Straight Talk Advice

More and more teens take back the night, refuse to be silenced by sex offenders

Sep 09, 2014

Young woman faces grim reality of childhood sexual abuse

Dear Straight Talk: A close friend is coming to terms with the fact that her alcoholic stepfather molested her when she was growing up. She never goes home because of him and is afraid that telling her mom will break up the family. She's depressed often and is getting into drinking more. I want to help her, but how? —Anonymous 20-something

Carmela 16, Davis, Calif. Ask me a question

My friend was in a similar situation, although still living in the household. She felt so trapped she began cutting herself. Finally, after much supportive love by her friends, she told her family. Her grandmother got her into therapy, she stopped cutting, and is on her way to changing her life. Telling an authority figure is important so the abuser can't hurt anyone else and the victim can feel safe and begin moving forward.

Brandon 22, Mapleton, Maine Ask me a question

Her family was broken up the second the abuse started. This man is a rapist and pedophile, not a father. He deserves to lose them. If your friend is self-sufficient, she shouldn't fear speaking the truth. This will eat at her till she does.

Hana 23, San Francisco Ask me a question

The most life-saving words repeated to me were, “IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT” and “YOU ARE NOT ALONE.” (For anyone working through this, really hear that! Nothing you did deserved sexual abuse — absolutely NOTHING.) I was sexually abused by my uncle and his girlfriend from age 4-11. I blocked out their threats, mind games, molest, and rape until the flashbacks came this year. I only recently told my family so I understand the terror. I didn't want to “disrupt the peace” either, until I realized it wasn't me who disrupted it — and that a crime unspoken cannot be healed. Yes, it may draw people apart, but she will be so empowered by it. Right now, she is dealing with it in an unhealthy way, but your gift is being there for her, not being pushy. Honesty and suggestions are good, but because of what happened, she'll probably hate being told what to do.

Kira 22, Moraga, Calif. Ask me a question

She'll tell her family in her own time. In the meantime, tell your parents, who might become parent figures for her. Offer your family to stand with her throughout her healing.

Molly 22, Oakland, Calif. Ask me a question

This is too big to fix by yourself. Don't force her to confront the family. Encourage her to talk to a therapist or, a chatline/hotline for rape, abuse and incest victims.

Megan 17, Seattle, Wash. Ask me a question

Freshman year, I began having to face my family-member abuser daily at school. I broke and my family found out about the sexual trauma I experienced when I was six. He went through the courts, but wasn't punished because he was a juvenile at the time of the abuse — and was a child victim himself. Afterward, I avoided family events altogether, but over time, I found acceptance and empathy. I'm comfortable with my sexuality and carry no scars — which many survivors cannot say. If there's any chance this man is harming others, she must tell! The family stress is nothing compared to the extreme trouble he is causing that child!

Andrew 24, Cloverdale, Calif. Ask me a question

Her sharing was a huge healing step. Seek out support centers and professionals who can support the rest of her healing journey and teach you the right things to say.

Dear Anonymous: I'm so sorry for your friend — and all victims of child sexual abuse, 1-in-3 girls and 1-in-7 boys nationally, according to the National Sex Offender Public Website. Share this column with her and repeat Hana's true words often: “It's not your fault,” and “You are not alone,” (meaning YOU and many others are at her side). If she won't live chat at or call their National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE, I hope you do. They don't even ask names, so victims can explore things at their own safe pace. If she is in immediate danger, call 911.

Editor's Note: It's not uncommon for children who are sexually abused to wait until adulthood to deal with it. In about 93 percent of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the perpetrator. In 47 percent of the cases, that perpetrator is a family member. Only 30 percent of cases are reported. These stats are from the National Sex Offender Public Website and I've taken the liberty and time to distill, below, their parental tips for preventing child sexual abuse and the warning signs. You may read both in full at and May we all become educated and stand together to end the nightmare of child sexual abuse. —Lauren

