Child sexual abuse/incest
Why are children afraid to disclose their abuse?
Women's Web gratefully acknowledges the University
of Alberta Sexual Assault Center (UASAC) for granting us permission to reprint
its materials and resources on our website. Be sure to visit the UASAC website for additional information, resources, and link to other sites.
If you have been sexually assaulted, be sure to go
immediately to your local hospital or police detachment. If
you are unable to get to a hospital, call the police, your community
sexual assault center, or your community's 24-hour crisis line.
Sexual assault is a serious crime. Compassionate support
is available and such crimes must be reported to the police.
Because abusers often threaten children with violence, victims
of child sexual abuse or incest are often afraid to disclose their
abuse. Abusers may threaten victims, their families, and their
friends to ensure silence. Younger children may be sworn to secrecy
by the idea of a "secret pact" and the "adulation"
they appear to receive from their abusers—"You're very
special and this is our special secret, okay?"
Children also fear rejection, ridicule, and ostracism. Abusers manipulate
their victims into believing people will judge them for having participated
in the act of incest. Abusers convince their victims they will be rejected
and hated if they disclose their abuse.
If children were raised to think of sex as dirty, guilt and shame may
prevent victims from seeking help after incest has occurred. If victims
were raised in strict families, their fear of the authority figure often
outweighs their need to get help.
Children may also be confused about their experience. Unless
they've been taught to distinguish "good touch" from
"bad touch", they may be unclear about what to do and
as a result, they may choose to remain silent.
Adolescent victims of incest may wonder whether their experience
constitutes incest, particularly if they experienced sexual climax
during the event. The matter of bodily response is of no importance
here; what matter are consent and legality. If a victim is under
the age of majority and did not consent to the sexual contact,
the experience may be deemed incest. Climax should not be considered
consent, although misinformed juries sometimes think otherwise.
Sexual contact with a minor is a crime.
Sex is the manner in which abusers gain and maintain power over their
victims. Incest isn't about sex but rather, it is about demeaning,
objectifying, and humiliating the victim as much as possible.
We read about battles in which the winning army would "rape
and pillage". The warriors' actions weren't motivated by
a desire for sex. Rather, rape
was the ultimate humiliation, the ultimate act of domination and
violence. Perpetrators of incest know this.