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December 7, 2023 Dec 07, 2023 4 min read

Checklist: How to Prepare to Talk to Your Family About Sexual Abuse

This checklist is designed to help anyone preparing for a difficult conversation with their family about child sexual abuse, incest, or any other form of sexual abuse needing to be addressed within a family. Keep reading to learn how to talk to your family about sexual abuse.

Consult a therapist

Any time you’re preparing for a big step in your trauma healing process, such as approaching your family about sexual abuse, seeking the guidance and support of a mental health professional can be extremely helpful. A trauma-informed therapist or counselor can help you come up with a plan and decide exactly how, when, and where to open up this conversation with your family.

Outline your goals

Regardless of whether or not you have a therapist to help you in this process, start by outlining your goals.


What do you hope to gain from having this conversation with your family?


Do you have specific requests for your family, such as wanting them to seek counseling together?


Are there certain ways you want your family to support you as you navigate your healing process?


Whatever your hopes and goals are, defining them ahead of time can help you feel more focused and grounded when talking to your family.

Decide on a format

Depending on your circumstances, having this conversation face to face with your family might not feel possible, comfortable, or even safe. Decide ahead of time how this conversation will happen – in person, over the phone, or in writing.

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Choose a safe location

For in-person conversations, it’s important to choose a location that feels accessible, safe, and as comfortable as possible. Choose a location that you can easily leave if the situation becomes emotionally or physically unsafe. If possible, choose somewhere that doesn’t feel overly triggering for you, as this could make it more difficult to communicate.

Decide on a time

This might seem like a simple step, but deciding when to have this type of conversation can be complicated. Because conversations like these can be disruptive in numerous ways, it’s important to be strategic about timing to interfere as little as possible with other important events in your life.


For example, conversations like these shouldn’t be approached shortly before going to work or school. Use your own best judgment to decide on the timing that’s best for you. Just be careful not to let other people’s plans interfere too much with your own need to be heard and supported. It’s okay to create some disruption in your family for the sake of honesty and vulnerability.

Write a letter or script

Talking to your family about sexual abuse can be extremely emotionally difficult, which is why many people find it easier to write a letter or script to read aloud, even for face-to-face conversations. Writing out exactly what you want to say ahead of time can help you communicate all of your points, boundaries, and expectations effectively, even if you struggle with intense emotions during the conversation.

Set realistic expectations

Unfortunately, not all families respond well to honest conversations about sexual abuse. While it’s understandable to hold high hopes for how your family will react, it’s important to set realistic expectations to avoid too much disappointment if things don’t go well. This could sound something like…


“I really hope my family is able to hear, believe, and support me, but I understand it’s common for families to react poorly to these types of conversations.”


“If my family does not respond the way I want them to, it will be painful and disappointing, but I can still follow my own path of healing without their support or understanding.”

Remember that you deserve to be heard

Preparing for a conversation like this can stir up feelings of doubt, unworthiness, or uncertainty. If you’re struggling to decide whether or not you even should open up a conversation like this with your family, remind yourself that you are worthy of being heard. Even if your family doesn’t end up supporting you and your goals, being honest about sexual abuse is powerful and important, and these conversations deserve to be prioritized.

Plan time for self care and/or social support

Because these types of conversations can be very emotionally draining, it’s important to plan time for yourself to receive care and support afterward. This might look like taking a hot bath at home or inviting a trusted friend over to share your feelings with. However you decide to seek care and support, remember that opening up conversations about sexual abuse is far from easy, and you deserve time and space to recover from the experience.

If you are navigating the difficult terrain of healing from sexual abuse within a family, seeking help from a therapist or counselor can help. For information on how to do this, check out our article “How to Find a Trauma Therapist” as well as our “What to Look for in a Trauma Therapist” checklist.

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