Parental Prevention for Children: Take time to check in daily with your child with real interest in their life. Conversations about sexual abuse shouldn't be a one-time thing, but an ongoing conversation so the child knows you are knowledgeable and safe to come to in times of embarrassment or shame. Using age-appropriate language, tell your child:
• Their "private" body parts are, just that, PRIVATE
• Nobody is allowed to touch said parts except a doctor, and you will be with them
• Say "NO" if someone wants to touch their private parts and come tell you right away
• If a 'bad' adult does touch them there, the child is not in trouble
• No matter what that adult says, it's false and untrue! You are who loves and will help them!
• NONE of what happens is EVER the child's fault

Parental Prevention for Teens: Teens bodies are changing and they are learning about sex mostly from friends, pornography, and their own experiences, so educate yourself about sexual abuse so you can pass on correct information. While you may learn from a pamphlet, handing one to your teen can indicate you don't want to talk about it. Instead create open communication so they know you are available, knowledgeable, and not embarrassed to discuss the topic. If communication does shut down, keep re-opening it! Many teens caught in an abusive relationship with an adult (or an abuser their own age), feel obligated to go along with things — and that the abuse is their fault. They need to be taught BY YOU, all over again, that:
• They have personal rights
• Their bodies are their own
• No one has the right to touch them without their permission
• It's okay to say NO
• They don't have to do anything they don't want to do
• They should trust their instincts
• It's not okay to feel coerced
• No matter how they dress or talk, it does not constitute permission
• Past permission does not obligate them to future activity
• It's not okay for adults to engage in sexual behavior with teens
• It's not okay for adults to take pictures/videos of teens in sexual positions or unclothed
• It's not okay for adults to discuss sexual fantasies or share pornography with them
• Pornography is not an accurate depiction of real life
• Alcohol and drugs will cloud judgment and make maintaining boundaries difficult
• Touching someone sexually while they are intoxicated is abuse
• Sexual abuse is not their fault, they are not in trouble, and you are always there for them

Teens in relationships should understand that:
• Both parties must respect each other’s personal rights and boundaries
• They should decline sex without proper protection
• Not everyone is having sex — many teens wait and that's perfectly okay

Top Risk Factors for Sexual Abuse: Low self-esteem and/or lack of money. Teens who don't feel good about themselves or are at odds with family are what abusers are looking for. They take advantage of their low self-esteem, give gifts like liquor or drugs, further isolate them from family, and attempt to become their ”friend.” Teens who lack money are also targeted and bribed with gifts or money. Remedies:
• Encourage your teen to have a hobby, sport, work, practice, or art.
• Give your teen responsibility.
• Teach your teen how to earn money legitimately without giving up pride or self-worth.
• Teach your teen how to take care of him/herself.
• Empower your teen to be in control of her/his own life rather than feeling like a victim.
• Communicate how much you value his/her independence, accomplishments, responsibility, while letting her/him know you are supportive and available.

Warning Signs in the Young Child:
• Older child behaves like a younger child (bed-wetting, thumb-sucking)
• Has new words for private body parts
• Resists removing clothes for bath, bed, toileting, diapering
• Asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games
• Mimics sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animal
• Has wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training
• Physical warning signs are rare; take child to the doctor:
o Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth
o Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements

Warning Signs in both Child & Adolescent:
• Nightmares or other unexplained sleep problems
• Seems distracted or distant at odd times
• Sudden change in eating habits, appetite, refusal to eat
• Difficulty swallowing
• Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or withdrawal
• Drops “hints" or "clues” to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
• Writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images
• Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
• Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
• Talks about a new older friend
• Suddenly has money, toys, gifts without reason
• Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty or bad
• Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language and knowledge

Warning Signs for Adolescents:
• Self-injury (cutting, burning)
• Inadequate personal hygiene
• Drug and alcohol abuse
• Sexual promiscuity
• Running away from home
• Depression, anxiety
• Suicide attempts
• Fear of intimacy or closeness
• Compulsive eating or dieting

WHAT TO DO: If you see the warning signs and need guidance, please visit or live chat at or call their National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE.

