As promised back in September, I am posting some additional information on child sexual abuse. I actually gave a speech today in my Toastmasters Club on the topic so here is the information I prepared for that.
Here are some statistics that I got from the Darkness To Light website:
- Before age 18 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused
- There are 39 million survivors of sexual abuse in the United States
- 90% of sexually abused children are victimized by people they know
- 40% of sexual abuse cases have a perpetrator who is an older or larger child
- The median age of sexual abuse is 9 years old
- 70 to 80% of abused children have substance abuse problems as they get older
- 50% of abused boys have suicidal thoughts
- 60% of teen pregnancies are preceded by sexual abuse
A frightening statistic that I got from the website Keep Your Child Safe says that 1 in 20 adults have pedophile tendencies!
Now that I have scared the "you know what" out of you, how can we prevent child sexual abuse. Prevention is made difficult by the following factors: 80% of sexual abuse occurs in one-on-one situations and since parents think they can identify a perpetrator they don't worry about leaving their child alone with a "trusted" adult. Also, most children are naive about sex and sexual boundaries because their parents are uncomfortable talking about it. Parents also assume their child will tell them if they are abused.
Most importantly AVOID ONE-ON-ONE SITUATIONS WITH A CHILD!! Forgive the "screaming" but it is so simple that I had to emphasize the point. Don't be alone with a child and don't leave your child alone with any adult. When a one-on-one situation can not be avoided (the Darkness to Light website indicates that normal one-on-one time is good for a child's self esteem) make sure that some basic rules are followed.
- Get specifics about the plans
- Public places are best
- Drop in unexpectedly
- Notice your child’s behavior and response to questions when they return
- Announce that you and your child are educated about sexual abuse
Don't fall victim to the common misconception of a perpetrator who is the sulking man in a trench coat in the park. Sexual Abuse Perpetrators look and act “normal” and they very careful “groom” children for abuse. "Grooming" includes gaining the trust of parents and exposing the child to inappropriate talk and behavior slowly so that suspicions are not raised. Some parents worry that talking to their children about sex will take away their innocence. When handled appropriately talk about sex makes the child comfortable with their bodies and encourages them to continue talking with their parents. Most importantly it allows parents to teach their children sexual boundaries so that a perpetrator can not exploit the child's naivity. Children need to be told that abusers may be people he/she knows.
The misconception parents have that their children will tell them if they are abused, couldn't be more wrong. Children are more likely to tell a trusted adult other than a parent. Perpetrators of abuse use many tactics to ensure the child doesn’t tell. They threaten the child and his/her family. They tell the child it is their fault and how disappointed everyone will be if they knew. They will also tell the child that there is nothing wrong with the abuse, it is just a game. It's no wonder that when children do tell someone of the abuse they only share limited information to gauge the reaction.
Because of the child's hesitancy it is important how you react. It is critical that you remain observant of your child's behavior. Notice different or inappropriate behavior in your child and explore the reason why he/she is exhibiting this behavior. It is critical that you remain calm and objective. If the child senses that you are agitated, emotional or angry they will shut down. Children have a tendency to blame themselves and they don't want to make trouble. This is why the negative emotions can be scary for the child even if those emotions are not directed at the child. Ask open-ended questions of the child in a non-threatening way. Remember that only 1 to 4% of all reported sexual abuse cases are based on false accusations. So, your child is telling the truth make sure you acknowledge that because he/she needs your support.
Report any incidents of abuse and act on suspicions. The Darkness to Light website provided many resources for reporting abuse, getting assistance for abused children and even just to ask questions or help evaluating suspicions. Just one of those numbers is the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453
The statistics indicate that sexual abuse among children is of epidemic proportions. It is so important that we do all we can to stop this tragedy. Support organizations which work to prevent child abuse and support victims. One of the most valuable things that you can do is talk about the problem. If everyone got over their fears and discomfort regarding this subject many of the misconceptions wouldn't exist. The more educated people are the less likely they will be to leave an opporutnity for their child to be sexually abused.