Reading – Why does it take victims of child sex abuse so long to speak up?

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“Multiple stressors in the child’s family and community context, and social and cultural attitudes that shame and blame victims, can create environments in which disclosure is fraught with difficulty. The process of disclosure often involves behavioural and indirect cues, and accidental disclosures, as much or more often than a conscious decision to tell someone about the abuse.

It is often assumed that disclosing abuse is naturally in the interest of victims. However, children may withhold disclosure because they accurately believe that the adults in their life will be angry with them or not support them.

Research with adult survivors has found that many did disclose in childhood only to experience blame and minimisation. Abuse may then continue in spite of the disclosure.

Negative and shaming reactions to sexual abuse disclosures have been shown to significantly increase the risk of mental illness and distress in the victim. Feeling betrayed is corrosive to mental wellbeing.”

There are so many reasons why it may take a long time for a child abuse victim to tell anyone, let alone come forward publicly. Some never do. As much as we would like any victim to come forward and report a crime, we have to keep in mind that their own well-being is an important factor in the decision to tell, and who to tell. They have to be safe, and ready.

Why does it take victims of child sex abuse so long to speak up?

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