are highly skilled in getting their victims
to keep the secret of sexual abuse
. Some of the things the abuser may say to the child include:
- No one will believe you if you tell.
- Your family will be broken up if you tell.
- Something bad will happen to me (I'll have to leave the house. I'll go to jail.)
- You'll be taken away from the family.
- I'll hurt your mother.
- I'll hurt your pet.
- You're bad. That's why you did this.
- All daddies do this with their children. It's normal.
Most children never tell about their abuse. Some tell years later. The event of sexual abuse is so traumatizing, and the child feels so much guilt and shame, he may block the experience from his active memories (i.e., dissociate). If the sexual abuse is ongoing, the child may block large chunks of his childhood.
The offender knows that what he or she is doing is against the law and may result in arrest and jail. He is highly motivated to convince the child that never telling is the only option. The child is afraid. A violent offender will intensify the fear by threatening more destructive consequences to telling.
Children usually will not tell unless the pain and confusionare overwhelming. In cases where the symptoms of sexual abuse are clear, and adults intervene, the child may or may not tell. Disclosure depends on the understanding of the child regarding consequences, the level of threat, and the level of fear.