Relationships Violence and Abuse How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Assaulted By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.For media or public speaking inquiries, contact Amy here. Learn about our editorial process Updated on July 20, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Carly Snyder, MD Medically reviewed by Carly Snyder, MD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Radu Bighian / EyeEm / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Who to Tell What to Say How to Tell Someone Establish Ground Rules How to Tell Your Partner Victim-Blaming How to Get Help With Disclosure Trigger Warning This article contains information about sexual violence and rape that may be triggering for some survivors. Deciding whether to tell a friend, family member, romantic partner, or even an employer about a sexual assault is completely up to you. There isn’t a right or wrong decision about disclosure, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer either. In fact, trauma can play a significant role in disclosure after the event, and many cases go undisclosed for years. Sexual Assault The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) describes sexual assault as any sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. It’s up to you to decide what’s best for you. This article contains some things that may help you make the decision about what you might disclose and to who you want to disclose it. Understanding Rape and Sexual Assault Who Should You Tell If You Were Sexually Assaulted? Before disclosing a sexual assault to someone, it is important to consider if you can trust the person. Here are some ways you can tell: They’re easy to talk toYou feel safe with themThey treat you respectfullyThey do what they say they are going to doThey have helped you in the pastThey show they care for you Also, think about whether this individual is likely to respond in a supportive way. Are they likely to believe you? Can they be someone who provides you with emotional support? Do they know the perpetrator? That may impact how they respond to your disclosure. If you are a survivor of sexual assault, you can contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to receive confidential support from a trained staff member at a local RAINN affiliate. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. What Should You Say? It’s up to you how much detail you give about your story. And just because someone may ask questions doesn’t mean you’re obligated to answer them. You might say, “I don’t feel comfortable telling you all the details right now. But I wanted you to know this happened to me…” Or you might choose to give them the details about what happened. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re comfortable sharing right now. How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Assaulted You don’t need to share your story in person. You might prefer to do it over the phone, by letter, or by email. You can do it however you feel most comfortable. If you are concerned the person is going to ask a lot of questions, a letter may be best. The phone may still be a good option if you would like to speak but you don’t want to see the reaction on the other person’s face. If you choose to share in person, consider where and when you’ll talk about it. You’ll most likely want the person’s full attention, and you’ll want a private space where you are less likely to be interrupted. You can decide if you’re most comfortable sharing in your home, a coffee shop, while you’re walking in the park, or even on a car ride. Establish Ground Rules Before disclosing that you were sexually assaulted, you may want to establish some ground rules about the discussion. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) suggests saying something like, “I’d like to tell you about something that’s hard for me to talk about and it would mean a lot to me if you would just listen and not ask any questions.” You might set rules about confidentiality as well, such as asking the person not to tell anyone else. Or you might ask the other person not to pressure you to go to law enforcement if you haven’t decided whether you are going to report it. Think about what type of response you would appreciate, and ask the person to give it to you. They may welcome your direction on how to respond to your story—as they might experience a variety of emotions upon hearing it and be stuck about what to say next or how to help. Understanding PTSD After Sexual Assault Talking to a Romantic Partner You don’t have to tell any romantic partners that you were sexually assaulted. But you may want them to know why you sometimes experience flashbacks or nightmares. You might also decide to tell them if you want them to better understand why you aren’t comfortable with certain things. You don’t have to share details of what happened if you don’t want to. Instead, RAINN suggests you might say something such as, “I am not ready to talk about it in too much detail, but I want to let you know that I don’t like to do ____ and prefer instead ____ because of something really difficult that happened to me in the past.” Best Online Sex Therapy Programs How to Deal With Unsupportive Responses It would be wonderful if everyone supports you when you disclose that you were sexually assaulted. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to respond in a helpful way. They may ask questions or provide comments that aren’t helpful such as: What were you wearing?What did you do to try to stop it from happening?Why didn’t you tell me sooner?I don’t think that really happened. If the person you disclose it to responds in such a judgmental or unhelpful manner, remember that it’s not your fault. And you are not alone. Also, just because someone isn’t supportive doesn’t mean that everyone else in your life will respond the same way. How to Get Help Disclosing Your Story Whether you aren’t sure how to disclose your story to your family, or you want support after someone didn’t believe you, professional help is available. Here are some options: Speak to a therapist. Contact a local therapist to schedule an appointment, or get help through online therapy. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) and talk to someone who is trained to help individuals deal with sexual assault Chat online with RAINN. Go to online.rainn.org, and chat with a trained individual who can help. Why the First Three Months Are Critical for Sexual Assault Survivors With PTSD A Word From Verywell Deciding who to tell your story to isn’t an easy decision. And even if you are careful about who you disclose it to, you’re likely to find that not everyone is able to be supportive. Seeking professional help can assist you in managing your emotions and making the best decisions you can for yourself after a sexual assault. Keep in mind also that there isn’t a timeline of when you should tell your story. It’s up to you to decide when you’re ready, who to tell, and how much you want to share. How to Support a Victim of Sexual Assault 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Why Don't They Tell? Teens and Sexual Assault Disclosure. RAINN. Sexual Assault. Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN). Telling Loved Ones About Sexual Assault. By Amy Morin, LCSW, Editor-in-Chief Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and international bestselling author. Her books, including "13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," have been translated into more than 40 languages. Her TEDx talk, "The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong," is one of the most viewed talks of all time. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Relationships Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.