The vast majority of cases of child sexual abuse are never denounced. Not only that: A high number of victims never revealed the abuse, not even to a close person! It is curious that such serious facts –such as sexual abuse− often go unpunished and almost never are revealed. Most times, the victim keep the secret their whole life.
This secrecy is one of the facilitating factors for the abuse to be perpetrated and continued. Besides, it is this silence one of the issues that can most affect the victim, and one that can most condition him or her. Victims can be man or women, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual…
There are several aspects crucial to understand the silence of the victims. When we are talking about very young victims, let’s say in preschool age, it is difficult for them to convey what happened to them because of their cognitive limitations. They do not know the word or words for what has happened to them. This, among other reasons, complicates their possible revelation.
For children a bit older, aged 6 or so, it is still difficult to make decisions, especially if they are complicated. The dilemma between revealing the abuse or not can block them very easily, more so if the abuser is their father or from their family. Thus, the age of the victim is an important factor. If for an adult it is difficult to face and reveal their victimization, for a child can be much harder. Adolescence, for instance, is a very complex period in this sense. The vulnerability of this period contributes to keeping the secret.
Moreover, the link the victim has with the abuser before the start of the abuse process is another crucial factor. When the abuser is a person in whom the victim trusts, the struggle is a lot worse. If the abuser is a close person to the victim, the abuse can last much longer and build up. Additionally, the threats for the victim to keep the secret are usually more serious and fear can block them. On the contrary, when the abuser is not someone close or previously known to them, it is somewhat easier to ask for help.
Many cases of intra-familial abuse, the abuser tend to make the victim think that if they reveal the abuse, nobody will believe it and people will reject them. If the abuser is their father, mother or someone from within the family, this person makes sure that the victim believes that it is in his or her hands to keep the unity of the family. A child usually does not like imagining that they are the ones to blame for their parents separation, for the division in the family or for someone going to jail… Often, fear to the consequences of revealing the abuse is too big and the victim opts for keeping the secret.
Most victims believe, unconsciously perhaps, that the abuse will no happen again, on the one hand. On the other, they usually think that their revelation can unleash catastrophic consequences. Meanwhile, the reasons to keep the secret pile up.
As if all that were not enough, we have to mention the weight that a number of taboos generally have in people, especially in children. We are referring to the taboo of sex. Some victims also have to face the taboo of incest and homosexuality.
Victims’ fear of not being believed sadly is a reality only too often and that leads to further victimizations by different agents from their environment.
Last but not least, there is guilt. Ironically, most victims feel guilty of their victimization. In an irrational way, they usually believe that they have a part of blame in what happened to them and that makes it confusion. It is difficult to find a victim of sexual abuse in childhood that has not felt guilty for it.
Someone who has been a victim of sexual abuse of any type usually experience some sequels in their adult life. Sometimes his or her capacity to establish sentimental relationships and manage them adequately has been seriously affected due to the sexual abuse. Also the sequels can be in his or her sexual life.
In the Zubieta Psychology and Sexology Centre we offer therapy for people who have suffered sexual abuse. We help them to have a satisfying present life in different fields.