There are many reasons why a child might find it difficult to tell someone they are being sexually abused.
- Have been threatened or told to keep it a secret.
- Feel confused, embarrassed, and ashamed.
- Fear they will not be believed.
- Be afraid that they will get in trouble.
- Not have the language to talk about what happened (i.e., may not know the names of their body parts).
- Not understand that sexual abuse is not ok.
- Be dependent on the youth or adult who is abusing them.
- Have been taught to be obedient to older youths and adults.
- Care about and want to protect the person committing the sexual abuse.
- Feel that they caused the abuse to happen or that they are in some way responsible.
As a result of these barriers, parents often do not know that their children are experiencing child sexual abuse. Some children never disclose their experiences of abuse to anyone.
Children have different ways of telling people they need help. They may indicate a reluctance to go home, a strong dislike for someone, they may engage in a variety of behaviours to attract adult attention, or make vague statements that are not chronological or seem scattered. When children do tell, they often minimize the abuse or disclose the ‘smallest’ thing first in order to gain a sense of what type of reaction they’ll receive. A neat, coherent, and timely disclosure of child sexual abuse should be regarded as the exception rather than the norm.