Defined: The American Medical Association defines child sexual abuse as "the engagement of a child in sexual activities for which the child is developmentally unprepared and cannot give informed consented Child sexual abuse is characterized by deception, force or coercion.
What is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse is when a person inappropriately touches, fondles or caresses the genital areas. This includes passionately kissing, oral sex, and penetration of the anus, vagina or mouth through penile penetration.
Who are the abusers?
Some reports estimate that 96% of all children and infants who are sexually abused knew their attacker in some sort of way. The abuser could be a family member, friend or relative.
According to American Academy of Child and Adolescence (2010)
“A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal.”
More symptoms of sexual abuse in children:
- unusual interest in or avoidance of all things of a sexual nature
- sleep problems or nightmares
- depression or withdrawal from friends or family
- statements that their bodies are dirty or damaged, or fear that there is something wrong with them in the genital area
- refusal to go to school
- delinquency/conduct problems
- aspects of sexual molestation in drawings, games, fantasies
- unusual aggressiveness, or
- suicidal behavior
What to do
When an open conversation starts at a younger age between an adult and child, it will allow a conversation about potential sexual abuse to occur easier then when trying to start a conversation that has never happened in the past, out of fear that your child has been abused.
Start by talking to your child about respecting her body. It is important that a child creates a sense of ownership that she knows her body is hers, and it is not for anyone to touch or play with. Make sure your child understands what inappropriate touching is and start an open dialogue about what inappropriate touch and appropriate touch looks like. A parent can teach self-respect and appropriate touch by encourage their child to wash themselves, pick out their own clothes, and NEVER force them to hug or kiss anyone they do not want to including family members. Every child is different, and it is important that she creates boundaries that are appropriate for her.
It is important that an open communication line is available between child and caregiver. Make sure a child knows:
- They do not have to obey everything an adult tells them to do especially if that adult is taking advantage of them.
- It is also important that if a child is ever touched inappropriately and told by the perpetrator to never tell, that know immediately that they should tell
- It is also important that a child knows their safety comes first, in other words, if anyone ever threatens to harm their family in any way they need to tell someone
After reading this, if it is clear that someone in your life has been sexually abused, it is important to get help immediately by contacting:
- The Police
- Child’s Pediatrician
- Child Protective Services
- Mental Health Therapist
Anyone of these individuals can help a child who has experienced sexual abuse get the help they need.
This is a serious topic if you have any questions about this issue please feel free to leave a comment.
We are always willing to help. Contact our office if you would like to talk to one of our therapists in person. Our number is 616-929-0226.