Why children stay silent following sexual violence

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the messages we send to our children about their role, and ours as adults, in keeping them safe from people who might victimise them. As a society, our message has changed over the decades: others of my culture and generation will, like me, have seen the gradual evolution from “stranger danger” to “my body, my choice”. And it’s still evolving.

But as Kristin eloquently (and emotionally: I cried my eyes out!) explains, messages like these can subconsciously teach children that they alone are responsible for keeping themselves from harm. And so when some of them inevitably fail, the shame of their victimisation – often already taboo – can be magnified by the guilt of their inability to prevent it. And as anybody who’s been a parent or, indeed, a child knows that children aren’t inclined to talk about the things they feel guilty about.

And in the arms race of child exploitation, abusers will take advantage of that.

What I was hoping was to have a nice, concrete answer – or at least an opinion – to the question: how should we talk to children about their safety in a way that both tries to keep them safe but ensures that they understand that they’re not to blame if they are victimised? This video doesn’t provide anything like that. Possibly there aren’t easy answers. As humans, as parents, and as a society, we’re still learning.

Further watching, if you’ve the stomach for it: this Sexplanations episode with Dr. Lindsey Doe and Detective Katie Petersen.

1 reply to Why children stay silent following sexual violence

  1. Well said, deconstructing the pathways of abuse and where it leads to psychologically is long overdue a rethink IMO.

    I do believe that people often fail to see how necessary empowerment is to someone that can feel they’ve had their power removed.

    Eg. the people that say ‘I’ll kill them for what they’ve done to you’ are, on some level, saying I will do what you couldn’t and should have done to protect you – it’s well meaning (unless they actually do it!!!) but at it’s root undermines your (still very functioning, but possibly in need of nurture) ability to look out for yourself.

    Great post

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