Many Americans labor under the false impression that it is a simple thing, indeed, for an abused child to get help. For many children, this is absolutely untrue. Abusers are not simple people. Many are sociopaths--showing a charming, charismatic front to the world, while they inflict sexual...physical...and mental abuse on a child. They control the child by any means possible, so that no one will believe the child--or, as in the case of Elsa Newman, or the case of the Castillo family [both in Maryland, incidentally; both in the same county in Maryland, incidentally; both under the same judge in the same county in Maryland]no one will believe a mother who tries to speak out for her children.
Here is a challenge for you: if you are struggling over the question of whether or not to accept my assessment of Elsa's case--that Elsa is unjustly imprisoned and that her two children are in the clutches of a pedophile parent--then read about the Castillo's. There is no arguing over that one at all. The mother pled with the judge not to allow the father unsupervised visits, saying he was a threat to the children. The judge disregarded her pleas, allowed the unsupervised visits. And all three Castillo children are dead--drowned in a bathtub by their father, during one of those unsupervised visits.
OK...back to the question of why the children themselves do not disclose abuse:
There are several categories of threats from an abuser—all designed to keep a child in silence and keep the abuser and his abuse secret. The first is the verbal threat:
If you tell…I’ll kill you.
If you tell…nobody will believe you, because you’re a kid and I’m and adult.
If you tell…I’ll give you such a beating that nobody will be able to tell who you are.
If you tell…I’ll kill your mother.
If you tell…well…you know those drugs I’ve been getting for you? You won’t be getting any more. You know what “cold turkey” means?
If you tell…like you did before…and those social workers come out here again, like they did the last time? The same thing will happen all over again. There won’t be any evidence…and I’ll beat the s*** out of you when they’re gone.
If you tell, I’ll kill your dog [who may be the only friend the kid has]. And you remember what happened to your other dog…and your hamster.
If you tell, I’ll send you to an orphanage, and you will get nothing but stale bread and water until you grow up. If you go to an orphanage, no one will ever adopt you—and no one will ever love you. No one ever loves somebody who grows up in an orphanage.
If you tell, everyone will know what you’ve been doing with me, and they will know it’s your fault, because you are such a bad person.
If you tell, nobody will believe you, because they know me and they like me…and they know what a bad person you are.
There are also the implied threats. For example, the broken toy syndrome—one father used to throw children’s Christmas presents across the room and break them. No words accompanied this. There was no verbal threat. There was only the implied threat that the mental image left in the child’s mind.
Another category is the demonstrated threat. In a case like this, the abuser might, for example, turn on a stove burner…hold the child’s hand near enough to the burner that the hand hurt—badly. And then warn the child that telling would result in her/his whole hand being held on the burner.
Finally, there is the threat by the enabler—the mother or father who knows at some level what the other parent is doing. This person may try to convince the child that what is happening is normal. “You just have to put up with it. That is what men are like.” This parent may then issue threats of her own, much in the same vein as those issued by the actual abuser.