It's my first attempt at trying to write a long length story of my own and so far what I've come up is a story that is to be centered around child abuse (sexual abuse) (the psychological and emotional impacts of it on the child's mental well being ). But I personally haven't experienced such an issue and it made me reflect on the fact that whether it would be considered as an insensitive work of literature by those who have been affected by such instances of abuse during childhood. Of course I intend to write about the issue in a genuine way and make it a purely fictional work where instances that seems to be related to another person's experiences are purely coincidental but I wanted to get an opinion before continuing on working on the story. (genre of the story so far is mystery and psychological)

Thank you for advice in advance!


You don't necessarily need to experience everything you write about. But you owe it to your readers and to victims of sexual abuse that you do good research. Do not rely on your intuition on what you think what people feel while and after experiencing sexual abuse. Look for autobiographical records of people who actually experienced sexual abuse where they describe how they felt.

Also keep in mind that:

  • Different people experience sexual abuse very differently. So make sure that you get a wide variety of experiences.
  • Not all reports about sexual abuse you find on the internet are genuine. Make sure you are actually reading verified reports of actual victims, not genuine-sounding fictional accounts.

Another source of good information might be to dive into professional literature for people who work with victims of sexual abuse (psychotherapists, social workers, pedagogues...). This might also help you to better understand people in these situations.

Yes, it's a very dark subject which might not be a lot of fun to research. But that's what you've chosen to write about.

  • I do understand that whatever I try to incorporate in my plot about such a sensitive topic should be coming out of a thorough research work done on this topic and my resources should be verified. I’ll for sure keep that in mind and try to be as respectful to the topic as possible and if it isn’t within my capacity to do justice to such an issue then I’ll scrap that idea and move onto a topic which is a bit more within my capabilities to write about. Really appreciate your advice, thank you!
    – riva
    May 27 '20 at 10:39

It's not necessarily unethical, but it might be unwise.

It's not necessary for you to have experienced everything you write about. Our literature would be far poorer if that was a prerequisite.

There is a risk of causing pain to those who have already suffered

However, what you're talking about is a particularly sensitive subject, and if you don't want to cause pain and hurt, you need to think very carefully about what you're doing - which you clearly are, as you asked the question.

I would ask you to consider whether this really is a good subject for you to write about, if you don't have experience of it. Good stories with these sorts of subjects are usually written by people who have experienced it, or who have worked or lived closely with people who have.

Do you know others who have suffered from child abuse? Can you get first hand accounts and tell an insightful story, rather than just repeating things you've seen in fiction and embellishing it with details that may not ring true?

If not, you risk creating something with is inauthentic and could hold up false stereoptypes which cause anguish and frustration for those who these issues affect.

Write about something you can add value to

I would recommend you back off from this subject for your first full length work. Completing a novel is hard enough without adding so many extra complications and risks.

Think about topics you do know about more in depth - where you might have insights others will find authentic and compelling. You don't have to a fighter pilot or secret agent to make it interesting.

You could write about family relationships that you do have experience of - the nuances of support and frustration. Or about friendships, their challenges and how they survive or collapse.

Whatever you decide, best of luck with your writing.

  • I actually was wondering whether it was too heavy of a topic to focus on considering it’s my first attempt at something lengthy. I’ll keep your suggestions in mind while moving on with the plot and maybe I might just change the course of the story to a topic which I can incorporate my own and those around me experiences. Thank you!
    – riva
    May 27 '20 at 10:33
  • I actually don’t know anybody around me who might’ve experienced this issue so I haven’t really got any first hand accounts to inspire my writing. However, I was trying to go into a more in-depth research on the topic on the accounts given by such victims online.
    – riva
    May 27 '20 at 10:44

There's no need for you to have personally experienced this sort of abuse in order to write about it, so long as you're presenting it sensitively and not attempting to pass it off as something that happened to you.

There's always going to be the possibility that those who have experienced similar circumstances to that described in the story may find it unpleasant - but that's going to be exactly the same for any potentially traumatic event, it's not a reason to avoid writing about such things.

  • Really appreciate the feedback thank you!
    – riva
    May 27 '20 at 10:31

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