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  1. By Anonymous, age 16, from California on 09/10/2014

    I was the subject of female on female sexual abuse beginning 4 years ago by my aunt when I was 12.  She’s my dad’s sister and was my favorite aunt who had always been very good to me when I was young.  We don’t have an extra room for guests, so I was always expected to share my room and double bed with female relatives when they came to visit and it had never been a problem.  I never had a problem undressing in front of her since we were both females and she was my aunt whom I loved.  However, when I reached puberty I started feeling somewhat uncomfortable since she started seeming a little too interested in looking at me when I was naked and would compliment me on how beautiful my maturing body was, but I didn’t really worry about it that much at first.  Around the same time she started being very casual about nudity in front of me in the bedroom.  Then one time she said that she “forgot” her nightgown so she was just going to sleep in her “birthday suit” and said it didn’t matter since “we’re both girls.”  Then in bed she started tickling me, saying she was just playing around.  That led to her touching me in my private area and breasts and taking my hand and putting it in her privates, etc.  I was to shocked and scared to try to stop her.  This went on for 2 years when she would visit 2 or 3 times a year.  For obvious reasons, I always dreaded her visits but was afraid to say anything.  She then moved farther away and we don’t see her much any more, and I haven’t had to share my room and bed with her.  However, the scars still remain, and it hurt very, very much to have someone I loved and trusted do this to me.  Like others, I didn’t want to say anything to my parents and cause family difficulties that would probably last forever.  I tell myself that I could and should have stopped her, but it’s not so easy when you’re in this situation and only someone to whom this has happened can really understand.

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    1. By LAUREN, from on 09/12/2014

      Dear Anonymous—IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. Really take that in, as Hana says.  It’s the absolute truth and almost all survivors fell as you do that they could have or should have done something to stop it. But, you speak the truth that it’s not so easy as it sounds. That’s why these people prey on children, they rely on you going with the program and not being able to say no or tell on them for fear, shame, a variety of reasons. I totally recommend that you call RAINN at the number listed above, or use their live chat line. There you will find you are NOT ALONE, and also not rushed or pushed into anything. You will be able to process at your own pace and according to your own stability and personality. This is very important after what you have been through. Many victims don’t deal with things till their early 20s, when they ARE more stable and also self-sufficient. Others find a way to tell someone in authority (i.e. your parents) sooner than that. Each of us is different and all paths are okay. That said, believe me when I say that YOU, as their offspring, are much more important to your parents then your aunt. And since she lives distantly, she already doesn’t see the family much; i.e. minimal disruption. Best would be NEVER. If this aunt is visiting other relatives with girls, it may be another reason to tell sooner than later.

      You’re 16 (the website isn’t showing age, but I can see it). Should she visit again and you haven’t told on her, and aren’t ready to, make sure to either be gone to a friend’s house that weekend or insist that you sleep on the couch. If your parents look at you funny… look back at them with just as funny and STERN of a look that says I AM IN CHARGE HERE AND FULL WELL HAVE MY REASONS and begin gathering the blankets to use on the couch like a soldier with your own commanding officer telling you what to do, who is waaay higher authority than them. Usually when parents see that look and the action is harmless they will not resist you. But if they do, by no means cave in.  I admire your courage to write us and send you love and light for a full healing.—Love, Lauren

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    2. By L., age 16, from Northern California on 09/12/2014

      I had a very similar thing happen to me 3 years ago when I was 13, but it was male on male by my uncle, my mom’s brother.  He was married and had a daughter so it never occurred to me that he could be gay.  Our parents were divorced and my dad moved out of town.  He paid his support and thought that met his parental obligation, but I only saw him twice a year if I was lucky.  My uncle said I needed a male role model and started doing guy things with me which was great.  Then he wanted to take me on a week long camping trip during the summer.  I was thrilled as I had always envied friends who got to do things like this with their dads.  When I was time to go to bed in the tent the first night I undressed down to my underwear since that’s the way I sleep.  But I was shocked when he stripped naked and I saw that he had a huge boner which really scared me.  He pressured me to have “butt sex” with him by telling me that I owed it to him after all he had done for me after my dad had practically abandoned me, and it was hard to argue.  I let him do it, so I can’t say he “raped” me, but he made me feel like I had no choice.  We had fun during the day hiking and fishing, but this continued at night and he also had me do “blow jobs” on him.  The first time he came in my mouth it made me throw up, but he just laughed and said I’d get used to it. 

