Great strides continue to be made in the field of child sexual abuse education, prevention, intervention, and therapy, but, like resistant infections, sexual predators, evolve, adjust, and adapt. Abusers do everything in their power to stay one step ahead of trained professionals, loving parents, and unsuspecting children. And they are relentless. The statistics are alarming. One in Six boys by age 14 and One in Four girls by age 16 will be abused. The average offender violates as many as 200 children in his/her lifetime. And as long a child remains silent, the abuse will continue, and the life-altering wounds will multiply. So, in order to keep your child safe or get your child to safety, parents and trusting adults must have a clear understanding of what sexual abuse is and they must know what to do if abuse is suspected.
What is Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse happens anytime a child is asked, tricked, or forced by someone who is bigger, stronger, or older, or by someone who has some power over him/her. The abuser will want the child to do “secret” non-touching or “secret” touching activities that involve the child’s private parts, the abuser’s private parts, or the private parts of someone else.
The child will often feel the urge to tell, but he or she knows it’s a secret – not a fun secret that makes him/her happy and excited to keep. It’s a scary secret, one the child is afraid to tell, one that gives the child that funny feeling, like butterflies, in his or her stomach.
And although most people automatically think of abuse as “touching”, which it is, there are also “non-touching” forms of sexual abuse, too.
Non-Touching Sexual Abuse
Non-touching behavior occurs anytime someone shows a child movies, pictures or Internet sites with pornography. It also happens if someone exposes his/her private body parts to a child.
Non-touching behaviors also occur if someone asks a child to pose for a picture without clothes or in a sexual way that makes a child feel uncomfortable, or if someone takes a child’s picture while he or she is doing something sexual or using the bathroom. The abuser might encourage the child to watch or listen to people who are engaging in sexual acts. Or an abuser might want to watch the child undress or bathe.
Sexual harassment is also a form of sexual abuse. Someone might tease a child or cause the child to have uncomfortable feelings about his/her body or certain clothes, or the abuser might call a child bad names like ho, slut, bitch, or fag. The child might be scared to tell on the bully, or the child might want the abuser to think he or she can “take it.”
Touching Sexual Abuse
Sexually abusive touching behaviors happen when someone touches the private parts of a child’s body, over or under his/her clothes or makes the child touch their body. It also happens if an abuser put any part of his/her body on or in any part of a child’s body. The abuser might use their fingers, tongue or their private parts. Another form of touching sexual abuse occurs if someone puts any foreign object into a child’s body, like soap or the handle of a hairbrush, or crayons.
And any time someone is forced to have sexual intercourse, whether the person is an acquaintance or not, even if it was a consensual date, that’s rape. Rape also happens if the ability to say “NO” has been taken away because a person is unconscious or drugged. If a Date Rape Drug is slipped into a drink, that person will not know what’s happening. He or she will not be able to protect him/herself, and will not be able to say “NO” to unwanted sexual advances. That’s rape.
If you are Unsure or If You Suspect Abuse:
Keep calm. Never panic or overreact.
Believe the child. Never doubt the child.
Reassure the child. Never blame the child.
Listen to and answer the child’s questions honestly.
Never pressure the child to talk or avoid talking about the abuse.
Respect the child’s privacy. Never discuss the abuse in front of unnecessary people.
Never confront the offender.
Report the abuse immediately.