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3 Reasons Children Keep Abuse “A Secret”

Silence is a child abuser’s best friend.

You name it. Any kind of abuse… physical, sexual, emotional and even neglect… flourishes under the cloud of silence. Child abusers know this… and use this to their advantage.

To ensure silence, abusers will often implore children to keep the abuse “our little secret” and encourage them NOT to tell anyone what’s happening to them.

Sadly, this tactic often works. So, why in the world would a child honor that request and keep such a secret? Primarily, there are 3 reasons children keep abuse a secret…

1) Children want to please. Over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone a child knows, loves or trusts. Children are taught to ‘behave’, so they may abide by an abuser’s wishes to keep the abuse “just between them.” In many cases, children love their abusers… parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, close family friends… and don’t want to disappoint them. In some cases of child sexual abuse, the child victim may actually be “in love” with the abuser and want to protect that person; case in point — a teenager in love with an adult.

2) An abuser (or accomplice) may coach a child to stay silent. This is a heartbreaker… I can’t even tell you how many child forensic interviews in which I’ve personally participated that involved a parent telling a child to deny that he/she was being victimized. The rationale for this is: 1) That one (or both) parents/guardians are perpetrating the abuse, or; 2) A parent relies on the financial or emotional support of the abuser. For example, mom knows her boyfriend is sexually molesting her daughter, but tells the daughter to keep it a secret, as the boyfriend is paying the bills and providing food and housing for them. Sadly, this scenario is far too common.

3) Children may be scared. It’s also common practice for abusers to make threats against a child, a member of the child’s family or even a beloved pet. Threats come in all shapes and sizes, and abusers have a way of knowing what motivates their victims and will use those motivators as weapons of submission and secrecy. Abusers often place the “blame” for the abuse squarely on a child’s shoulders, telling them they’ll “get in trouble” if anyone finds out… yet another compelling reason for a child to remain silent.

by Ginger Kadlec

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