…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

The Urge to Tell

By Rex Goode


I was sexually and physically abused as a child. It is something that has always been difficult to bear. It happened over a period of several years and only ended when the abuser moved away from the area where I lived.For so many years, I didn’t tell anyone. As usually happens with abuse victims, the abuser makes it clear that telling is a risky decision to make.

As the following timeline shows, I was first molested at the age of three. It continued until about the time I turned 12. I kept it quiet for the next 26 years, long after I was in any danger of being hurt again by him.

Abuse Timeline

 That leaves about 13 years since I started talking about my abuse with anyone. Since being open, I’ve become friends with many people whose lives have followed a similar pattern. Many, including me, seem to have an urge to tell others about it. It’s quite a variance from being so closed about it that no one knows to not feeling like you’ve completely connected with another person until he or she knows.

Before I ever told my wife about it, she said there was a distinct wall between us and she didn’t know what that wall was about until I told her I had been molested as a boy. Even though I always felt close to her, I never felt as close as I did after telling her.

It seems to me that this is a natural and understandable process, but I wonder sometimes if maybe we don’t get stuck on the idea that we can’t have meaningful relationships with people without talking about our abuse. I keep thinking that I should be able to have a close relationship with a person that I don’t tell. On the other hand, it also seems that it is inevitable that it will come out eventually as friendships naturally progress.

I think that there is a middle ground, as with everything, between the extremes of indulging the urge to tell people and waiting until it comes out naturally in the course of developing relationships. Having ruminated about these issues for awhile, I think I’ve come up with some boundaries that I think will be helpful to me in my efforts to cultivate friends.

  1. Don’t plan right up front when I begin a relationship that telling is part of the goal. Be open to the possibility that it may not need to ever come up.
  2. Only mention it if the subject of abuse naturally comes up in conversation.
  3. Deeply connect on one or two other aspects of life before I talk about the abuse.
  4. Have a clear idea of why I want THAT person to know and make the reason more than just that I only feel completely comfortable with people who know.
  5. Don’t schedule telling. Let it be spontaneous and appropriate.

I would be interested in other people’s thoughts and experience with this.


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5 Responses to “The Urge to Tell”

  1. Quiet Song said:

    I’m surprised there are no comments yet. I’ve found that this IS really a subject people are uncomfortable confronting. They also have a lot of assumptions about who abuses and who has been abused, that when facing the challenges to their assumptions they basically stop the conversation.

    I don’t think there is a good time to tell and I don’t think it ever gets easier for others to here it.

    I tell so infrequently anymore that it is quite the bombshell when I do. But sometimes, you’ve just got to set the record straight as a survivor.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Hey, Quiet! Thanks for your comment. I was hoping for more comments. I think you’re right about it being difficult. For me, it has been healing to open up about it.

  3. Jonathan Langford said:

    An important key, as you suggest, is to know yourself and your own motivations. While I’m not an abuse survivor, I do have things I tend to disclose to those who become close to me. Because I enjoy feeling close to other people, I have to watch myself to make sure that I’m not disclosing just as a way of creating that feeling of closeness. I’ve settled on a rule (for myself) of not disclosing unless and until I feel a specific prompting to do so–but then when I do feel that prompting, trying not to worry about it overly much either.

    I remember one time I disclosed without that feeling, and immediately knew it. So far as I know, there have been no negative consequences from my doing so–but it did confirm to me that if I was really trying to know, I *would* know the difference.

  4. Ross Burton said:

    I’ve done this too. I wanted to know if they would still accept me if they knew everything about me. What happened to me should not define who I am, but it does. I shouldn’t have to tell someone about it for them to accept me, because what happened shouldn’t be who I am. For some reason though, it IS who I am. Why can’t I move past it and just be?

  5. Rex Goode said:

    Ross, thanks for your response. I like Jonathan’s response about waiting until you feel a prompting. I’ve tried to think about that too. Left to myself, I’d talk about it way too much.

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