      I didn’t want to tell my mom so after that week I tried to make excuses when he wanted to do things with me, but sometimes I would go with him so it wouldn’t look too strange.  But when he wanted to take me on a weekend trip a few months later, I just couldn’t go and she demanded to know why and I broke down and told her.  She believed me, but said she didn’t want her brother to go to jail and bring shame on the whole family, so she would have a talk with him and tell him he wouldn’t be seeing me any more and that she knew what he had done.

      I can’t describe had bad this has messed up my head.  I know everybody says you should get counseling for something like this, but my mom can’t afford it.  My dad’s abandonment really hurt, but what my uncle did caused me much more damage.


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      1. By LAUREN, from on 09/14/2014

        Dear L—I am so proud of you for telling your mother and making this stop. This shows your personal authority, which will carry you through into healing ultimately. There are free counseling services for children like you (I see you are 16) and the place that will know where to direct you is I really hope you call them or live chat to find out the resources available in your area. The other place is your COUNTY Child Protective Services. They offer free counseling to children and families for all kinds of abuse.  Call both of them and find out what your local options are. You do not need to give your name to either in order to find out how things work and what is available.

        I don’t know the words that rattle around in your head, we all have them. You might try repeating some positive ones to yourself on a regular basis. Affirmations can really can help bring strength and direction. Try repeating these true words to yourself on a daily basis: “I am innocent.  I am supported.  I find true, kind, knowledgeable people who help me put this in my past and live a happy life.”

        I’m so sorry for everything you’ve been through… you deserve help from true kind knowledgeable people who ARE out there and want to help YOU. I wish you the best in reaching out to them.—Much Love and Healing , Lauren

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    3. By Dorothy M Neddermeyer, PhD, age 50, from Phoenix, AZ, United States on 09/14/2014

      Sexual child Abuse recovery is possible. The recovery process requires a multifaceted approach, facilitated by a professional who is trained in sexual abuse recovery. Traditional therapy is ineffective for sexual abuse recovery. The following stages gives a comprehensive perspective:

      STAGE 1: Victim
      Person identifies everything within the context of the abuse, resulting in difficulty functioning in daily life.

        -professional needs to establish a therapeutic foundation with the individual.
        -professional needs to educate and support the individual for the recovery process.
        -Grieving process needs to focus on specific details of the abuse experience.
        -One needs to GO into the Pain to GET OUT of the Pain. The majority of professionals neglect this important recovery process–thinking the person will be ‘re-traumatized’. If done effectively the process is healing and therapeutic at the deepest level—the soul level..
        -Identify‘triggers and how to diffuse them.
        -Identify barriers in treatment and how to overcome them.
        -Process Anger/Rage, Sadness, Shame, Guilt, Humiliation.
        -Identify themes in the trauma experience and how it impacts the person’s functioning.

      STAGE 2: Survivor
      Person identifies abuse as past and is functioning moderately, but maintains primary identity with the abuse.

        – Professional establishes a foundation for deeper work.
        -Process Anger/Rage, Sadness, Shame, Guilt.
        -Address difficulties with partners and families and develop strategies to deal with them.
        -Identify long-term stress and complicated coping mechanisms–replace coping mechanisms with healthy effective behavior and attitudes. Dispel the chicken or the egg dilemma.
        -Identify and restructure belief system.
        -Prepare for and confront perpetrator(s) and co-perpetrators(s).
        Therapeutic tools include: Guided imagery, therapeutic journeling, meditation, dream analysis, hypnosis/Time line process, exercise, dance, music, movement.

      STAGE 3: Thriver
      Person no longer primarily identifies with the abuse and abuse is integrated with the remainder of personal history resulting in healthy functioning.

        -Professional establishes foundation for the thriver stage.
        -Individual develops healthy strategies for living life, able to deal with life’s issues with empowerment.
        -Individual lets go of sexual abuse identity and forgives perpetrator(s) and co-perpetrators(s).
        -Individual developes strategies to deal with some ‘flare ups’ of old behavior patterns.
        -Individual integrates the trauma with other life experiences–able to talk with ease about the experience of sexual abuse and by whom.

