Seeking Help After Trauma


I want my family to know the full story about the sexual assault I experienced, but I risk losing them in the process. My cousin was the one that harmed me and my family agreed not to talk about it so she won’t go to jail. How do I get closure when everyone around me wants to keep it in the dark?


Thank you so much for asking this question. Gosh, this is a tough one and there are no right or wrong answers related to what you should do in this situation. When abuse is kept secret within a family, the weight of unspoken pain can be overwhelming. Sharing your story is a courageous act, but does not come without its risks. Ultimately your story is yours and yours alone. Who you choose to tell is entirely up to you, but you unfortunately cannot control how the person you tell will react and what subsequent behavior they might display towards you. 

Sometimes it is better to keep your abuse hidden from those you know will further harm you with their responses to avoid additional pain and trauma. Other times, sharing things with important others in your life can open new pathways for healing and can help you recognize the relationships you have that are supportive or not supportive in your life. Protect yourself and prioritize what you need to heal. What do you hope to gain from telling this person? Are you not telling them your story to protect yourself or protect other people?

If you do think disclosing your trauma to one of your family members is important for your healing, take a look at our answer to this quesiton to get some tips on how you might go about doing this. You also might take a look at this study to learn more about how others with similar experiences chose to tell others about their abuse. 

It is also worth noting that talking about the abuse you experienced within your family and reporting your experience can be two completely seperate things. Even if you choose not to report this experience, you still deserve to be heard and supported by those you love.  It takes immense strength to confront the past, recognize the impact it is having on you in the present, and discuss what you need from your family for your healing in the future. Dig deep, set boundaries to protect your wellbeing, and think about what you need. Start there. 

In moments of isolation and secrecy, the support of a therapist or counselor can be extremely helpful. Professionals with expertise in trauma and abuse can provide a safe and confidential space for you to share your story, navigate complex emotions, and strategize a path forward. Seek out mental health professionals who understand the intricacies of family dynamics and trauma-informed care or counselors at your local rape crisis center who understand the impact of childhood sexual abuse within families. You do not need to go through this alone.

If you are looking for alternative methods for support outside of your family or mental health professionals, consider exploring confidential support groups or online communities where survivors share their experiences and insights. Connecting with others who have walked a similar path can be empowering, offering validation, understanding, and a sense of community. You might also consider journaling or documenting your experiences for yourself as a form of self-expression and reflection. This can serve as a therapeutic outlet that acknowledges the trauma you experienced and may also become a powerful tool for advocacy in the future should you choose to share it with others. 

Ultimately, you do not deserve to keep your abuse a secret at the expense of your wellbeing due to the dynamics within your family. How you choose to proceed, however, is entirely up to you. This is not an easy situation, but know that you do not need to go through this alone. Your wellbeing and healing matters. 

Safety Exit