How come no one noticed what was happening? By Nimi Chauhan

An art by Nikhat Qureshi

Pictures from #Notmysecret art exhibition and campaign speaks out against sexual abuse and aims to create global awareness of the silence that lies behind sexual abuse.

Childhood sexual abuse is a topic that people are now becoming familiar with and we have many survivors to thank for this. Through the stories shared, we know and perhaps are able to comprehend what the survivor may have experienced in overcoming the abuse, the struggles they may have experienced. This sharing is incredible for those who have not found their voice yet. It may even be ground breaking for a survivor who has never had the courage to share what has happened only to hear that they are not alone and this has happened to someone else as well.  

However, with all of this empowerment and sharing for survivors, you will hear people question; “How come they didn’t say anything to anyone, at the time or when they were older”How come the parents couldn’t tell what was happening? Or you often here, “Where were the parents?”  

Often when a survivor reaches adulthood and reflects on their past and their trauma, they will question themselves and often think: “I knew it was wrong, why didn’t I say anything? “Maybe if I had said something my life would’ve been different”. Survivors often stay trapped in these types of thoughts and also question why the adults around them didn’t realize what was happening. These are questions that not only go through a survivor’s mind but they are also questions which plague the parents or family members. The reason that victims of abuse and their parents/guardians don’t realize what was happening is because they were groomed for the abuse to occur.  

When we hear the terms grooming or sexual grooming, we often don’t understand what that is or what it entailsSexual grooming refers to the behaviors that a child molester employs in preparation for committing sexual abuse against a child. (Psychology Today, Jan 16, 2019, Article by Elizabeth Jeglic PhD). Grooming is a technique that perpetrators use to manipulate not only the child they are wanting to abuse but they are also grooming the parents and the community at large. Perpetrators that use grooming often seem to be kind, caring and charming individuals. 

There are a few stages that a perpetrator will take their victim and family through in order to do what they want:

Targeting a Victim: This is the fist step where a predator is choosing their victim. They will target their victim by examining a child’s vulnerabilities. Traits that they seek out are: children who seem to have low self-esteem/self confidence, children who are trusting and/or naïve and children with parents who are busy or not as involved.  

Gaining Access/victims trustThis is the stage where the perpetrator is looking to gain access to the child by separating them physically and emotionally from their parents/guardians. In cases where the perpetrator is a family member, they have easier access to the child and the abuse often takes place in the house with others close by. When the perpetrator is not a family member access to a child is a little more difficult so they may take trusted positions in the community such as a coach. 

Trust Development/Filling a needThis is the stage that is the most important to understand. When the perpetrators purpose is to gain the trust of their victim, their parents/guardians and the community so they can conduct the abuse without anyone noticing or being able to identify that it’s happening. The child then feels that they are special, and the child often believes that the perpetrator cares about them. (Psychology Today, Jan 16, 2019, Article by Elizabeth Jeglic PhD) 

Isolating the child: The perpetrator here is attempting to build a relationship with the child and then looking to be able to create situations where they are alone together. For example: if the parents are working, offering to babysit or take them to their soccer game.  

Desensitization to touch: This is where the perpetrator begins to sexualize the relationship. The perpetrator may start touching the child in non-sexual ways so there is some comfort that is built between the child and the perpetrator. This is often why and how the child doesn’t even realize what’s happening. 

Maintaining Control: Once the abuse begins to take place the perpetrator will use secrecy, blame, the child’s guilt and other fear tactics to maintain the child’s participation  

An art by Sophie Vandenbiggelaar(Web Cover)

Pictures from #Notmysecret art exhibition and campaign speaks out against sexual abuse and aims to create global awareness of the silence that lies behind sexual abuse.

Children often feel very entangled in the relationship with the perpetrator and don’t know how to distance themselves or end the relationship. Children are most often manipulated to believe that if they do tell someone, no one would believe them or that somehow this is their fault, or even that they deserve what’s happening to them; children continue to comply out of guilt.  

The trust of the child and the parents/guardians is typically taken, manipulated and then shattered when, or if they ever learn that their child or someone close to them was abused while they were present. This is something that is so difficult to overcome. Relationships are damaged and take years to rebuild. Instead of placing blame and heightening someone’s guilt, show love and become their ally. Help change this narrative. 

An art by Sophie Vandenbiggelaar

Nimi Chauhan (Author)

Nimi Chauhan is a mediator and a community activist. She has been working in the field of domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide for the last 18 years. Nimi has served various positions with community agencies and has served on numerous boards varying from community policing, national parole board, addictions and recovery, youth gang violence as well as political bodies. She is also the founder of Sahara Services. 

Nimi Chauhan


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