Never Told Anyone I Was Sexually Abused By My Uncle

Published: March 25, 2013
Dear Never Told Anyone I Was Sexually Abused By My Uncle,

I'm not sure how to go about this or if I should even go about it at all.. But this is the only way I can get a thought out about it. When I was younger, I don't know if I was molested or sexually abused because I don't exactly understand the details of each.. I used to stay with my aunt and uncle quite a lot when I was younger, around 6 7 and 8. We would all sleep in the same bed together which I never thought anything of because I've known them all of my life. But I would occasionally wake up and find that my uncle was making me touch him inappropriately or he would be touching me.. And I've even been over the possibility that I imagined this but what kind of kid does that. It would of course scare me at the time but I guess being a kid I would move on and not really think about it if that even sounds possible.. I come from a family that never really talks about their feelings and have never really been brought up around conversations concerning anything along these lines so I've never known how to go about telling a soul. Years have passed and I'm 18 years old so I can't figure out why this has been gnawing at me lately like it has been. It's always been at the back of my mind but over the last year I've just really wanted to talk to someone about it because I've heard things that would make me believe it could explain some of the other emotions I've felt before and have been feeling more and more lately. Things like depression and a sort of indifference in school and home life. I could never tell anyone why I've waited this long to bring it up it my mind and out loud (so to speak). I keep telling myself that it's the fact that I was a little kid and didn't know what was happening and the more I waited to say anything the more irrelevant it seemed for me to do so.. I could just really use some help with this because I can never bring myself to discuss it with anyone. Please and thank you.

Dear Never Told Anyone I Was Sexually Abused By My Uncle,

TeenHealthFX is glad that you took the time to write to us about this. It is not healthy for you to keep these kinds of thoughts and feelings to yourself – it is definitely better for you to find caring, trustworthy people and resources that you can lean on while you try and sort through this.  

FX can appreciate that it can be confusing to know what terms to use when it comes to sexual abuse and sexual assault. “Molested” refers to unwanted or improper sexual activity – so one could say that your uncle molested you. You could also say that you were a victim of child sexual abuse, specifically incest. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), child sexual abuse can include things like “fondling, obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, masturbation, intercourse, oral or anal sex, prostitution, pornography, or any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.” Incest is “sexual contact between persons who are so closely related that their marriage is illegal (e.g., parents and children, uncles/aunts and nieces/nephews, etc.). This usually takes the form of an older family member sexual abusing a child or adolescent.”

If you have memories of your uncle touching you inappropriately, then FX believes that is what happened. The fact that you slept in your aunt and uncle’s bed between the ages of 6-8 already suggests that there were some unhealthy boundaries present in their house. And you wouldn’t have known at the time that sleeping in their bed was inappropriate – kids look to the adults in their lives for guidance on these matters.

The fact that you never said anything to anyone at the time this happened is also quite normal. There are many reasons children keep sexual abuse to themselves:

  • They think nobody will believe them.
  • They worry about getting the abuser in trouble – especially if that person is a family member or close friend of the family.
  • The child doesn’t really want to believe the abuse is happening because it is too scary and upsetting to think that a loved one would be hurting them in this way – so they block it out or minimize it in their own minds.
  • The child blames him/herself for some reason or worries that the person they tell will be angry with them or blame them.
  • The child doesn’t have anyone to turn to who that child experiences as understanding, warm and helpful.

There are so many reasons children keep abuse to themselves, so know that you are not alone in this and have compassion for yourself that it can easily feel like a very scary thing for a child to come forward with this type of information. And it is actually common for people who were sexually abused as children to experience problematic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as teenagers or adults. So, again, it is normal that you are now at a place where you are reflecting on this and feeling like you can’t keep it to yourself anymore.  

FX would like to stress to you that nothing that you are experiencing or feeling is irrelevant. Your thoughts and feeling are real and they are extremely important. It doesn’t matter what age you come out with what happened to you – it doesn’t change that fact that you went through something that was understandably very upsetting and hurtful to you and that you currently need some support to deal with the situation.

FX would recommend that you reach out for help with this – help in how to process your own feelings and help in how to handle this situation with your family members. You could start by speaking to someone through RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), 24 hours, 7days a week for help and information. You can also search for a local counseling center on their website or use their online hotline.

FX thinks that it would also be helpful for you to meet with a reputable therapist, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist, who has experience in working with people who have been sexually abused. A therapist could provide you with a safe space to process your thoughts and feelings and could work with you on how you want to address this with your uncle and other family members. If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.