Finding the courage and strength to disclose abuse can be a tough thing for a child to do.
An estimated 73% of children don’t disclose abuse for at least one year. Another 45% don’t tell anyone they are being abused for five years… still others never tell.
A primary factor in children NOT disclosing abuse is that in the large majority of abuse and neglect cases, children know, love or trust the people hurting them. The child doesn’t want to get that person “in trouble” or may fear some type of retribution for “telling”. To learn more about why children suffer in silence, see “10 Reasons Children Don’t Disclose Abuse“.
If a child ever discloses abuse to you, here are the three most important things you can say:1
#1: “I believe you.”
These three simple words are a lifeline to a child. Many children are afraid they won’t be believed, often because their abusers have told them so. This is especially important for MOTHERS to know! Moms, please, please, please (… I beg of you!) always believe your child should s/he ever tell you s/he has been victimized, regardless of who the child alleges is the perpetrator. Children whose mothers do not believe their allegations will often recant and suffer in silence. In cases where abuse exists, it then continues leaving the child feeling unprotected and vulnerable with drastic lifelong implications.
A 2012 article from Psychology Today states, “Some (abused children) who do reveal suffer negative consequences, such as being blamed for ‘seducing’ the perpetrator or being accused of lying. One study showed that 52 percent of those who reported mistreatment to a parent were still being abused a year after the disclosure.”
I simply can’t overemphasize the importance of mothers believing their children. The facts will come out in the end, but it is crucial that upon initial disclosure and until proven otherwise that we believe what our children tell us.
#2: “It’s not your fault.”
Abusers place a great amount of blame on their child victims, so children often feel they somehow “caused” their own abuse. They may also have been led to believe they will be in trouble because, again, they think the abuse was their fault. Taking the weight of blame off the child’s shoulders in one of the first steps in that child’s journey of healing.
#3. “You did the right thing.”
The child will likely question his/her decision to disclose, so your reassurance that s/he made the right decision is vital. Your next steps will prove to the child whether or not s/he made the right call in confiding in you. You must now take action and show that child s/he is worthy of protection. In fact, YOU may be the ONLY person that child tells… if you don’t act, that child’s trauma will continue. If a child discloses abuse to you, follow these 7 steps to ensure the child’s safety and support a proper investigation of the allegations.
Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues and has produced printable references for parents and other caring adults including “12 Scary Apps”. Click here for your free copy of this informative 13-page report. Along with her husband John and pets Lexi and Chase, Ginger enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, brisk mornings, colorful sunsets and just hangin’ at home with “the Pack”.