For Parents

The secret

Secrets have become an important therapeutic theme in cases of child abuse. Sometimes the child refuses to talk about the abuse because he or she has been told that it is a secret that must remain between him or herself and the abuser, or in the family. That’s why it’s important to explain to children what ‘good secrets’ and ‘bad secrets’ mean.

One of the biggest obstacles to getting children to describe what they have been through is that the abuse has in most cases been kept secret and associated with shame and threats.

E.g., “Diana kept the abuse she was subjected to by her father a secret for 12 years. He threatened her that if she said anything then he would abuse her sisters too. From age 6 to 18 she kept what was going on between her and her father a secret. It was all revealed that he was actually abusing her sisters at the same time.”

“Irina kept her stepfather’s abuse a secret for three years until her grandmother noticed certain changes in her disposition. Threats of beatings and killing her mother prompted her to keep it a secret.”

A story about good and bad secrets can help your child. Good secrets are tempting, it’s even good to surprise mum or a loved one by buying them a present and keeping it a secret until their birthday. But bad secrets can give you nightmares, scare you and worry you. Children shouldn’t keep secrets like that. They must be told to an adult, even if they have promised not to tell anyone, otherwise they will be hard to forget and the fear will not go away.

There is a possibility that some children may not feel ashamed or guilty, they may simply decide they have nothing to talk about. In this case we should not insist that they talk to us. The therapist in such cases can tell them what they know or what has been reported to them from police investigations or other sources.



Bibliography: „Proceduri de lucru pentru recuperarea psiho-socială a copilului victimă – Ghid pentru profesioniști”, Save the Children Association Iasi, september 2015