"The elephant in the room" is a term that refers to something that everybody sees but is afraid to talk about. We pretend that we are imagining it. Or that it will go away if we ignore it. Or we may be fearful that talking about the elephant will get it riled up. After all, no one wants to see an elephant stampede. That can be as fearsome as, well, as a druken, abusive parent. Or child. Or neighborhood bully.
"Denial" is a term that has come to epitomize our reluctance to admit that we are seeing what we think we are seeing or feeling what we would rather repress. Addicts usually deny that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol. Their loved ones often do, too. And whether it's a bottom up phenomena, or top down, society as a whole is throughly afflicted. Whatever dialogue exists, particularly between parents and kids, is obliterated by the incessant marketing for beer, liquor and alcopops that is targeted to the industry's best customers: kids and problem drinkers.