Child Sexual Abuse
Child Sexual Abuse What Is It?
Child sexual abuse is the exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of an adult or any significantly older person. It is called Incest if it occurs between family members. including mothers. fathers. sisters. brothers. grandparents. aunts. uncles. cousins. adoptive and step relations, legitimate or illegitimate children, or relatives of whole or half blood.
What Is It Not?
Child sexual abuse shouldn’t be confused with physical contacts between an adult and a child that are fond or playful expressions of love. Responsible adults limit their physical exchanges with a child, respecting the child and at the same time maintaining a warm, healthy, affectionate relationship.
What Behaviors Does It Include?
Child sexual abuse can include a wide range of activities, including non-forced offenses such as verbal stimulation, obscene phone calls, exposure, voyeurism, and showing a child pornographic pictures or films: and forcible touching offenses such as fondling, oral intercourse or attempted intercourse, vaginal or anal intercourse or attempted intercourse, and exploitation of children through prostitution and/or child pornography.
What can I do if my child is being or has been sexually abused?
Believe the child! Research has shown that children do not lie about sexual abuse. The incidence is so low as to rule out this consideration. The damage to a child if you do not believe him or her is great.
Stay Calm. Shock, anger, fear, anxiety, worry and shame are normal reactions, but an emotional reaction is upsetting to the child. Express you feelings with another adult or in private. When with the child, maintain and “in control” type manner. Calmly listen, let the child know that what has happened isn’t right, and that you will handle it.
Reassure the child. “Thank you for sharing the experience with me. You are a terrific boy/girl. I’m proud of you for telling me and I am sorry you had a bad experience with an adult. Sometimes even adults do bad things and that is not your fault. You did just the right thing by telling me.”
Seek Help. Call Children’s protective Services and your family doctor, a good therapist and/or sexual assault support center hotline 1-800-871-7741 (statewide). In 99 of 100 cases, the offender is a repeater, so reporting the incident is important.
If the child brings it up, talk about the assault. Part of recovering from any trauma is to go over it and over it. Listen to your child and understand his/her feelings. After listening, then reassure that you are glad that it is over now.
Signs of Abuse, what to look for.
Physical Signs May include:
- Stained or torn underwear
- Difficulty walking (if the child is young)
- Discomfort in the genital area (bruises, swelling, bleeding, etc.)
- Frequent headaches or stomachaches
- Sexually Transmitted diseases. (these signs may indicate problems other than sexual abuse)
Behavioral Signs May include: Initially they may respond with shock and disbelief, especially if the survivor still looks the same or there are no visible signs of attack. They may even doubt that the assault happened. This is called “Denial” and it happens after a traumatic experiences.
- Changes in behavior (mood swings, clinging or withdrawal, etc.)
- Nightmares or bed wetting
- Acting out sexually or showing knowledge or interest in sex that is not appropriate for the child’s age.
- Loss of self-respect
- Unsocial behavior
- Acting younger that he or she is
- Fears of certain places, people, or activities
- Poor schoolwork and frequent absences
- Shame about his or her body.
Scope & Statistics
1 In 3-4 girls will have been sexually abused by age 18. This figure takes into account the range of behaviors described above. (Diana Russell. 1983: David Finkelhor. 1978: Vincent De Francis. 1969)
1 in 6-10 boys will have been sexually abused by age 18. Reports of boy victims are increasing: some experts believe as many boys are abused as girls. (Terryann Nielson. 1983: National Council for Prevention of Child Abuse. 1979: Susan Sgroi. 1978)
90% of offenders are known to the child. Child sexual abuse is more frequent within families than outside families: disabled children are especially at risk of sexual abuse. especially from people they already know. (Sexual Assault Center. Seattle: National Council for Prevention of Child Abuse. 1979)
Child sexual abuse happens in all racial, religious, and ethnic groups, and at all socio-economic levels. No group is .’immune.’ from sexual abuse: the offender can be a person in any occupation. (Summit & Kryso. 1978: May, 1977)
The average age for the onset of a sexually abusive relationship is 6-8 years old. Reports of molestation of very young children are increasing: more than one-third of all child victims may be 5 years old or younger: children as young as one week old have been molested. (Sexual Assault Center. Seattle: Child Protective Services, Seattle: Department of Health and Hospitals, City of Boston, 1984 )
Child sexual abuse Is seldom a one-time occurrence. Abusive relationships last an average of’ -4 years. and many last much longer than 4 years (National Center for Prevention of Child Abuse. 1979)
At least 65-75% .of prostitutes were sexually abused as children. (Boyer & James. 1982: Enablers Study, Minneapolis. ’980: C. Henry Kempe Center. Denver)
Offenders almost never seek treatment voluntarily. Abuse will most likely continue unless a report is made. (Groth, 1979)
Children very rarely lie about being sexually abused. (Sanford. 1981: Burgess. Groth. Holmstrom & Sgroi. 1978 )
The large majority of child sexual abuse Incidents go unreported. but the reporting rate is increasing in many parts of the country. (National Center for Prevention of Child Abuse: Child Protective Services. Seattle)
Every state now has a child abuse reporting statute; Anyone can report suspected cases: certain mandated reporters must report suspected cases.
Child sexual abuse Is Illegal regardless of whether the child “consents’. or not. Consent is not an issue. The offender bears the entire responsibility for the molestation, whatever form it takes.