by Kimberly King
ABUSE THRIVES IN SECRECY
Secrets are tricky, especially for little ones! The topic of secrets can be hard for young kids to understand because some seem okay and fun, while others can cause harm.
Some secrets, like planning a surprise people for your sister or planning a ski trip without telling the kids — are harmless. But keeping secrets about traumatic, painful or scary events can create a lifetime of stress and emotional damage for people and their families.
Abusers want their secrets to remain secret. Often they manipulate and pressure kids into keeping secrets so they may continue to abuse them and suffer no repercussions.
According to Jayneen Sanders author of Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept, “ Most secrets we ask kids to keep seem harmless, however even ‘harmless’ secrets are setting kids up to keep secrets that may be in fact, one day, be very harmful to them. Predators will often use ‘harmless’ secrets such as ‘Don’t tell your parents I gave you some sweets. It can be “our secret” to see if the a child is actually capable of keeping a secret.
If they are, then the grooming and predatory behavior continues. If a child can say when asked to keep a secret, ‘I don’t keep secrets only happy surprises’, than they are far less likely to be targeted by a predator. We need to remember that secrecy is of the utmost importance to a child molester. If a child reveals the ‘unsafe’ secret, than they and their horrifying actions will be revealed. The term ’secret’ indicates something that can remain hidden. Therefore it is far better to teach your child that we keep happy surprises because they will be told.”
5 steps to help your child steer clear of an abuser’s secrets:
1. Review your rules about private parts with your child.
2. Teach children they must never keep red flag secrets.
Teach your child that once an adult or friend violates their body boundaries, in their mind, they must raise a red flag of danger. That person has now become a danger. All kids need to know, once they’ve raise a red flag, they have to go to a trusted adult right away and tell what has happened.
3. Help your child make a list of trusted adults they can talk to.
Your children may be too scared or embarrassed to tell their secret to you directly. And you don’t want that to get in the way of discovering the truth. So, establish with your kids at least three additional adults that they can contact in situations that require immediate attention. These adults need to be people that you and the family know can take action to get your child to safety and help keep them safe.
We’ve made a downloadable worksheet for kids to help them find their trusted grown-ups. Download it and work with your children to help them find the adults they would trust. Encourage them to remember these people in case anything uncomfortable needs to be discussed.
4. Kids need to know that red flag people lie!
Remind kids that if a person asks them to keep a secret about private parts and they say, “ It’s our secret and you can’t tell anyone” kids need to know that is not true, ever!
Brainstorm with your kids some other things a red flag person might say that could trick them into keeping secrets. For example:
“You are special, let’s keep this our secret.”
“ If you keep our secret, l will bring you a treat.”
“If you keep this secret, I will give you money.”
“ If you tell, nobody will believe you.”
“ If you tell, your parents will be mad at you.”
5. Remind kids that it is always important to tell unsafe, red flag secrets to a trusted adult.
And remind kids that even if they have been keeping a red flag event secret for a long time, it is never too late to tell.
Find an animation and other resources to help kids learn about dangerous secrets on our new kids’ page!
We make it easy to teach your kids about dangerous secrets in our 3-minute animation. We invite you to review the video, then form your own family rules for dealing with keeping secrets. Then watch the animation with your children and discuss your family rules.