Sexual Abuse Victims Often Don’t Tell

Many who have been sexually abused, either as a child or adult, do not come forward immediately after being abused and others never disclose they were sexually abused. The reasons are varied and complex.

The sourced articles below provide information on why many people may delay or dont disclose their sexual abuse at all.

  1. “There are many reasons why children don’t tell anyone about sexual abuse. Some common reasons are:
    -They have been taught to obey adults.
    -They have promised to keep the abuse secret.
    -They have been bribed to keep it a secret.
    -They have been threatened by the offender to keep it a secret and are scared to tell.
    -They feel guilty because they believe that the abuse is their fault.
    -They are ashamed to tell.
    -They are confused because the offender is someone they know and trust.
    -They have been convinced that the abuse is normal or okay.
    -They are too young to know that the abuse isn’t appropriate—especially if it’s done by someone they know and trust.
    -They have not been taught that the abuse is not okay.
    -They don’t know the words to use to tell.”

    Committee for Children,, accessed 4/21/2022

  2. Why Do Children Not Tell?

    “It is extremely difficult for children to report abuse! Disclosure is a process, not an event!
    Remember: Child sexual abuse can happen to any child in any community. If the parent’s reaction to the child is disbelief, the child may wonder if their feelings are mistaken. Children do not want to cause problems for their parents and will not tell about abuse thinking they are ‘protecting’ their mom and dad. Also, they fear that telling will make people angry at them.”

    Child Safe of Central Missouri,, accessed 4/21/2022

  3. Why Don’t People Report Sexual Abuse Right Away?

    “There are many reasons a victim may stay silent. Here are some I have seen in my career:
    – The victim was abused as a child, sometimes repeatedly, by a family member.
    – The abuser is the victim’s spouse.
    – Victims are ashamed of the circumstances surrounding the abuse, such as underage drinking or drug use and they didn’t want to get in trouble.
    – The abusers tell the victim the abuse was their fault, and the victim believed them.
    – The abusers threaten to kill the victim or their family if they said anything.
    – The abuser was in a position of power over the victim, such as a clergy member, a boss, a coach, etc.”

    Hope Mental Health,, accessed 4/21/2022

  4. Why Children Don’t Tell

    “Many factors influence whether a child will tell about sexual abuse. Primary factors include the age of the child, identity of the perpetrator, level and type of threat, perception of the child regarding probability of being believed and protected from the perpetrator, severity of the abuse, and presence of PTSD symptoms. The child judges whether it is safe to tell. If the perpetrator is a family member, the child usually takes longer to tell. The disclosure may feel like betrayal, and the child experiences ambivalence, particularly if disclosure means the child loses a loved family member. Disclosure is a complex process and does not rest on one factor alone, such as a perception that the mother may not believe the disclosure, although that is a primary factor.”

    MOSAC,, accessed 4/21/2022

  5. Why Don’t Children Tell If They Have Been Abused?

    “Sometimes, a child may be confused if they experienced positive physical pleasure, arousal, or emotional intimacy from the abuse. This confusion can make it difficult for the child to speak up.”

    STOP IT NOW!, accessed 4/21/2022

  6. Why Children Don’t Tell

    “The conviction of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky captured the nation’s attention and cast a spotlight on an endless question: Why don’t victims tell? … Self-Blame … Shame … Fear … Protection … Admiration … Disillusionment …”

    LACASA Center,, accessed 4/21/2022

  7. Why Children Don’t Tell Anyone About Sexual Abuse

    “Why Don’t Children Tell?
    Given the importance of detecting CSA for both prevention and intervention, researchers have been studying the reasons that children do not disclose, and they have found that there are both internal and external barriers that prevent the child from disclosing the abuse.”

    Elizabeth Jeglic, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at John Jay College who studies sexual violence prevention,, 2/28/2022

  8. Delayed Disclosure

    “It is critical to understand the science behind delayed disclosure because it influences society’s perception of child sex abuse survivors. After disclosing that they were abused, survivors often face an array of questions casting doubt on their allegation. Many of these questions hinge on the fact that the survivor did not disclose the abuse as a child. Without an understanding of the evidence-based pattern of delayed disclosure, it is difficult for individuals—whether they be loved ones, legal authorities, lawmakers etc.—to comprehend why victims would wait years before telling their story.”

    A Factsheet Based On Cutting-Edge Research On Child Sex Abuse,, 3/2020

  9. Why Adult Victims Of Childhood Sexual Abuse Don’t Disclose

    “Many of us are familiar with the reasons why children do not come forward to report child sexual abuse, but many don’t understand why adults continue to carry this secret, sometimes to their graves. I have been counseling adult victims of child sexual abuse for the past 35 years. In this article, I’ll discuss many of the reasons why some adults continue to keep silent when it comes to being a victim of child sexual abuse.”

    Beverly Engel L.M.F.T.,, 3/6/2019

  10. This Is Why Women Don’t Talk About Their Abuse, For Those Who Don’t Get It

    “There are untold reasons why girls and women don’t tell anyone when they are abused or assaulted, why they wait years to tell someone if they ever do. These reasons protect their abusers, and I promise you victims do not realize this at the time.”

    CafeMom Contributor,, 9/28/2018