Child sexual abuse thrives in secrecy. Perpetrators of sexual abuse rely on a child being willing and able to keep a secret; it’s one of the key things they look for.

At first, perpetrators may start small, with innocent secrets. If a child is able to keep that small secret, then they’ll move on to bigger more harmful ones. A way to prevent your child from keeping dangerous secrets that could lead to, or hide, sexual abuse is to let them know the difference between good secrets and harmful secrets.

Take a look at the list of three things you should consider when teaching about secrets:


Teach them the difference between good and harmful secrets.

A good secret is something that you temporarily hide from someone that will lead to them being happy or excited – a surprise dessert, a present, a birthday party, etc. A harmful secret is anything that makes your child feel dirty, uncomfortable, or fearful. Threats may be used by the perpetrator to get your child to keep the secret.

Prepare for that by telling your child that anytime anyone threatens them, you, or anyone else they love that your child needs to tell you immediately.


Teach your child that they will never be in trouble for sharing a secret with you, and teach them that they must share harmful secrets with you. Children can keep good secrets, like not telling a sibling what they got them for Christmas. If you’re unsure how to keep this balance, you’ll want to err on the side of more information being shared. Too often we’ll playfully scold a child for sharing a “harmless secret” that we wanted them to keep. Instead of scolding them, thank them for telling the secret. Small secrets are the gateway to bigger secrets for potential perpetrators.


Educate your circle of trust.

Make sure that anyone who spends time with your child is aware that your child will not keep harmful secrets.

When secrets between a person and your child become routine, your child becomes more vulnerable to being abused. Don’t allow the secrecy that permeates sexual abuse to continue. Arm your child with the knowledge he or she needs to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Stop keeping harmful secrets and ask your child to do the same.

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