some drug use. I’ve never told anyone but lately it’s getting too much to handle. I’ve asked my mother (being that I’m only 16) to get me some help for whatever is going on with me but I find she’s very unsupportive in finding me help unless I tell her what’s wrong and I’m just not ready for that. What should I do?
A. Are there other older adults, such as family members, a trusted teacher, a clergy person or a guidance counselor who can help you get into treatment? If so, you should consider asking them to assist you in finding help.
Even though you do not want to, you should reconsider telling your mother about the molestation. The person who molested you should be prosecuted. Molestation is a crime and the person who harmed you should be stopped before they go on to molest others.
That is not the only reason to tell your mother. You should tell her because you are at the point where you “are spiraling out of control” and telling her might allow you to get some help. By keeping this secret you are only hurting yourself. Not disclosing your experience ensures that you will likely continue to suffer and the person who harmed you may go unpunished for what they did to you.
I recently heard a speech given by a young lady named Sarah (named changed to protect her privacy) who was molested when she was a young girl. She kept her trauma a secret for years. She said that she suffered psychologically every single day after the experience and to cover up her pain she started abusing drugs and drinking alcohol. She also attempted suicide twice. She said that she did not want to reveal what had happened to her, not even to her parents, because she was ashamed of what her parents and others might think of her.
But it wasn’t until she finally told her parents that she was able to get the help she needed. When she told her parents they immediately sought counseling for her. Soon thereafter, the individual who committed the crime was prosecuted and sent to prison for a very long time. She later learned that she was one of seven girls who had been harmed by the same individual.
Sarah told this story to an audience of high school students. Her primary goal was to encourage other teens who had been in similar circumstances to disclose their abuse. She said that she wished she had told her parents sooner.
I bring this story to your attention because without her telling her parents Sarah may never have gotten the help she needed. You need help too and you need it now.
What if Sarah decided not to tell? It’s plausible that had she decided not to tell her parents about the molestation that she might have continued on a path of personal destruction. It is possible that she may have become a drug addict or even died from a successful suicide attempt. Had she not told her parents, it is certainly possible that the individual who harmed her might still be at large molesting other young girls. Instead, because she disclosed her abuse, she is now healed to the point where she can give speeches about how much her life has improved. The person who molested her has been sent to prison and she has also started her third year of college. Telling her parents was not easy but it may have made the difference between life and death.
You should not continue to keep your abuse a secret. There are many reasons individuals do not disclose sexual abuse but please know that it only prolongs psychological suffering.
It takes great courage to report sexual abuse. I would strongly encourage you to consider it. It seems that you would be left with few options if you choose not to report it. And mainly those options would include continuing to experience flashbacks that might only grow more intense and more difficult to deal with. With the right kind of help, you can recover and live a happy and normal life, just like Sarah did. Please be brave and tell your mother.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 17 Nov 2008
Randle, K. (2008). Molestation, Flashbacks, and Severe Anger Issues. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 8, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/11/17/molestation-flashbacks-and-severe-anger-issues/