Child Sexual Abuse – The most important conversation most people will never have.
April is National Child Abuse Awareness month. So I feel compelled to address this topic, though truth be told, I have almost talked myself out of this post over two months now. So why is this a difficult post for me? Well the answer is simple; I myself am a survivor of child sexual abuse.
Being a victim of such an ugly crime makes an already difficult subject nearly impossible to confront. Yet, after much internal debate, here we are. This is something that I’ve not told many people. EVER. As a matter of fact, many of my loved ones will find out about this through this post. My reasoning for coming forward and taking a step to share what I’ve been through, is to further drive my point, that while some secrets shouldn’t be kept… they’re much more difficult to reveal than many people realize.
Being older now, wiser, more intellectually and emotionally developed, you would think that revealing my secret would be easier. But it’s not. Even though I now understand that nothing that happened to me was my fault, having that knowledge doesn’t bring the peace that some people might think it would. There still exists a great deal of shame and fear. Shame that I did nothing to earn. Fear of what people may think. Fear that my family will blame themselves, though they too did nothing to create my fate. My hope is that through sharing my story and my perspective I can pass on just a little bit of bravery and courage to parents and children alike as you approach this very difficult topic.
What is CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE??
I know what you’re thinking… Why do we even have to ask this question? Surely, people know that certain actions against a child are wrong?! Well, if my career in law enforcement has taught me anything, it’s that assuming anything only creates trouble. I can’t even tell you how many times people have “justified” their crimes by claiming ignorance. So here it is: Any kind of treatment with a child, whereby the child is used as a mere object for sexual stimulation of the abuser or an observer can be termed as Child Sexual Abuse. It includes- touching behaviors such as touching the vagina, penis, buttocks, or breasts, sexual intercourse, or oral-genital contact, and non-touching behaviors such as voyeurism, exposing the child to adult stuff, or exhibitionism.
Some statistics that will bring mankind to shame-
As with all statistical data, reports vary. In my video above, I chose what I feel to be a very realistic estimate of child abuse numbers, reported by The Advocacy Center. Some more conservative numbers, though not far off, include:
- One out of every five girls and one out of every eight boys is a victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18 years old. (According to a study by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center)
- Over 75% of all abusers are people that have actually developed a relationship with the child, and that the child developed a relationship with, meaning that the child trusts and many cases loves that person. (2003 National Institute of Justice report)
What do these statistics show?
Very often, the abuser is somehow involved with the child’s life and knows the child well. It can be a family member, a close family friend, or somebody they know from some civic organization. That is why, in most cases child abuse doesn’t take place by being physically violent, rather it takes place through deception, threats, or maybe as a part of some game. People usually warn their children to stay away from strangers, but now, the time demands that children learn about the ‘Good Touch’ and the ‘Bad Touch’, and stay away from anybody that falls in the latter category.
Children are unable to convey such things easily if you are not very open to them. They may not like the wrong-doing, but often care about the abuser and don’t want to put that person in trouble. Sometimes they may not understand what is done to them, while at other times the reason of staying silent may be some kind of threat. In addition, children tend to believe that the sexual abuse they were subjected to is their own fault, and prefer not to disclose it due to fear of getting punished.
What’s the real cost?
Survivors of child sexual abuse or maltreatment are more vulnerable to relationship problems, emotional trauma and physical issues throughout their childhood and adulthood. They often experience continued periods of stress in reaction to the abuse. Also, in some cases there might be physical injuries, which the child has to cope up with through the rest of his/her life.
What should you do about it?
So, now, as we know that a child is most likely to keep it a secret, as a guardian it becomes your duty to find what’s going on with the child. Look for symptoms such as sleeping difficulties, outbursts of anger, withdrawn behavior, depression, fear of being left alone with some specific people and display of sexual knowledge, or abusive language that is inappropriate for the child of that age and talk through it with your child. Though it might get very uncomfortable for you and your child to talk about it, but it is really necessary that you do. You may take help from some books like Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept which help you approach critical topics in a right and gentle way to your child. Your child’s future life depends on it, and you can only prevent it by encouraging open communication about such matters.
To prevent such mishaps, every guardian should also teach their children about healthy body boundaries and bad kind of touches. It is important to let the children know, that nobody has the right to abuse them or to force them into something. Let them know that it is their body and they can make decisions about it.