Levels of Disclosure

Disclosure is a process that occurs over time and is dependent on factors such as the availability of a safe person, trust in the relationship, skill of the child victim to overcome anxiety and fear, and skill in communication. Calder, Peake, and Rose (2001) report that most children do no tell, and of those that do, most say that the abuse did not stop. As adults, between ten and forty percent of child sexual abuse victims say they told anyone while the abuse was occurring. Most felt that they were giving signals (Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse) and that no one was paying attention. The problem of disclosure is compounded by inadequate responses of adults. (See Factors in Belief.) Many parents are reluctant to report abuse to authorities and would rather hand the matter privately. Many children believe that their mothers know about the abuse, making it difficult for them to disclose to them. However, children disclose to mothers more often than to others adults.

Developmentally, children simply do not have the skill level to accomplish so difficult a task as disclosing that an adult, particularly a family member, is abusing them. Forces that contribute to disclosure of sexual abuse.
  • Someone pressing the child to talk about the abuse
  • Confession of the offender
  • Accidental disclosure to family member or professional
  • Positive intervention process that encourages disclosure
  • Availability of a child advocate 
  • Maturity of the child

Forces that contribute to the suppression of the disclosure include:

  • Someone pressing the child not to talk about the abuse
  • Loyalty to the perpetrator (victims have more loyalty to close family members and are less likly to disclose.)
  • Threats and fear instigated by offender 
  • Denial of offender
  • How long the abuse has been occurring
  • Dissociation 
  • Immaturity

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