When to Tell

Abuse survivor Rob Brown kept his secret hidden from his family for years. When he finally told, he realized that it may have been too late for his marriage. 

You don’t just blurt something like this out. I mean jeez…what I’ve been doing for 20 years has been working! Why would I just throw a great-big wrench into the gears? It would be the death of the best relationship of my life.

I love this woman beyond words! Imagine that! We met at Business School instead of a freakin BAR! I’ve waited so long to find the right person. I prayed fervently to meet someone like her. Everything is perfect about her. She’s simply the most amazing person I’ve ever met.

Everything is perfect about HER.

Lots of things are completely f**ked about ME!

No one can handle news like that. Its one of those things that was never supposed to happen! But I was a wimpy-boy, a colossal loser…at complete freak to allow that to happen without being reported, stopped, avenged…allowed to ever happen to begin with. I simply must never let her know. As planned, I’ll take it to the grave.

Oh God! Will she figure it out? Will she decipher from years of intimate behavior that I was raped over and over again by older boys? Will she figure-out that I was forced to provide oral gratification for them…that I can’t get these f**king images out of my head?

She wonders why I cry for weeks about a murdered or stolen child. She does not “get” why I sit-up all night drinking about 10 nights per year.

If she finds-out, she’ll believe everything conventional wisdom says about guys like me: “Destined to molest!” “Certainly Gay!” “Musta liked it if he didn’t report it.”

Your first 1000 orgasms were with older boys? WTF? C U L8R Rob!

The Sex and Couples’ Therapists figured it out in about 15 minutes; each and every one of them. They would then look me square in the face and say “Rob…man…you show ALL the signs of childhood sexual abuse…and its the only explanation for all of this!”

No, no, no NO! NOT ME! You’re wrong. I’m fine. If I tell her, I’ll lose everything! I’ll lose everything

In 2007, I told her. 18-years into a marriage that still makes me cry today from the perfect love I had for her, I told her.

I lost everything. I lost her.

So the meat of debate: When do you tell your future spouse or significant-other that you were sexually abused as a child? Should you even have a spouse or significant-other?



Image of locked gate courtesy of Shutterstock

About Robert Brown

Rob is a Child Rights Activist and state-level lobbyist.


  1. Rob,

    Just wanted to let you know…I appreciate you standing up and speaking out. Without brave men like you speaking up and shining a light, I may not have ever been able to find my way out of the darkness surrounding my own experiences. I owe more than thanks but I hope for now it will suffice. Thank-you.

  2. Rob, I cannot fathom what you have been through. I hate that this broken world injures people like you’ve been injured. Check out http://www.voicetoday.org for a place to connect in changing laws, perceptions and lives.

  3. BTW: just for the record: I never speak of or describe the pure fkg hell that my life is. The abuse made me into a very flawed, very fkd-up person who ought to have had the good sense to shut up about everything and stick with the drugs and alcohol. But when dealing with the normal public, the topic-less public, I sanitize the dialogue.

    I see KA’s logic. If I’m already fkd-up, i ought to remain quiet or lie about the weather on the other side. Then i ought to have the good sense to die. After all, about 50% of male sex abuse victims don’t see life past 18-yo.

    If i’m hurting kids with my stuff, i must do what I demand of other such child-hurting criminals.

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Please don’t listen to one commenter on a random website… Even if it’s the website I’m the editor of. You know what’s best, talk to your own therapist or group, and forget the people who are so insensitive that they would EVER think it’s okay to comment like that on a post that is this raw and this open.

  4. Rob,

    I think your post is incredibly raw and brave. I have to admit, naively, that I wanted a surprise “happy ending.” I am not a survivor of abuse, and your article made me consider if I contribute to a culture in which survivors feel unable to express and process. My heart hurts for you. I don’t think that you have done anything to hurt abused kids. Thank you for your post.

  5. I have not meat such a person yet…such child. I’ve not seen one rape victim, not one exploited little girl, one daddy-touched little boy…not one uncle fondled victim yet who does not have to deal with it for recovery. I HEAR that some actually get through to the other side. I’ve NEVER met them.

    So if I tell them: “it cool kids, what uncle did is not bad…its nothing to be concerned with,” I’m also giving license to NAMBLA and Uncle Touchy.

    But telling me I’m hurting abused kids…that hurts about as much as the moment the sheriff entrapped me in the shower to throw me from the house…to tell me my wife wants me gone.

    Maybe I’m weak. Maybe I’m self=centered If this is true, someone please have the article/post removed. .. because this type of a human-wrong is the worst possible thing ever.. wow

  6. Whatever way we look at it their lives will be affected , but yes, they may well be able to get on with it and live happy lives. I certainly hope to God they can.

  7. Rob, I am SO sorry this happened to you. You were NEVER to blame. You were the victim.
    Your words: ‘But I was a wimpy-boy, a colossal loser…at complete freak to allow that to happen without being reported, stopped, avenged…allowed to ever happen to begin with.’
    How could you stop it? How could you tell? The perpetrators know exactly what they are doing. They know exactly how to keep abused children in their chains of fear and guilt. They are experts at it. And they are 100% to blame preying on vulnerable children. I am SO sorry you lost the love of your life. Abuse of children not only gravely affects their lives but the lives of so many others along the way. And that is why we MUST teach sexual abuse prevention education in every primary school around the country. Forewarned is forearmed. We need to skill up our kids so they have a voice. Knowledge is powerful.

    • I’ve been fighting for child rights, education and protective laws for years now. I figure I’m the guy who can climb down into the sewer and not puke. There have been few other volunteers (if any). I do this all over the country and make some noise internationally where possible. I visit with and lobby US Legislators, but I found that this supposedly educated and enlightened town in which I live has its head three-feet in the sand. Their apathy has destroyed SO many lives. Its the Sandusky Syndrome all over again.

