SweetGirl: Child Sexual Abuse Image of a young girl asleep on a young boy's shoulder

Dear Sweet Girl: What to say to a child sexual abuse survivor

In America, at least one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they are 18. 

Sweet girl. 

Oh, no… I’m so sorry. Did they call you that? I should have been more careful with my words.

Please forgive me. I will only refer to you by your name moving forward.  

Here’s what I want to share with you. 

I want you to know you are safe here. 

I want you to know in your heart, in your mind, and in your whole being that if anything makes you feel uncomfortable, if anything is off, you are free to say so. Your feelings, experience, wisdom, insight, and pain are all valued here and will be honored.  

Your truth is safe here. And your truth will be handled with care and love.

You trusted them, didn’t you?

They did a good job manipulating your heart, didn’t they? They manipulated your heart that was raised not to question authority, didn’t they?

Did they threaten to hurt you or someone you love, if you told?

Or did they tell you no one would believe you?

All of it—the compliments and gifts and undivided attention and counterfeit intimacy—seemed too good to be true, didn’t it?

Do NOT shame yourself or call yourself stupid for believing what they told you.

Do NOT beat yourself up for letting your heart feel loyalty and love for them. They’d been watching you and knew what they needed to say and do to convince you that you were safe with them.   

Do NOT shame yourself for experiencing sexual pleasure at the hands of your abuser while feeling trapped mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; unable to cry out for help. 

The discard hurts so bad, doesn’t it?  

They abused you! How do they get to throw you away like you were the one who had done something wrong when all you did was believe their lies? 

The whole thing is vile and disgusting and I’m so sorry it was your reality.

Take all the time you need to process this. In this place you can cry, rest, sit silently, draw, journal, cry some more, talk, cuss, scream, and question every belief you’ve ever been taught. 

I’m so sorry the others didn’t believe you when you told them. 

I know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but one day you will know this in your heart to be true: 

It was not your fault. 

Their disbelief about your abuse is not your fault. 

Their unwillingness to protect you from that predator is not your fault. 

You did NOTHING wrong.  

Your personality is wonderful, not broken. Your style of dress is yours and perfect. The way you like to do your hair and make-up is absolutely fine! The fact that you’re amazing at dancing and acting is such a gift. 

Your heart to help and love others is so precious. 

Few are built with a heart that loves as much as yours. It’s okay if you don’t feel like taking care of others for a while. Actually it’s good for you to take a break from worrying about what anyone else wants while you learn to listen to what you need and know to be right and good for you.

The abuse is NOT and was NOT your fault. 

No one told you this was abuse, yet, huh? 

I can see by the shock in your eyes that you have yet to acknowledge this as sexual abuse.

In fact, what you experienced was assault. Sexual assault.

You were coerced. You were groomed into believing you were safe and what was happening was normal. 

You believed they were put here on this earth to love you, protect you, support you, encourage you, and help you grow. Your family and even friends loved them and esteemed them as a wonderful person. You were raised to see the good in people and to be optimistic and loving. 

There was no way your heart and mind could have known this person you loved—your abuser—was deceiving you. There was no way you could have known they were preparing you for sexual assault.  

Do you need a break? Are you okay right now?  

Good. I’m proud of you for being here. You are so brave. So brave. 

You’re doing the right thing.  

Right now you might question if you’ve shared too much or if you should have just kept it all to yourself. You might question yourself 1,000 times over again because any and every attempt before now, to find comfort and understanding in someone, has told you that you are alone. 

Those who were supposed to support you lied to you about your worth and value by denying the heinous abuse you have suffered. 

I know it’s hard to understand this now, but their denial is the result of their ignorance and fear. Their unwillingness to hear you and believe you HAS NOTHING to do with the truth of what you’ve been through. 

You are a diamond. You are a gift to this world. 

I am so sorry you weren’t cared for, protected, and valued appropriately by the ones you love. 

And yes, it’s okay to be confused by the fact that you still love and care for the people who hurt you. We will work through this loyalty that you feel for your abusers and the guilty bystanders. Don’t beat yourself up for still loving them.    

You are here now. 

We will take all the time you need to heal your hurt, to heal your heart, and to see what beautiful and wonderful version of you rises out of this pit of pain.  

But there’s no rush.

You are here.

You are safe.

And you are loved.

And you will find your joy, your purpose, and you will see your worth more clearly than ever before. I will be here with you until you do and I will walk with you, not rushing you through your healing. 

I’ve already said too much. 

I just want you to know you are safe and you are loved.

What do you need? I’m glad to help you get just that; whatever it is you need.  

Water? Done. And there’s a blanket right over there and some tissues. I’ll be back with your ice water in just a few minutes. And if you need something to eat, a journal, or just want to punch something and scream, we will figure all of that out, too. 

For the rest of our time, I will stop talking. 

Just know I’m right here for whatever you need. I’m so glad you are here. 

SweetGirl: Child Sexual Abuse, thumbnail image of AJ Huffman, LPC

Written by:
AJ Huffman, LPC

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