Understanding Trauma & Violence


I experienced abuse by a family member as a child. He is five years older than me. It was clearly abusive in many ways: it was forceful, manipulative, and there was a power imbalance. He didn’t listen when I told him to stop. The only thing is that I can’t remember when exactly it happened and how old we were, so I feel like I can’t judge him too hard because he might have been too young to be held responsible. I also worry with if he is a danger or not to others. I wish I could know for sure if I was his only victim. How do I know what to think?


Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It sounds like you are processing a lot right now and I can only imagine how challenging, confusing, and frightening it must be.

It's crucial to acknowledge that childhood abuse can have profound and lasting effects on survivors, regardless of when it occurred or the age of the perpetrator. The trauma you experienced is valid, but it is understandable that you are grappling with feelings of uncertainty and confusion surrounding the circumstances in which the abuse occured. While not being able to recall specific details like the exact timing or age can be frustrating, it doesn't diminish the significance of what happened to you. Your experience of forceful, manipulative behavior with a power imbalance indicates clear signs of abuse, and your feelings of distress and concern are entirely warranted.

In terms of the abuser's age at the time of the abuse, it's essential to recognize that age does not absolve someone of responsibility for their actions, particularly when it involves harming another individual. Regardless of their age, engaging in abusive behavior is never acceptable, and survivors should not feel compelled to downplay or excuse the actions of their abusers. It's natural to wonder about the possibility of other victims and the potential danger the abuser may pose to others. Seeking support from a therapist or social worker who specializes in trauma can provide a safe space to explore these concerns, process your emotions, and develop strategies for next steps for your healing.

To learn more about abuse that can occur between children, see three related questions we have answered previously below.

1. Q & A ~ Child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA): Can a victim be older than their perpetrator? ~ Our Wave Stories

2. Q & A ~ Does it count as COCSA if the sexual abuse was by someone familiar to me who was around a year older than me? ~ Our Wave Stories

3. Q & A ~ In cases of child-on-child sexual abuse (COCSA), is it okay/normal to continue to be friends with the other child and have it be water under the bridge? ~ Our Wave Stories

What you choose to do with this information is up to you. If you feel comfortable and safe doing so, you may consider reporting the abuse to authorities or seeking legal advice. Reporting can serve multiple purposes, including potentially preventing future harm to others and holding the perpetrator accountable for their actions. You may also choose to share your experiences with trusted family members or other supportive people in your life. These people can provide emotional and decision-making support as you are processing these details and determining next steps. You may also be interested in pursuing restorative justice options to facilitate a conversation with the person who harmed you so that they can understand the impact of their actions and can work towards a path to make ammends outside of the criminal-legal system. Whatever you decide, it is essential to prioritize your own well-being throughout this process and to make decisions that feel right for you. Remember that you deserve support, validation, and healing. You are not alone. We are here for you every step of the way.

Safety Exit