Many of our readers have written in with questions about sexual abuse issues – but even if it has been asked about 1,000 times, it doesn’t make your question or situation any less important.
What’s the Situation and What To Do?
TeenHealthFX is very concerned about the abuse you have been enduring, the false messages your step-father has been giving you about your relationship with him, and the continued contact you are having with him. There are also a few things we are unsure of: Is the abuse still occurring? Does your mother know about the abuse? Given that they are “talking again” is there a possibility that your mother and step-father might get back together? FX is left with several concerns and questions, and because of that we recommend that you do the following:
· If you have not told your mother about the abuse, you must tell her right away. Your mother needs to know what happened to you so she can be there for you with love and support, so she can get you the mental health treatment that you need to deal with what has happened to you, and most importantly so she can ensure that there is no future contact between you and your step-father (including not getting back together with him if that is something she is considering).
· If you have told your mother about the abuse, but nothing about your situation has really changed, then it is important to talk to her and let her know that you need mental health treatment set up for you, as well as for your mother to ensure that you kept safe and protected from your step-father in the future. You can let your mother know that it must be tough for her to think of your step-father hurting you and maybe she doesn’t want to really believe it, but right now you need her to listen to you, to believe what happened, and to be there for you with love and support and to do what she can to keep you physically safe and emotionally protected.
· Have your mother make an appointment for you with a mental health treatment provider who is trained in working with victims of sexual abuse. There are feelings that are going to need to be addressed for you – feelings of anger, sadness, and perhaps even shame about what happened. There may also be strong emotions for you in terms of feeling like your step-father betrayed your trust and violated you by crossing all of the boundaries he did in abusing you. Furthermore, a therapist can work with you on understanding that you are not to blame for what happened to you – to recognize and accept that you were a victim to your step-father’s behavior. Finally, you mentioned in your question that you feel nobody really cares about. FX is worried about this, as it is important for people (especially children and teens) to feel they have people around them who love and care about them. A therapist can help to address any relationship problems in current relationships (like if you feel you do not have the love and support you need from your mother), as well as to learn how to build trusting, strong, healthy new relationships with peers and adults who can be there for you in a loving way.
· Speak with your mother and therapist about the idea of pressing charges against your step-father. What he did is a crime and it is important that he face consequences for his actions. One so that he can be stopped from doing this to anyone else in the future, and two so that you can feel a sense of justice. FX can appreciate that you might be worried about the idea of your step-father facing legal consequences because you may feel like it’s your fault (as many victims of childhood sexual abuse feel) – but FX wants to stress to you that whatever consequences your step-father has to deal with are a result of choices he made. You are the victim here and are not to blame. He made the choice to be sexually abusive, he made the choice to break the law, so he has to deal with the consequences.
Recognizing False Ideas Put Forward By Abusers
Now that we have given you some things that we want you to do here, we want to address some of the sentiments you expressed in your question:
· Your step-father stated to you that he didn’t do anything you didn’t let him – FX takes issue with this statement. With you as a minor it doesn’t matter if you allowed your step-father to be sexual with you or you constantly fought him off. At 8 years old (and still to this day), you are not considered old enough in any state in this country to be able to consent to sex. Depending on the state, the law doesn’t recognize a person as being able to consent to sex until 16, 17 or 18 years of age. At 8 years old, and even now, you were not legally considered of age to consent to any of the sexual activity your step-father initiated. The law recognizes that minors do not have the intellectual, physical and emotional maturity to be able to say they are ready for sex and/or engage in sexual acts. So your step-father can try to present that you went along with it, but the fact is you were too young to go along with anything sexual and no matter what your reaction was to his sexually inappropriate behavior, he was acting immorally and illegally by violating you in the way he did.
· Your step-father’s stated to you that nobody but him really cares about you – FX takes issue with this statement. Sexual relations between an adult and a child is NOT love – violating your body in the way he did and manipulating your thoughts and feelings around the abuse are hostile, cruel, and unloving acts. Love is shown through being caring, respectful, and kind – and there is NOTHING caring, respectful, or kind about sexual abuse. You are a lovable person who deserves adults in your life who can be loving and supportive of you in a healthy way – that means respecting your body, respecting your feelings, and not doing anything to be cruel or abusive to you.
FX would like to reiterate that what your step-father did to you was not your fault. It is very easy for victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence to feel that somehow they were to blame – that they should have done something differently. But we want to make it crystal clear to you that your step-father alone was completely responsible for sexually abusing you and he is the one who did something wrong here. Your step-father used/abused his power and influence as a father-figure and adult to take advantage of you sexually. You were not at fault, you did nothing wrong, and you should never blame yourself for his decisions and actions in this matter.
FX hopes that you will discuss these statements presented to you by your step-father with your therapist so you can continue to get clarity about what love really means, and so you can continue to understand that you are not to blame for what he did.
You can also contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), 1-800-656-HOPE (4673), 24 hours, 7days a week for help and information. You can search for a local counseling center on their website or use their online hotline.
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.