Surviving sexual abuse

From victim to survivor, hear how one young person refused to let their history of sexual abuse determine their future.

This can help if:

  • you’ve survived sexual abuse as a child

  • you want to hear first-hand from someone who was abused as a child

  • someone you know is a survivor of child abuse.

Girl sitting on wooden balcony

I’m a survivor

I used to see myself as a helpless victim of child sexual abuse, but now I see myself as a survivor of it.

It started when I was about eight, and it wasn't until I was 14 that it ended. For six years, I was paralysed by fear and confusion because someone I trusted abused their power.

How the abuse started

I'd had a very unconventional upbringing. No one had ever explained sex to me very clearly, so I didn't really understand what was involved. When the abuse started, he told me that no one ever talked about these things, that they were very private, and that I mustn’t mention them either. He would try to convince me that what he was doing was normal. Because I was naive and my parents hadn’t talked to me about sex, I didn’t know any different.

For years, I didn't question him. Then, when I got older, drugs became a way for me to escape the reality.

The abuser left, but the damage remained

When I was 14, my own personal miracle occurred: the man took a job in another city and left. I haven't seen or heard from him since then. But even though he’s out of my life, the psychological scars remain.

I've just turned 21 and it's only now that I think I'm beginning to move on. For the first few years I had no real concept of meaningful sexual relationships and got into unpleasant situations all the time. I've been assaulted emotionally, sexually and physically by a whole string of men. I had really poor self-esteem, and even still at times I have this feeling that no one will ever really love me for who I am – that I'll only ever be someone's play toy.

I believe that one day things will be different

Nothing will ever fall into your lap while you're waiting. So, I'm working hard at becoming the best person I can be. I've thrown myself into building a good career and have started studying at uni. I'm rebuilding my relationship with my family, and I take time out to do things I enjoy, and that makes me feel good.

The biggest change in my life is that I only allow people into my life who mean something to me. I've learnt to walk away from anyone who hurts me or tries to own me.

Doing all this has helped me realise I’m good enough

I’m good enough for myself, and if I'm good enough for me, then I'm not going to let myself fall back into the cycle of abuse again.

What I've been through has made me stronger, has given me a different outlook on life, and has taught me lessons I may not have otherwise learnt. When you walk away seeing yourself as a stronger person than before, that's what makes you a survivor, not a victim.

What can I do now?

  • Learn more about seeking professional help.

  • Get some support on the ReachOut Forums.

  • Learn some coping skills to help support yourself through a tough time.