1. Trust. Most sexual assaults occur by someone trusted by the child. It makes no sense to a youngster why someone who cares about them would hurt them. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and uncertainty, as kids try to reconcile why someone who is good would do something that is bad.
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2. What is there about me? As kids try to come to some understanding of adults touching them sexually, they often will personalize the behavior. Adults will manipulate the trusting characteristic of kids, telling them that they are special and that the abuse is loving and kind, rather than hurtful and controlling. Older kids recognize this deception. Since kids are developmentally rather egocentric, many youths will blame themselves. They don't feel special, but rather responsible for their abuse.
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3. Power. In relationships with their abuser, kids have little power. This is probably the most important dynamic responsible for nondisclosure of many young adults. It is a horrifying experience for something bad to happen to you, and be unable to tell anyone for fear that the consequences will be even worse.
For parents of kids and teens, here’s your homework. Talk about these horrific stories at the dinner tonight. Ask questions. Listen. Don’t criticize or judge, but rather try to understand. These open and frequent conversations may be the best way to keep your child safe.
Next Week: Shocking new research on the behavior of our teens