8 Dangers of Keeping The Secret of Your Abuse
When you are abused as a child, you are often coerced at some level to keep the secret of the abuse from others. At times, the abuser is very upfront about this and threatens you or someone you love if you don’t keep the secret, but at other times they use more subtle means of keeping their secret- maybe they convince you that the abuse was your fault and your mother won’t love you anymore, or that your family will fall apart and you won’t be able to see your parents again. Or sometimes, you are just so filled with shame, that you don’t want to share what happened to you because you’re afraid it will change the way others perceive you. But, however it came to be that you were left holding this terrible secret of your abuse, it is a very destructive secret for you to keep.
Before we go any further, I want to say that it is always your choice of when, to whom, and how much of your history to share. You have complete control over this, and I would never try to force you to disclose your past. But the choice to keep the secret comes with very negative consequences for you and your future health. Below I’ve made a list of some of these consequences.
Dangers of Secret Keeping
1. Keeping secrets of this type can cause undue stress and can make you mentally, emotionally, and physically ill.
2. Keeping the secret of your abuse may cause you to feel like there is something wrong with you, that you are worthless or inferior in some way that caused you to be abused in the first place. Further, it may cause you to start fearing that your secret will be exposed.
3. It is isolating and causes a rift in your relationships. If you are keeping a secret this big from the people who are important to you, then you are behaving in a manner that will undermine your level of intimacy with them. It may even lead you to believe that that other person deserves better than you.
4. Keeping the secret keeps you trapped in a relationship with your abuser!
5. Keeping important and big secrets like this may cause you to start distrusting others as you know that you are keeping the secret and wonder what secrets they’re keeping from you. Secrets cause suspicion and resentment to build in relationships.
6. Keeping the secret of your abuse can cause you to develop a skewed sense of reality. This is especially true if you started keeping the secret as a child. This is because you are forced to act as if something that you know isn’t true is. This causes a direct conflict within you and may cause you to start believing the lie or to at least be confused as to what really happened, or as to what is “normal” within relationships and families.
7. And what is perhaps the most dangerous result of keeping the abuse secret is that it can cause you to feel shame and self-hating about what happened. The abuser will often try to push the blame onto you, and with that blame comes the shame. As stated above, this blame shift might happen very directly, or it might be covert, but whatever way it occurs, the result is that you feel shame about what was done to you. Maybe you’ve been told, “Daddy will be sent away and it will be all your fault”, “Who will support us?”, “Our family will be destroyed”, or given some other similar message. Or maybe you just knew these things without anyone telling you. It doesn’t matter- these messages are not true and serve only to protect the abuser. The shame is not yours to carry!
8. Telling the story of your past and your secret will allow you to acknowledge what really happened and help to bring perspective to it. It allows you to begin the healing process and to release the pain of being abused. If you keep the secret, this healing is postponed or even stopped.
If you or someone you know were abused as a child and would like more information on trauma treatment, or just someone to share your secret with, please follow the link.