Barriers to Telling
What children should know
Children should know that telling their trusted adults that they are being abused may be difficult, but it can help.
Why this is an important part of child sexual abuse prevention
Children can experience a range of feelings that may prevent them from telling someone they are being sexually abused. This program aims to acknowledge and normalise these feelings, while reinforcing the importance of continuing to tell.
Several myths help perpetrators continue their abuse in secret and without detection. Part of protecting children includes discussing and dispelling the myths as a community. If trusted adults can normalise children’s fears about telling, and become informed about the reasons why children don’t tell, they can better protect the children who rely on them.
Barriers to children disclosing include:
- Children may feel they are responsible for the abuse and that no one will believe them when they tell
- Children may be scared of the possible consequences of telling (e.g. someone may get upset, the child may not be able to see the abuser again, the abuser could get in trouble, the child’s family may split up, they may lose friends)
- Children may feel that the abuser is the only one who really cares about them
- Children may be worried that they have to give up gifts or treats the abuser has given them
- Children may be scared that the abuser may carry out a threat made to the child (e.g. kill a family pet, hurt themselves, hurt someone else)
- Children may be unsure if what happened is abuse, especially if the abuse was a part of a game
- Children may be scared that no one will believe them if they tell, especially if everyone else likes the abuser
- Children may not want the abuser to get into trouble
- Children may be scared that they will get into trouble, especially if the abuser also let them do something that the child knows their parents would not approve of
- Children may think that they cannot say anything because they let the abuse go on for too long or that they are responsible because they did not say “no”
- Children may be frightened that others will think there is something “wrong” with them
- Children may think that their trusted adults will not understand
- Children may think their trusted adults are too busy to listen to them
- Children may be confused, especially if some of what happens feels good.
Ideas for having conversations on this concept
- Play some levels of the Speak Up game with your child. Explore with your child the types of barriers that exist in each scenario. These feelings may include shame, embarrassment, fear, worry, sadness, confusion and anger. Explain that these feelings are normal but it is still important to tell. This may also lead onto discussions about Modes of Communication, Telling and Keep on Telling and Trusted Adults, Offender Tactics)