      Healing, peace of mind and happiness are a birthright

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    4. By Charlie , age 67, from Ashland on 11/09/2014

      thank you for reinforcing that it is not my fault. My mom sexualized me as far back as I remember, touched me inappropriately and exposed herself. Even when I was adult she bragged she had seen me naked, and undressed me with her eyes. Everyone thinks she is wonderful and I am the one with problems (I do have many). I can’t have close relationships, I have sexual difficulties, I do not trust. Who do you turn to when you are pre kindergarten and it is your mom? My dad ignored me.
      I have had a lot of drugs and a lot of therapy, still don’t understand or remember everything.
      I am reaching out but it is forced. Inside I don’t feel lovable so I hide and feel like a fraud.
      I need people to reach out to ME and not give up so easily.

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  2. By N.N., age 18, from Lodi, CA on 09/11/2014

    My little sister confided in my that our stepfather was molesting her when she was only 12.  I knew something was wrong since we shared a room and I could see how upset she was and she was crying quietly in bed and have serious trouble sleeping.  At first she wouldn’t tell me what was wrong, but she finally broke down and told me and showed me the evidence of the abuse on her pudenda.  He had told her that if she said anything to our mom he’d leave and we would end up homeless since our mom didn’t have any job skills and our dad had left us and wasn’t giving us any support.  I felt that since I was older (15 at the time) and stronger I could handle it better, so I confronted him and got him to agree to leave her alone by having sex with him and keeping quiet about it.  A year or so later, he left our mom for another woman who had young daughters.  We managed to survive, but it wasn’t easy and I had to get a job instead of going to college.  The shame and guilt has never gone away and I feel guilty that by keeping quiet I’m probably partly responsible for what I’m sure happened to his new stepdaughters.  Only someone who has gone through this can understand why so many who are sexually abused remain silent, and I don’t think my shame and guilt will ever go away.


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    1. By LAUREN, from on 09/12/2014

      Dear N.N.—Please do not add more guilt onto yourself. None of this was or is your fault—Now or Ever.  It is HIS fault and the blame must remain where it belongs, fully and completely on HIM.

      I am so sorry for what happened to both you and your sister. You are very strong and loving to protect your little sister like you did. Please know that I stand with you and many others do too. Like I urged “Anonymous”, please call or live chat at They will give you SO MUCH support without expecting you to do anything unless you are ready to. You will not even have to give your name.

      I do know that it must seem easier to tell on him now that he’s not even in your life and can no longer harm you or disrupt your life in the way he threatened.  But these things are still hard, and there is still fear, and again, each person finds their own right time to fully release the burden and heal. RAINN can help both you and yours sister feel better. Please call them! I see you are 18, which means your sister is now 15. Perhaps you can give each other strength to go into your healing journey together. I send you strength, love, and courage. From the panelists who shared, releasing their burden was a huge and empowering thing that let them move forward and receive the therapy and help they needed. It will be the same for you when you are ready. Much love and support to you and your sister!!—Love, Lauren

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  3. By Lindy, age 16, from Yorba Linda, CA on 09/12/2014

    Our dad would sexually abuse my sister and me when he was drunk (which was most every night).  We never talked to our mom about it because she was usually there when he would come in our room and violate us, so she had to know.  She was scared to death of him because he would beat her up over any little thing and she depended on him for support.  He wouldn’t let us have a lock on our door and would barge in on us when he knew we were getting undressed and would stare right at our privates and make comments about things like our breasts and pubic hair.  We tried guarding the door by one of us standing with her back against it while the other changed, but it didn’t do any good as he is very strong and was able to forcibly push the door open.

    The only reason it ended was that he left us.  I think we were getting too old for him, as he hooked up with another woman with daughters younger than we are.  Sounds like a common theme based on N.N.‘s comment.  You can guess what must be going on.  The only thing that kept us from becoming homeless was that our grandparents (our mom’s parents obviously) took us in.  They had sold the family home and moved into a small 2 bedroom, 1 bath condo, so all 3 of us have to share a small bedroom that is much smaller than the room my sister and I used to have for just the 2 of us, and my sister and I have to share a bed and share the bathroom in the morning no matter what we’re “doing” if you know what I mean.

    Even so, it could be worse and when I see homeless people I remind myself that I should be grateful that we’re not in their situation as we easily could be.  I also would not trade our current situation for the way it was before with our dad even if we had a bigger nicer home.


