Disclosure is when a child tells another person that he or she has been sexually abused. Disclosure can be a scary and difficult process for children. Some children who have been sexually abused may take weeks, months, or even years to fully reveal what was done to them. Many children never tell anyone about the abuse. In general:

  • Girls are more likely to disclose than boys
  • School-aged children tend to tell a caregiver
  • Adolescents are more likely to tell friends
  • Very young children tend to accidentally reveal abuse because they don’t have as much understanding of what occurred or the words to explain it

Children are often reluctant to speak about being sexually abused. Some reasons for this reluctance may include:

  • Fear that the abuser may hurt them or their families
  • Fear that they will not be believed or will be blamed and get in trouble
  • Worry that their parents will be upset or angry
  • Fear that disclosing will disrupt the family, especially if the perpetrator is a family member or friend
  • Fear that disclosure will lead to separation from their family

Disclosure can be particularly difficult for younger children who have limited language and developmental abilities. If the child does not understand that the abuse was wrong, this may also lead the child not to tell.

Appears in: What to do if your child discloses sexual abuse