November 28, 2011

Why Children Don't Tell

Steward uses these dolls to
teach children how to tell
someone if they are ever abused.
The Penn State child sex abuse scandal has gotten people asking not only how witnesses could fail to report the crimes they saw committed against the young boys, but also why the victims didn't tell. So why didn't they? Explains the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR):
Just because a child does not disclose or initially denies sexual abuse doesn't mean it is not happening. Sexual abuse is a secret crime, one that usually has no witnesses. Shame, secrecy, and fear keep a child from disclosing the abuse. Victims of child sexual abuse are often unable to trust, which contributes to secrecy and non-disclosure. Often, children do not tell about sexual abuse because they:
  • are too young to recognize their victimization or put it into words
  • were threatened or bribed by the abuser
  • feel confused by fearing the abuse but liking the attention
  • are afraid no one will believe them
  • blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being "bad"
  • feel guilty for consequences to the perpetrator
(Quoted from PCAR's "Child Sexual Abuse" brochure).

As PCAR also states, education is the best defense against child sexual assault. "An educated child has the ability to recognize dangerous/uncomfortable situations and will be more likely to tell you if abuse has occurred."

I include PCAR's advice on how to educate the child to help protect her- or himself in this post.

Kimberly Steward, a facilitator for Darkness to Light, a national group aimed at ending child sexual abuse and the author of two books on child sexual abuse, seconds the stress on education. "You have to be strong enough to overcome your fears about teaching your children about sex and their sexuality, so you can arm them with knowledge to arm themselves," says Steward to the Chicago Tribune (Child sex abuse: Tips to prevent sex abuse of your child). A "timely and helpful article," as sex blogger Violet Blue notes, it is also important to keep in mind as Blue stresses that "the Penn State victims were at-risk children that likely didn’t have a standard parental support structure like the ‘typical’ one addressed in this article."


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