Here are some tips on how to handle potentially intrusive questions that may arise after disclosing abuse.
- Not everyone deserves to hear your story. You can choose with whom you share your experience.
- Sometimes people who love and care for you say the absolute wrong thing in their attempt to say something helpful or connect with you. They may bring up myths that they have been taught to believe or process their own shock by asking invasive, detailed questions that you do not feel comfortable answering, or rely on you for their emotional needs. Here are some phrases that may help you protect yourself:
- Why is it important to you to know that? People may ask intrusive and inappropriate questions as they attempt to make sense of what happened to you. Putting the question back on them may help them realize that not all the details are theirs to know.
- The best way you can support me right now is… Thinking about what you would find to be a helpful response can offer a roadmap to someone who is unsure about what to do following your disclosure. You may just want to be heard, would appreciate a hug, or want to know that the person you tell will be discreet about your experience. Clearly stating what would be helpful to you – such as just listen, give me a hug” or “assure me you will not share my experience with anyone else – provides the person you disclose to an expectation of how you would like them to respond.
- I am not the best person to help you right now, but help is out there. It is not your job to manage or moderate someone else’s reaction to learning about your experience. Having some tools may help you in your own boundary setting, but their response is not your responsibility. They may need to seek out assistance from an expert by calling a local rape crisis center or national hotline.
- No matter when, if, where, how, or why you choose to disclose, your emotional well-being and sense of peace are precious and you are allowed to make them your main priority