Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to examine adult survivors' of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) retrospective reflections on their motives for not disclosing their abuse. The aim was to identify factors that might facilitate early disclosure in order to both enhance the future safety of young people who have experienced sexual victimisation and to offer a means of reducing the numbers of future victims. Design/methodology/approach - This was a retrospective web-based, mixed-methods survey which was completed by 183 adult survivors of CSA. The data presented here is in relation to answers offered in response to an open-ended question which were thematically analysed. Findings - In all, 75 per cent of the survivors of CSA indicated that they had not told anyone of the abuse whilst they were a child. Analysis of the responses revealed five barriers to disclosure which included: A lack of opportunity, normality/ambiguity of the situation, embarrassment, concern for others and a sense of hopelessness. Additionally, some respondents highlighted implicit attempts to disclose and others reported later regret over non-disclosure. Practical implications - A timely disclosure of CSA, which is appropriately responded to, has the potential to reduce the risk for subsequent sexual exploitation/revictimisation, and to foreshorten the predations of offenders. To achieve this, responsible and trusted adults in the lives of children need to learn how to invite a genuine disclosure of CSA. Originality/value - This paper offers practical suggestions for parents and teachers on what signs indicate that an invitation might be warranted and for creating the right context for their invitation to be accepted.