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Be Brave and Tell! 7 Reasons Why Kids Don’t Usually Report Sexual Abuse

Written by: Kimberly King, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

And how we can help them...

A complicated explanation from a collaboration of experts:

Child sexual abuse is likely the most prevalent health problem children face with the most serious array of consequences” — D2L.org.

Only 70% of child sexual abuse victims report their abuse. Many carry feelings of shame and guilt with them for a lifetime. Most people do not understand why kids just don’t tell. It is not a simple answer. As an author of the best-selling book on the topic for families called, I Said No! I didn’t understand this completely when I wrote the book. I had to go back in and edit one of my pages about telling. A reader who was a victim of sexual abuse by her step-father explained to me that she did tell, she was brave, and she didn’t get the help she needed.


Within the family:


When abuse happens within a family, there are several very complex reasons why kids don’t always tell. According to Jane Epstein, founder of Complicated Courage, “survivors underreport because of feelings of embarrassment and shame connected with the abuse. They may be confused or might look up to the older sibling or family member. However, it may be an inability to make rational decisions because of limited cognitive skills, life experiences, and lack of body safety education.”


7 Reasons Why Kids Don’t Always Tell:

  1. They may know nothing else, think that sexual abuse is the norm, or do not have the language to express themselves.

  2. The child may feel they permitted the abuse and wrongly blame themselves for not stopping it.

  3. They may be terrified to cause additional family duress.

  4. They may be protecting a sibling from abuse.

  5. They may be dealing with threats and manipulation from the abuser.

  6. They may fear that they will not be believed.

  7. Nobody ever noticed or asked the question.

But, trauma has a way of seeping up to the surface, and sometimes it takes many years for a victim to report abuse. Sometimes, our ability to fight or flight kicks in. We can suppress memories and thoughts that are just too much for our brains and bodies to handle.


The traumatic memories might bubble up in some other form, like a chronic state of anxiety, panic attacks, or OCD. We might quell it by over-eating, over-drinking, or over-achieving. Survivors can suffer from a lifetime of various mental and physical health problems.


Many survivors of sexual abuse try to put the abuse in a box, seal it up, and stick it on a shelf.

We move on with our lives, not understanding how these suppressed memories affect our choices, behaviors, or parenting.


“Until one day, you find yourself crying in the shower with an overwhelming flashback.”

Shari Alyse, Best-Selling Author of Love Yourself Happy, shares her process with the effects of trauma even after taking legal action. "I spent decades running from my feelings surrounding my abuse. I convinced myself that I had healed from it because I had prosecuted my abuser. In my mind, the abuse was locked away like he was, and I had moved forward."


Everyone handles healing differently! And there is no right or wrong way to proceed. You may dive into therapy, self-care, writing, healing, or just about anything.


During a recent interview with Shari on how to move forward, she explained that for her, "Presence in our bodies is everything. Most trauma survivors disconnect, and we can often be found living in our heads. I learned how to come back into my body, which helped me be present with all I was feeling."


According to trauma specialist and psychotherapist Linda Tumbarello, “An important part of healing for many is learning to find a calm and safe place inside their bodies and themselves. This allows for a kinder relationship to one-self and a path to feeling safe with intimacy with a loved one.”


Therapist Linda Tumbarello adds, “It is important to gently and slowly work with the trauma from abuse, especially if one has never fully talked about it or remembered it. Some survivors who experienced abuse early in their childhood may not have the words to speak about it clearly but suffer from difficult body memories. A big part of healing is letting go of the very mistaken but common self-blame that many feel. This is one of the many reasons victims don’t report or report much later.”


Recent changes to the statute of limitations in many states have created a new opportunity for many survivors of abuse. This change provides many victims with a new chance for justice and the time needed to pursue it.


Many lawyers are working diligently with victims in sexual abuse cases. Every single person who has survived sexual abuse or assault is inherently brave. I am in awe of the victims who report, press charges, and seek justice. Taking legal action to report abuse requires an incredible amount of bravery.


According to Jaclyn Anderson, Public Relations Coordinator for Herman Law. "Our lawyers and staff are specially trained to help clients who are suffering from any trauma-induced effects. These victims are typically adults who have experienced abuse many years ago." Herman Law had represented people abused by Harvey Weinstein, most notably, but many other cases.


Often, it can be challenging to prove a criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt and abuse that occurred 20 years ago due to lack of evidence. But, Anderson says, "the most rewarding part about helping victims is seeing them receive justice for the horrors that they had to go through as a child."


When I asked what this first meeting might look like, she shared, "A first visit will likely just involve us talking to the potential client and telling them about our work, and seeing if they would be interested in taking this further."


A low-stress, no-pressure consultation is the first step for many survivors. In some cases, clients can be represented anonymously as a Jane Doe. This option appeals to many who fear damaging their reputation or unwanted attention to a very traumatizing event. This step towards justice can often be a positive and empowering step toward healing. Whenever a victim steps up and reports sexual abuse, it creates a ripple effect of inspiration and hope for those who have experienced the same type of trauma. When we share our stories and support victims, more come forward because they know they are not alone.


We can all help prevent sexual abuse and protect our kids by teaching them about body safety rules, consent, and prevention strategies. An educated and empowered child is a less attractive target to an abuser and is more likely to report a problem or incident because they are armed with knowledge. Parents are an essential part of the prevention toolbox.


For questions, concerns, resources, and support, please visit my website and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Linkedin.

Kimberly King, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Kimberly King, "The Safety Mom," is the author of the best-selling, most highly recommended book for children on prevention called I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private.


Kimberly is a mom of three children, a survivor, a Sexual Abuse Prevention Facilitator with D2L.org, and a Sexual Assualt Crisis Counselor with The Rowan Center. ​She spends her time training adults and children on prevention strategies and sharing her expertise as a consultant, advisor, and media source.


Her work has been featured in various magazines, podcasts, and blogs, including; NBC, Ticker News, The Chicago Tribune, Women’s Fitness, Child Mind Institute, Social Work Now, US News and World Report, The Health Journal, Modern Mom, PopSugar, Child Life Mom, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Thrive Global, Medium, Dads Divorce, Split, Sex Ed Rescue, Consent Parenting, Pretty Wellness Podcast, iHeart Radio, and is highly recommended as a resource by national prevention organizations. Please contact her directly for any media requests. Contact Kimberly King at 757-375-5020 or email her at

Kimberlykingbooks@gmail.com.

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