Child Abuse Survivor

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Curated By
Nayely Gonzalez

Nayely Gonzalez is a doctoral student at Indiana University Bloomington studying Counseling Psychology. Nayely graduated with her Bachelor's degree from Ripon College in 2016, double majoring in Psychology and English. Her research interests include human sexuality, Latinx mental health, sexual assault prevention strategies among college students, and clinical practice with LGBTQ populations.

In This Guide:

It can be difficult to hear that someone you care about has endured child abuse. Your reaction can have a big impact on the survivor, but it isn’t always easy to know what to say. Below are some examples of what child abuse survivors may be thinking as well as what to say to comfort and encourage them. 

They Might Be Thinking:

  • If I tell someone, they won’t believe me or they’ll blame me. 
  • I feel humiliated and ashamed about what happened to me. 
  • Why do I still feel this way?
  • I don’t think I can trust others. 
  • This is all my fault. 
  • I feel helpless/hopeless/powerless. 
  • I have been betrayed by the ones who were supposed to nurture and protect me. 
  • Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed trying to cope with all of this. 
  • I know I need help, but am afraid to ask. 
  • I am weak.
  • I wish I could control these sudden thoughts about the abuse that invade my mind. 
  • I feel jumpy/fearful. 

Words That Might Be Encouraging:

  • I believe you. It took a lot of courage to tell me about this. 
  • I understand you need to feel safe. 
  • I really care about you. I am here for you if you are comfortable sharing your story with me. 
  • You are not alone. I care about you and am here to listen or help in any way I can. 
  • I’m sorry this happened to you. This shouldn’t have happened. 
  • This must be really difficult for you.
  • I’m glad you are sharing this with me. 
  • [Offer resources. Explore if there are support groups in the area or provide them information about the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.] 
  • It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. 
  • Thank you for telling me. I know it wasn’t easy. What has this been like for you?

Words That Might Be Discouraging:

  • Why didn’t you tell someone?
  • Are you sure that’s what happened?
  • I don’t believe you. There's no way [insert attacker’s name] could have done this. 
  • Don’t tell anyone else. 
  • I understand. 
  • [Threats to take revenge against abuser] 
  • Why did this happen?
  • I don’t know what you’re going through. I had a really good childhood. 
  • Just try to forget about it. It will be all right. 
  • Oh yeah, I know a bunch of kids who have been abused. 
  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 
  • I could never go through what you went through. 
  • It could have been a lot worse [proceeds to tell worse child abuse story]. 
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