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    1. By LAUREN, from on 09/14/2014

      Lindy—I’m so sorry for what happened to you. I am glad you are safe in your grandparents home, cramped as it is. You don’t mention if you are getting therapeutic help, but if not, it will really help you with the trauma of what you have been through. Like I am telling everyone who has been through this, call or live chat with RAINN. You can reach them at They are the rape, abuse, incest national network and they can help you find resources to get you on the road to healing—including reporting your father if you feel ready to do that. Sounds like he is continuing his crime and will do so unless someone reports him. You can also report him anonymously through Child Protective Services which you can google through your COUNTY. From what survivors tell me, reporting the abuser is very empowering for moving forward. And if victims don’t report them, often no one will and the problem just continues.

      I hope your mother reaches out for help, too, because clearly she was being abused by him, too, leaving her too frightened to protect her own offspring from a predator.  Many women end up with an abuser when they are dependent and have no means of being on their own. You sound very intelligent. I hope you, at 16 (and your sister, too) are thinking about job skills,  getting good grades, and going to college so you don’t find yourself helpless when you are an adult. It’s worth the hard work and hard work, toward something good, is also good for mental health. I’m rooting for your whole family! —Love, Lauren

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  4. By S.J., age 15, from Garden Grove, CA on 09/13/2014

    I’m 15 and share a room with my 11 year old sister.  My sister has a friend the same age who I strongly suspect is being sexually abused, but I don’t know for sure and can’t prove it, so I don’t know what to do.  She begs to stay with us every weekend and we let most of the time since she seems scared to be at home.  She has to share a room with her 16 year old stepbrother and says that he’s “really mean” to her, but does not straight out say that he is sexually abusing her. However, she has sexual knowledge far beyond what you would expect of a girl her age and much more than I knew at her age.  She talks to my sister about things like erections and male pubic hair and has asked my sister if she’s ever seen our brother’s penis and how big it is.  She hasn’t seen it and neither have I, at least since we were small children.  She even knows about things like oral sex.  She’s very open and casual about nudity in front of us in the bedroom, so I’ve tried to look for any signs of abuse.  I only look at her for this reason.  I don’t otherwise go out of my way to look at her private parts.  There appears to be some slight bruising around her genital area, but I’m no expert who can determine if this shows sexual abuse.

    I told our mom about my suspicions and she said we need to mind our own business as we have no proof of sexual abuse and we don’t want to falsely accuse some one and that we could be sued if we brought false accusations.  I understand this, but it still really bothers me.  What should I do, if anything?


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    1. By Becca, age 16, from Carmichael, CA on 09/13/2014

      S.J.- PLEASE TELL SOMEONE ABOUT THIS!  I speak from experience.  I was being sexually abused by my alcoholic stepfather.  I also tried to get away and stay with my best friend as much as possible.  She shared a room with her older sister who I hoped would figure things out and tell someone.  I talked about my stepfather being mean to me in conjunction with talking about sexual matters as my way of telling her without coming right out and saying it so that I could honestly say that I had not told anyone.  Your sister’s friend had to obtain this kind of sexual knowledge somewhere and it sounds very likely it is due to sexual abuse by her stepbrother.  Like your sister’s friend, I went out of my way to be naked in front of my friend and her sister.  I didn’t really have any outward signs, but I thought that maybe an older girl like my friend’s sister could somehow tell.  However, she did her best not to even look at my private parts when I was naked.  She never said anything to anyone, and I was afraid to tell anyone so the abuse continued.  My stepfather is now long gone from our family but the mental damage he did to me is still there and I’m afraid that it always will be.  I also fear that wherever he is now, he may be abusing someone else. 

      THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT TO YOU AND EVERYONE WHO SUSPECTS CHILD SEXUAL (OR PHYSICAL) ABUSE:  You and your mom need to know that California law protects people who report suspected child abuse from being sued even if it turns out that you were wrong or it cannot be proven.  Therefore, PLEASE TELL SOMEONE BEFORE MORE HARM COMES TO THIS GIRL LIKE IT DID TO ME!!!


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      1. By LAUREN, from on 09/14/2014

        Becca—I’m so sorry for what happened to you and so glad you wrote this letter. Sharing what you did will convince so many people to report suspected child abuse. Your story of “hinting” to your friends (by talking about your unnamed abuser being mean in conjunction with talking about sexual matters) is a common hint and unfortunately most people don’t get it. Your letter will help people learn!

