10 Reasons Children Don’t Disclose Abuse

By Ginger Kadlec — get free updates of new posts here.

Sadly, nearly 3/4 of all children who are sexually abused keep their abuse a secret for at least a year. Another 45% don’t tell anyone about their abuse for 5 years; still others never tell.

So, why do so many children keep abuse a secret? Here are 10 reasons children don’t disclose abuse.

By the way, I apologize for my mispronunciation of “dissociation”. Yes, I struggle saying that word. 😉

About Ginger

Chance and GK 2013-04-26Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and trained child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues. 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”.


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10 thoughts on “10 Reasons Children Don’t Disclose Abuse

  1. Thank you for your information. I am trying to brain storm ideas on how to bring the problem of sibling sexual abuse to the forefront. I am familiar with RAINN. However, I am frustrated that the problems of sibling abuse are not openly discussed in the media. The conspiracy of silence surrounding sibling sexual abuse is one of the most challenging aspects of surviving SSA. I no longer want it to remain quiet. If you have any ideas on how to raise awareness of this devastating form of abuse I would appreciate your input. I appreciate your time and attention. Thank you.

    1. You pose another excellent question, Andrea. Raising awareness and our collective consciousness about child abuse, including sibling abuse, is key to stopping this global issue. Here are a couple of ideas off the top of my head…

      1) Volunteer for RAINN, an adult survivors’ group or even a child advocacy center in your area to help raise awareness through their existing programs/services.
      2) Connect with a reporter in your area to do a series about sibling abuse.
      3) You can do what I did… a few years ago, I was among the masses that thought child abuse happened to ‘someone else in rare circumstances.’ Boy, was I wrong! After working with a child advocacy center in my community, I learned the depth and breadth of this epidemic and decided to do something about it. I started a website and began writing blogs about the issue. Maybe you could focus your awareness efforts on sibling abuse?
      4) This is a topic I should address in one of my blogs. If you are interested in helping with that, shoot me an email at ginger@beakidshero.com… let’s see what we can do.

      Thanks again for your courage to speak out! Thank YOU!!!


    2. Too many people do not take kids seriously when they report it, writing it off as normal sibling rivalry when it can be very violent and threatening abuse. Adults need to know not todismiss it and children need to be told it is not normal and to understand it is abuse and they can report it to the police. Parents should protect a child from abusive siblings. In some cases parents encourage or even train siblings to be abusive.

      1. Emma,

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts — you are right on every count! I want to echo your plea to take kids seriously when they say something has happened. The three most important words one can say to a child who finds the courage to disclose abuse is, “I believe you.”


  2. Do you have any information on the number of sibling sexual abusers who continue to abuse other children in adulthood? I was sexually abused by my oldest brother. While he was a young teenager and I was five when he started to sexually abuse me, his abuse of me did not end until I was 17. My brother, at this time, was into his late twenties. I have no contact with my family of origin because I was blamed or disbelieved. My five brothers even beat me up when I was 25. I worry that my brother is still abusing and feel frustrated that there is nothing I can do because I am now 56 and he is 64. My perpetrators wife who knows of the abuse is also a therapist with her own private practice. I wish there was something I could do to make sure he is not still pursuing children. Thank You

    1. Andrea,

      First, let me say I am so very sorry to learn that you endured the abuse that you did… even into adulthood. I thank you for your courage to share your experience… trust me, you are not alone.

      Second, I thank you so very much for asking such a terrific question! The issue of sibling abuse is faced by thousands of families all around the world. There is a terrific article in The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/06/sibling-sexual-assault-is-epidemic-no-wonder-lena-dunham-caused-an-uproar/) that cites some statistics about how extremely common a problem this is. According to Sasian (Sibling Abuse Survivors Info & Advocacy Network: http://sasian.org/information-on-sibling-violence-sibling-incest/), over half of all child sexual abuse cases involve sibling abuse. Numbers/estimates on this vary, but the National Children’s Alliance Executive Director Teresa Huizar recently wrote an article in the Huffington Post were she cites, “…18 percent of the over 315,000 sexual abuse cases seen by Children’s Advocacy Centers last year (2014) involved an offender under the age of 18 – most often a sibling, cousin, or friend from the neighborhood or school.” (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/teresa-huizar/in-response-to-the-duggar_b_7553460.html) All of these sources underscore the vastness of this problem.

      Regarding your older brother: if he did not receive counseling or help, there may be reason for concern. I’ll bet the statute of limitations has long passed, but you may want to reach out to one of these organizations for additional guidance:

      – Darkness to Light’s helpline: 1-866-FOR-LIGHT to be routed to resources in your own community,
      – ChildHelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD

      You might also consider contacting authorities in the area where he lives to give them a heads-up. You never know what may be happening behind the scenes – other allegations may have been made, etc.

      RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) offers adult support services and may be able to provide guidance about other steps. See https://www.rainn.org/get-info/effects-of-sexual-assault/adult-survivors-of-childhood-sexual-abuse. I hope this information is helpful and thank you again for your courage in sharing.


      1. Thank you, Ginger. You are so very kind to take the time to respond to my post. It means a great deal to me. Andrea

    2. Andrea, I was also a victim of sibling abuse and my parents encouraged my sisters and brother to be abusive. It was mostly physical abuse. My dad and sister however made comments about my developing body and laughed about it. When I started having periods my family made it a very public and humiliating experience deliberately. I was lucky to be put in boarding school when I was 13 but it is only very recently that I have learned the extent and seriousness of the abuse. My dad later encouraged my abusive husband to be abusive. The experience made me vulnerable to abuse in adulthood.

      1. Emma,

        I’m so sorry you had to endure all that… GOOD FOR YOU for finding the strength and courage to stand up and say NO! Sadly, adverse childhood experiences including abuse can often play a major role in our lives into adulthood. Stay strong and thanks so much for sharing your story… it helps others survivors know they are not alone.


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