Protecting Our Children
- 1 of every 3 girls and 1 of every 5 boys will be a victim of sexual assault before the age of 18.
- As many as 40 million Americans experienced sexual victimization as children.
- In 85% of reported cases, the abuser is someone the child knows, often a relative or family friend.
- 1 in 5 rapes are under age 12; 1 in 10 are under age 5.
Child Sexual Abuse Is
Sexual contact between a child and an adult or older child in order to have power or control over the child. Although it can be violent, usually enticement and threats are involved. It may be called.
- indecent exposure
- corrupting morals
- statutory rape
Abusers can be from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. They may have been abused as children. They often feel more comfortable relating to children rather than to their peers.
They may exhibit extreme over protection of their children and over reaction to any sex education at their child’s school. They may treat children as property. They may also abuse alcohol and other drugs.
Signals that a child is being sexually abused
- Fear or dislike of certain people or places.
- Copying adult sexual behavior.
- Persistent sexual play with other children, themselves, toys or pets.
- Physical problems including pain or irritation of the mouth, genital or anal area; urinary infections or sexually transmitted diseases.
- Hints or indirect comments about the abuse.
Typically children with problems show signs of being troubled by behavior changes including:
- low self-esteem
- excessive crying
- sleep disturbances
- withdrawing from family and friends
- change in appetite
- school problems
- running away
- self-destructive behaviors
Often children don’t tell about sexual abuse because they:
- are afraid no one will believe them
- will get into trouble
- will get the abuser into trouble
- are too embarrassed to tell
- are afraid because they have been threatened
- don’t have the words to tell about their abuse
How to talk to a child who has been sexually abused
- Believe the child. Rarely do children lie about sexual abuse. You may be the only one the child thinks can give help.
- Try to remain calm. This may be difficult but shock or anger may only cause the child to withdraw.
- Praise the child for telling. Reassure the child that he or she has done the right thing and is safe with you.
- Reassure the child. Make it clear that what happened is not his or her fault.
- Listen to the child. Take the child to a private place and let the child tell you what happened in his or her own words. Give the child your full attention.
- Respect the child’s privacy. Be careful not to discuss the incidents in front of people who do not need to know what happened.
- Get help, be responsible. Report the incident, arrange a medical check-up and seek counseling.
Don’t Panic or Over React when the child talks to you about the experience. The child needs help and support to make it through this difficult time. Don’t Blame the child. Sexual Abuse is never the child’s fault!
Silence is the friend of the sex offender.
Child sexual abuse does not go away by avoiding it. It needs to be reported to your local protection agency.
Victim Assistance Network
- Women’s Coalition 773-9272
- Department of Human Services 773-2323
- Police 911
- Attorney General’s Office 773-0295
Common Feelings shared by children who have been sexually abused
- of the abuser
- of causing trouble
- of losing adults important to them
- of being taken away from home
- of being different
- at the abuser
- at the other adults around them who did not protect them
- at themselves (feeling as if they cause trouble)
- because something is wrong with me
- because they feel they’re alone in their experience
- because they have trouble talking about the abuse
- about having something taken from them
- about losing a part of themselves
- about growing up too fast
- about being betrayed by someone they trusted
- for being “bad”
- for not being able to stop the abuse
- for “telling” — if they told
- for keeping the secret if they did not tell
- about being a part of the experience
- about their bodies’ response to the abuse