In your family
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Frequently asked questions about sexual abuse

Q. Was it my fault?

When I was younger my grandfather used to make me touch him and do other sexual things to him. I didn't want to do it but I was embarrassed and didn't know how to stop him. He always acted like it was a game, like I had enjoyed it - he would say 'we have to keep this secret, if anyone finds out what you have done you will be in trouble'. I have tried not to be alone with him since then, but recently when noone was home he tried started talking like that again. I walked out and sat in the front yard cos I was scared. I'm confused - is it my fault or is what he did wrong?

Your grandfather is wrong to treat you like this. Your feelings are usually a pretty good guide to help work out whether something is okay or not - and what he did is definitely not okay.

Your grandfather has made you feel like you did something wrong, or like you wanted it to happen. But this isn't true - he was the one who manipulated you and intimidated you into this. Lots of abusers try to shift the blame onto the victim. He has deliberately made you feel confused, like somehow it was your fault. But remember, it is NOT your fault. You are meant to trust family members and your grandfather has hurt you by treating you like this, and he has betrayed your trust in him. It's understandable to be afraid or confused, and it doesn't mean you're to blame for what's happened.

Most abusers seem like normal people to everyone else - they keep the abuse well hidden so noone suspects they would do something like that. The only person who is to blame for the abuse is your grandfather. In fact, what he did is illegal and he can be charged by the police with a criminal offence [read more about 'How can the police/law protect me?']. Remember, it isn't your fault.

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Q: What should I do?

I don't know what to do. If it happens again I thought I could tell my grandfather to stop or else I will call the police, but I'm nervous about how he will react. And I am worried about telling my mum because I think she won't believe me or she will think it's my fault.

Adults are responsible for looking after young people and protecting them from abuse.

You could tell your grandfather to stop and that you will call the police. But this might not work and there is a risk that it could make him become more aggressive towards you. You have to consider your own safety first. He is older than you, and it will be hard to avoid him completely because he is a family member.

It's best to get some help from an adult. It's a good idea to tell your mum about it if you feel able to. She shouldn't blame you for the abuse - she should try to make sure you are protected from abuse and that your grandfather never does this to you again. She might have difficulty believing that your grandfather did this, but that doesn't mean it is your fault. Don't lose faith in yourself - you know you are telling the truth. If she won't listen to you then find someone else who will - like another family member, another adult or a teacher [for ideas see Telling someone FAQs]. You need help to deal with this situation. An adult can help to stop your grandfather's behaviour and make sure you are protected from him.

It might help to talk to a helpline about what you can do - you can get advice from them anonymously if you don't want to give your name. You can even get advice on email. See Services

Remember, you are important, and you don't deserve to be hurt or abused.

You can read the True Stories from Young People to find out how other people dealt with abuse. For more information on telling teachers or counselling services about the abuse, see Telling someone FAQs

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Q: Why does sexual abuse happen?

Why would my grandfather act like this? To every one else in my family he just seems like a normal old man.

Abuse happens when one person decides to use sexual acts to dominate someone else and to use them for their own sexual desires. Everyone has the right to be safe and to decide who they want to have sexual contact with - these are our rights as human beings. Forcing or tricking people into sexual contact, or making a family member have sexual contact is a crime. [Read more - What is Sexual Abuse?]
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Some people (particularly some men) think they are entitled to any sexual contact that they want, with whoever they want. They don't think about how the victim feels, they just think about themselves and make excuses for their behaviour, and that is wrong. They try to manipulate or scare the victim into keeping quiet about what they are doing.

Young people, on the other hand, are vulnerable to being controlled or abused by adults who they have to trust and depend on.

Sexual abusers don't look or act like 'weirdos' - they can be normal-looking family members or friends, like your grandfather. Sexual abuse happens more often than you probably think. You are not the only one - in fact, there might be other people at your school who have experienced this [read more about The Facts - how common is abuse?]

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Q: Does the abuse make me gay?

I am a male - does the fact that my grandfather sexually abused me mean that I am gay?

No, it doesn't mean you are gay. Your sexuality (whether you are gay, straight or bisexual) is something you decide based on who you are attracted to - but noone can make you gay because of their abuse of you. There is nothing wrong with being gay, but it is something you choose to be yourself. Abuse is something that is forced on you - it isn't a choice.

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Q: Will I ever feel better?

Since the abuse I have felt bad about myself - I feel embarrassed and guilty. Will I ever feel any better?

Yes, you will. It's common for people to feel upset, because they feel hurt, betrayed or tricked by someone they should have been able to trust, and they felt powerless to stop it. Sometimes they blame themselves.

But people do feel better even despite these bad experiences. It takes time - you might feel better some days, then have down days too. Keep reminding yourself that there's nothing wrong with you, and it wasn't your fault. You shouldn't have to feel guilty - only the abuser should. You have already lived through the abuse. Read more about how this might affect you and ways of dealing with feelings. You can also read True Stories from young people and from adults about how they survived abuse.

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Q. Will I become an abuser too?

I am worried that I will grow up to be an abuser - I have read that this is what happens when you are abused.

Lots of young people who have been abused worry that they will become an abuser when they grow up. You might have heard myths about a 'cycle of violence' - that victims go on to become abusers.

But in most cases, this doesn't happen. There is no proof for this idea - most kids who get abused do not turn into abusers themselves. In fact some may be less likely to be abusive than other people - because they know how much abuse hurts people and damages relationships.

Remember - you are in control of who you want to be and how you behave. Even if you feel angry or confused, you don't have to act in ways that hurt others.

Talk to someone you trust about your worries and what's happening [for ideas on who to talk to see Telling Someone FAQs]. You can also learn about ways of behaving that are not abusive. See the Links section for links to websites on dealing with anger.

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Q. What if I still love the person who abused me?

My Dad is the person who sexually abused me, but I still love him because he's my Dad. Am I weird?

Many young people still love the person who abused them, especially if it's a family member. Being abused by someone who is supposed to love you and care about you can make you feel quite confused. You may be upset or angry about how they treat you, but you might still love them because they are part of your family. Often abusers seem like 'normal' people to the outside world, and at times they can be nice and caring to you, even if they are abusing you in other ways. Your feelings are okay, no matter what they are. There is nothing wrong with you for still loving your dad, even if you don't like what he did to you. You can talk these feelings over with a counsellor to help you understand them better.

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Q. How can a CASA sexual assault service help?

There are fifteen Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASAs) all around Victoria and there are other sexual assault services in other states (in Australia). Basically all the CASAs do the same thing: provide counselling, support and information for people who have experienced sexual assault.

It is a confidential service and, if someone calls a CASA, they don't have to give their name. CASAs help people to think about ways to keep safe, for example by telling someone they trust what has happened. The CASA counsellors won't automatically call the police or parents/family (unless there is an immediate threat to someone's safety), instead they will talk to the person about what they can do and try to give them the information they need.

If someone has been sexually assaulted in the past, the counsellors at CASAs can help them find ways to deal with what's happened, and provide them with support if they want to make changes in their life or tell their family and friends about it. Really it's up to each person how they would like CASA to help and what sort of support they need.

For more on how CASA can help, read this.

In Victoria, to phone your nearest Centre Against Sexual Assault, call 1800 806 292 (free call, available 24 hours 7 days a week) or see their website

For other services see our services page.

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