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Why don't children tell their parents about sexual abuse?

Why don't children tell their parents about sexual abuse?

1 in 3 children who are sexually abused don't tell anyone at the time and there are many reasons why. Understanding these barriers can help you support your child if you find out they’ve been abused.

Parents text content

Why didn’t they tell me?

If your child didn’t tell you about the abuse or delayed in telling you, this is normal and is likely to be for one or more of the following reasons.

  1. They have felt ashamed or embarrassed.
  2. They weren't sure how to talk about it or couldn’t find a space to.
  3. They were worried about how other people might respond and what was going to happen. They may have thought:
  • ‘I might be seen as different.'
  • ‘This is going to cause problems in my family/community/school.'
  • ‘I may be taken away from home.’
  • ‘I don’t want the police or social services involved in my life.’
  • ‘I don’t want the abuser to get in trouble’ (because of feelings of loyalty, love, fear etc).
  • ‘I’m going to be blamed.'
  • ‘Images will be found which I’m embarrassed about.’
  • ‘I won’t be believed.’
  • ‘I won’t be taken seriously.’
  • ‘He/she is going to hurt or embarrass me or my family or someone else.'

The important thing is that they have told you. How you respond can help your child overcome these worries and generally feel better.

We know from research that a supportive response from parents is one of the most important things that helps a child recover and put abuse behind them.

Seven things you will need if your child tells you they have been sexually abused:

  • warm and caring spaces to talk
  • a clear belief in what your child says
  • clear communication that they are not blamed
  • action to protect them
  • support for you
  • find support for your child if difficulties persist
  • to notice and appreciate your child’s strengths