One of the story panels from the Finding Voice project tells a survivor story with the line, “The word ‘secret’ makes my blood run cold.”  Abusers frequently make secret keeping one of the ways they ensnare a child in the abuse.  “This is our little secret.”  “I have brought you this little surprise treat now don’t tell anyone.  This is just between me and you.”  Threats may be part of the secrets as well, “If other people know about this secret they will take you away from your mommy.”  “No one will believe you if you tell this secret.  It will be your fault.”

A call to action:  This tip is from Stop It Now!  Explain to the adults and children you know about the difference between a secret and a surprise and show them how secrets may make kids unsafe. Surprises are joyful and generate excitement in anticipation of being revealed after a short period of time.  Secrets exclude others, often because the information will create upset or anger.

And I will add, avoid using the word ‘secret’ with children.  If a child is involved in a surprise birthday party, make your language about the surprise and not the secret.   Ask your child or grandchild if anyone has asked them to keep a secret and make it OK for them to tell you if someone does.