Barbara Prupas, PsyD., MFT
In an average sized classroom of 30 students, six to eight of the students will be victims of child sexual abuse before their high school graduation. Yet, the majority (nine out of 10 students) will not report the abuse to anyone. What’s even more frightening is the students will typically know and trust their abuser.
These are the most common child sexual abuse offenses
- Sexual assault- an adult or adolescent touches a minor for sexual gratification
- Sexual exploitation- an adult or adolescent victimizes a minor for advancement, sexual gratification or profit (trafficking child pornography)
- Sexual grooming- social conduct of a potential child sex offender who seeks to make a minor more accepting of their advances (contacting a child in an online chat room)
Four important tips to protect your child from sexual abuse
Talk often with your child and set a tone of openness. Sexuality is a process that develops over a lifetime. Talking about health and sexuality should be an ongoing process from toddlerhood to adulthood not just a one-time conversation.
- Teach children the correct names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express their concerns about their bodies. Teach your child about boundaries as the opportunity arises (genitals belong only to them and they are off limits to others except as needed for health and hygiene).
- Teach the different kinds of touches: A healthy touch – quick hug or kiss on the cheek from a loved one
- A confusing touch – aggressive tickling, brushing up against parts of your body
- A bad touch – fondling genitals or forcing sexual touching/intercourse
Your child should know that s/he has the right say “no” even to adults. If your child is uncomfortable or has a “funny feeling” teach them to trust their instincts and leave the situation without a need to give an explanation.
Implement family rules about Internet and television use. Use Internet safety protocols and parental controls through platforms such as the Google Family Safety Center. Work with older children to set guidelines for who they can talk to online, and what information can be shared.
Most children never tell of their sexual abuse. They are often fearful harm will come to them or their family. Many adults tend to overlook, to minimize, to explain away, or to disbelieve allegations of abuse. This may be particularly true if the perpetrator is a family member.
Not disclosing sexual abuse adds to the trauma for the child and it has repercussions that may last a lifetime. The child will most certainly feel guilt, shame, self-blame. Sexually abused children struggle with anxiety, fear, and issues of trust, safety and self-esteem.
Predators thrive on silence. Silence gives permission for the victimization to continue. The best way to stop sexual abuse is to talk about it.
For more information on child abuse prevention:
Stop It Now http://www.stopitnow.org/
Stop the Silence http://www.stopcsa.org
Darkness to Light: www.d2l.org