      The town’s leaders and framers HATE (H A T E) me for dragging the crap out into the daylight. Its a hill I’ll happily die upon. Here’s the battle to date. http://www.chestercitizens.com

      But tonight, at a restaurant, a complete stranger recognized me from TV spots and thanked me for beating the apathetic into the pavement. I feel like I’ve been paid a million tonight.

      • Well done you! And you are not alone. There are many of us gloablly working for children’s rights and sexual abuse prevention education. One person is never to small to cause havoc: ever been in a dark room with a mosquito? Please check out our website: http://www.somesecrets.info for a children’s book on sexual abuse prevention education. I am a teacher and author, and like you I will not stop until parents look this issue square in the eye and teach body safety to their kids just as they teach water and road safety! We can’t leave kids unarmed. It is time for responsible adults to stop squirming (to be brave as SO many abused children are everyday) and look at the elephant in the room.

      • It might be worth looking into the legal side of it. In England, local authorities are liable to be sued if their employees abuse children that they have met at work, (Schools, youth groups, parks ect…). These payouts often reach hundreds of thousands of pounds.

        Also in the US, there are now criminal cases against “non-offending” officials who enabled child abuse, the councillors may be putting themselves at risk of prosecution if they wilfully fail to protect children. In my opinion “It’s up to you Steph, I Don’t care.” is wilfully failing to protect, and if someone gets abused he may be criminally liable.

        The town councillors may care more about their budget, and keeping themselves out of jail, than protecting children, but the end result will be the same.

  8. Rob, that is so awful…I am so sorry to hear that happened to you…

    I heard from a homeopath teacher that stuff like this you can suppress but then it comes out in different ways…sort of like the steam that comes out of the ground before a geyser erupts…

    I had to tell my BF (later my husband) over 2 decades ago about my abuse [ I was sort of forced to since my abuser wouldn’t let me go and did a smear campaign on me at my grad school]…I told my new BF that if he didn’t want to stay with me anymore I understood….he chose to stay with me….

    To my husband’s credit, when my ex-abuser stalked me a few years ago, he remained calm and said nothing was different between us (although I think he was more concerned about losing his wallet at that time!)….He doesn’t ask any probing questions or nose about stuff in the past…he figures it’s all over….It’s so hard to hear about stuff like this from people close to you….I have a friend who is a psychologist and she even winces every time I bring it up…she just wants to change the topic (like I’m beating a dead horse!)….I have another friend who is a clinical psychologist, but she keeps a certain distance from that topic (among others)….

    • There certainly are many in our lives that don’t want to hear or even think about “it” for a moment. I would love to have the brass to reply to their verbal objections with “yeah…imagine living with a head full of those memories at ten years-old…and then realizing that it actually happened to you.”

      The inability to drill a hole in my head and scrape-out all that horror and filth meant that I had to find other ways. God tried to show me some ways, but I chose the easy way: drugs and alcohol.

      Conventional wisdom is not always wrong, as I’ve discovered. There IS such a thing as too broken for real life.

      • Rob–

        Your story is so horrible, as was mine…but my abuser did not completely destroy me…although I think he wishes he did (which is probably why he came to check on me and stalk me a few years ago)….

        Seeing a glimpse of him again after so many years triggered a flood of repressed emotions and memories….I really thought if I pretended my life was always normal that I could just function normally in life, but it sprang up like a Jack-in-the Box to torture me daily….I was having panic attacks and the way it finally went and left me (although it’s not completely gone) was through karate psychotherapy….Learning to punch and kick away helped me to dispel my fury and anxiety and frustration (it helped me, perhaps some other way may help you)…it helped me to express my pain and anger, in addition to writing about it on survivor support sites online…

        Not that the karate method is easy…I would go to class a bundle of nerves…one time I think I saw my ex-abuser parked in a car on the street along the usual route that I took to the train (I wasn’t sure if that was really him or if I was just imagining it…I was so filled with fear then, I was too afraid to give more than a glancing look out of the corner of my eye)….In class, I just tried to focus on the karate where we were defending a series of kicks with downward blocks…my arms just hurt so much after a while and I just wanted the drill to end…but I couldn’t admit to my sensei that I was in pain….of course, I was forced to stop….the pain isn’t worse immediately after the blow…several seconds later, the intense pain just reverberated through my arms…my fellow karate student asked me if I was okay and tears formed in my eyes and I had to sit down for a few minutes….later on I went back in when we moved onto some other exercise….

        Later, my sensei texted me and asked me if I was okay (I think he was afraid I was going to quit karate)…I told him I was fine, just feeling a bit paranoid….I told him what I had seen before class and how it unnerved me and made me feel extra vulnerable….he reassured me and told me that what was in the past was in the past….not very profound but it meant a lot to me at the time, especially coming from such a tough, uber-macho guy like himself…..

        Anyway, I feel a lot different now compared to how I was a few years ago….I hope you find a way to let it out of your system….it sounds like there is still a lot of rage and anguish inside of you….

  9. You can’t wait til you’re perfect to start living your life. Not that you should set out to get married or to avoid it, when you realize that you’re still affected by abuse in your childhood, just to deal with what is. I’m married and we are both in therapy. It’s not easy. We don’t seem to do anything the easy way. I guess it goes with the territory. You can’t lose perfect love because you reveal something that happened to you. You might lose a lot of things in your current life to this disease. You can heal, get better, with the right help, in enough time. I hope you’re seeing a therapist you trust.

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