What helps children disclose abuse? Part 2…

Adult & child talking

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/AlexRaths

In our last post on this subject, we looked at the first three of six reasons why children disclose abuse.

In working with troubled youth, this is key information.

As those who strive to build trusting relationships with young people, we are in the frame for being told difficult things about their past.

Knowing what encourages this, may help us be better prepared for what is to come…

So, what helps young people disclose abusive experiences?…

The NSPCC report, No One Noticed, No One Heard, is the source for most of this material.

It is a really good summary of research around child protection and disclosure – well worth a read…

So, here are the second three things that help children abuse:

  1. Changes in the nature of the abuse
  2. Protecting others
  3. Remembering forgotten abuse

1. Changes in the nature of the abuse…

It’s not unusual for young people to report an increase in the abuse over time. This may involve it becoming more threatening, more violent or more frequent.

Graphic courtesy of ©NSPCC/No One Noticed, No One Heard

Graphic courtesy of ©NSPCC/No One Noticed, No One Heard

That they disclose at this point, suggests that young people may be undertaking some kind of assessment of risk. When things escalate, they disclose rather than accept the increased risk.

In this kind of situation, children may be very anxious and fearful. At the end of their tether, perhaps…

2. Protecting others…

The young people who disclosed as a way of protecting others, usually younger brothers or sisters, did so later on. They were older adolescents whose own abuse had stopped.

Graphic courtesy ©NSPCC/No One Noticed, No One Heard

Graphic courtesy ©NSPCC/No One Noticed, No One Heard

However, some younger adolescents may be unable to maintain the secrecy, if they feel other children are at risk.

The protective instinct can be very strong indeed…

3. Remembering forgotten abuse…

Sometimes children cope with abuse by subverting the memory of it.

For some this can be very profound and result in dissociation.

Young people may later remember past abuse and disclose this to others.

This may be brought on by some other change of circumstances, or triggered by an event that somehow brings the abuse back into the consciousness. At this point they may want to talk it out.

Final thought…

The NSPCC estimates that for every known case of child abuse, there are as many as another 8 that are not known about. (NSPCC 2013:5)

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Imgorthand

So there is a high chance that the troubled young people you come across may be awaiting the right time to disclose what’s happened to them…

If they trust you, they’ll probably tell you. Be ready…

What do you think?…

This post is just a summary of an extensive piece of research, and so is far from being exhaustive. You can read more detail on this by going direct to the research itself, here.

  • Please let me know your thoughts…   Leave a comment below or click here.

Related previous posts…

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© Jonny Matthew 2014 with material quoted from the NSPCC research project No-one Listened, No one Heard

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