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Why Some Children Tell and Others Don’t

Sexual abuse is overwhelming to children, especially when someone they trust is involved. Also, children are taught from a very young age not to talk back to adults, to behave the way adults want them to, and to believe whatever adults or older children tell them. In addition, children often blame themselves for the sexual abuse. For these reasons, it is very difficult for children and adolescents to tell about sexual abuse.

Typical Reasons Children Don’t Tell:

  • They are too young to put what has happened into words

  • They are afraid they will be taken away from their family

  • They are worried about getting into trouble or getting a loved one into trouble

  • They are afraid no one will believe them

  • They are afraid they will be blamed and punished

  • They may feel very confused and do not know what to say

  • They may feel love and loyalty for the abuser

  • They may have been threatened or bribed by the abuser to keep the abuse a secret

  • An older child may be embarrassed to talk about the abuse and to use words that refer to sexual behavior and body parts

Why Children Decide to Tell:

  • They learn that sexual abuse is wrong through information and/or programs which leads them to tell a trusted adult or friend

  • They become very scared because the types of sexual behaviors they are experiencing get worse and/or the number of times it is happening is increasing

  • They may meet an adult that they trust and feel safe enough to tell