What Might the Person Who Has Abused Be Thinking or Feeling after a Disclosure?

It is very hard to predict how the person who has abused will respond. Once the adult or youth who has been harmful is aware that this behavior has been exposed, they may experience a number of different reactions. These reactions can range from fear and remorse to outright denial. It is important to consider the response of this individual as they are likely to be someone whom the victimized child (and their parents) knows and trusts.

How someone who has sexually abused a child might respond to a disclosure

Shame & Remorse

  • Shame or fear about the disapproval others might have for them.
  • Feelings of self-hatred or wanting to harm oneself, runaway, or “walk out”.
  • Recognition of the harm they have done -- remorse.
  • The desire to promise that the behavior will never happen again, with varying abilities to keep this promise.
  • If this has happened before, intense frustration that they were unable to control their behaviors once again.


  • Inability to take full responsibility for the abuse, and instead blames circumstances or other people.
  • Attempts to justify or minimize the harm they have caused.
  • Anger or resentment towards the victimized child for betraying their trust.


  • If they are a child, fear of being taken from their home or losing the relationship with the other child who has been harmed.
  • If they are an adult, the fear of loss of relationship with the child and his/her family.
  • Fear of legal consequences for their behaviors.


  • Relief that the burden of harboring these secret thoughts and feelings has been lifted.
  • Desire to get help for a problem they have hidden and struggled with for awhile.
  • Relief that the abuse will finally stop.