        Thank you also for sharing that you cannot be sued for reporting suspected child abuse. The authorities will always do their own investigation. A good place to start in reporting is Child Protective Services, which you can do anonymously, and which is in the COUNTY of, I believe, every state. Or call the police.

        I see that you are 16. If you haven’t started your healing process, I hope I can encourage you, especially since the abuser is out of your life, to begin the process sooner than later. Honoring your own pace, of course. Please check out and give them a call or live chat with them. They are very compassionate, will not ask your name, and will be of help to you in starting your healing journey. You helped a lot of people here and I know you will also reach out and get help yourself. You CAN get past this with help. I’m rooting for you!—Love & Healing, Lauren

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    2. By LAUREN, from on 09/13/2014

      S.J.—Call Child Protective Services. This is what they are there for. They are listed under your COUNTY. Google your county name, state name, plus the words Child Protective Services and you will get their phone number. Call them anonymously and tell them you are reporting a suspected child sexual abuse case. Describe just what you said here: that this girl is scared to go home, always wants to stay at your house, says her older stepbrother is mean and she has to share a room with him, that she knows waay more about graphic sex than she should at age 11, and that she makes a point to be naked around you and you’ve seen bruises on her genital area (yes this is a sign—actually ALL these things are signs.) Give them her address and everyone’s names in her family and they will do an investigation. You can do this anonymously and nobody will ever know it was you. It could have been anyone she has made “hints” to that knows what to look for (her “hinting” being talking about sexual things along with talking about how mean and scared she is of someone close to her). She clearly wants someone to tell! You did the right thing by telling your mother—and her response is, sadly, an example of how not all adults will step up to the plate.  Adults have fear, too. You have to tell someone with a sense of authority, and that’s not always a parent.

      I urge you from the bottom of my heart to call Child Protective Services and let this girl’s healing process begin! It is scary, I made an anonymous call to them once when I was younger and it was terrifying to report something suspicious, but I’m glad I did it because it’s nothing like the terror of being abused. We are lucky to live in a country that does have services to protect children, but they rely on people like you to tip them off so they can check it out with trained people.  Let me know how it goes. You are brave and doing the right thing. People like you are helping stamp out child sexual abuse.—Love, Lauren

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    3. By M.D., age 34, from Petaluma, CA on 09/14/2014

      This week’s column is very upsetting to me, as it brings back memories of something that has bothered me for years.  I’m now in my 30’s, but when I was a teenager I had a friend who I thought was being both physically and sexually abused.  I never said anything, and it has bothered me all these years.  Like others have described, she always wanted to spend the night with us.  She also always seemed scared and upset when she had to go home.  My sister with whom I shared a room complained about how often she was spending the night with us without ever inviting me to her house for sleepovers, so our mom limited sleepovers to 2 weekends a month.  When she did stay with us, she would talk about sexual matters similar to what the others have described and would go out of her way to be nude in front of us in the bedroom.  My sister and I and most of our friends weren’t shy about undressing in front of each other in our room or during sleepovers and slumber parties, but I never knew any other girls who would expose their nudity to others the way she did.  She would do the same at slumber parties as well as constantly talking about sexual matters.  I couldn’t help by see that she had bad bruises on her body, so I’m almost certain that she was being physically abused.  I didn’t notice evidence of abuse on her genitals, but it could have been there as I didn’t go out of my way to closely look at other girls’ private parts when I happened to see them nude, and considering the way that she went out of her way to expose herself to us, in retrospect, I think there was something she wanted us to see.

      I don’t know whatever happened to her, but after all these years, it still bothers me that I didn’t say anything to anyone, but it’s not easy when you’re a teenager to accuse someone of a serious crime like this.  However, after reading this week’s column, I really wish I had done something and would do so if I had it to do over again. 

      I would like to urge others not to make the same mistake I did by remaining silent.


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  5. By LAUREN, from on 09/14/2014

    M.D.—Your writing this letter will help other recognize the signs. You’ve done a great service today by putting it here for others to read. Thank you so much!—Love, Lauren

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