In this, the early 21st-century, it is difficult to believe that innocent children are sexually abused. Studies have shown an estimated 39 million people in the United States are survivors of sexual abuse. This staggering figure does not include cases not reported to such agencies as Child Protective Services, law enforcement agencies, or local rape advocacy centers.
This article will help you identify the signs and symptoms of child abuse. Trust your instincts, you know your child better than anyone-else does. You should immediately report any suspicions or concerns to your county Child Protective Service (CPS), State Police, or local rape advocacy center.
Often, pedophilia is a behavior committed by an older person for the purposes of power and control over a younger individual. An abuser can introduce a child to deviant sexual activity in a variety of ways including: exhibitionism, voyeurism, taking and distributing pornographic pictures, inappropriate touching/fondling of the genitals, masturbation, making a child touch another child’s genitals, and rape.
The effects of child abuse are long term. A mother (who has been abused as a child) is less likely to protect her daughter from abuse. A majority of sexually abused children will develop at least one psychological disorder when they become adults. Adult survivors tend to cement their belief that they are, “whores” by engaging in sexual promiscuity or even black mailing their assailant for rewards in return for secrecy.
Teach your children that respect is earned, and that blind obedience is not right. 75% of sexually abused children have been abused by someone they know. If your child refuses to be alone with an individual, take it seriously.
Child abuse victims become experts at hiding the abuse. The child may simply be afraid of being judged, or he/she is intimidated by their attacker. It is imperative that parents be alert for any unexplained injuries such as bruises, cuts, or rashes on their child’s body. Pain, itching, swelling, or discharge of the genitals are definite signs of abuse. There are instances where there will be no visible signs of abuse, this is why it is very important that you maintain an, “open-door” policy with your child. Listen to your child and ask for their opinion. Trust your child, and your child will trust you!
An unmistakable sign of abuse is when the child begins to act out sexually. Young children may re-enact the molestation (with dolls, barbies, etc.) during playtime. A child (who has been sexually abused) often believes that the only way to be loved is through sex. Therefore, the child (age 12-17) could become promiscuous, an exhibitionist, or involved in prostitution. Sadly, this behavior often leads to aggression, anger, and resentment.
Teach your children the proper names of their body parts. This will allow for the child to effectively communicate (suspicions of abuse) to you. Impress on your child a sense of ownership of their own body. You can do this by allowing them to wash their intimate parts in their own way. Let them choose their own clothes they want to wear each day. A child who is aware that his/her body is their own, will know if someone has treated them with disrespect. Every parent should teach their children to, “say no” to anything that – feels funny or seems wrong – and inform them to report the incident to a respected adult immediately.
Discuss the consequences of violence in today’s society with your children. A child familiar with the world will be able to recognize suspicious situations. It is difficult to subject our children to viewing this violence, but they will have a better chance of preventing it from happening to them. The old adage states, “First defense against evil – Open your eyes.”
The following agencies are available to provide you with additional help:
- Rape,Abuse, & Incest National Network: 1-800-656-HOPE(4673)
- National DomesticViolence Hot line: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Childhelp National Child Abuse Hot line :1-800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453)