What Is Child Sexual Abuse?
The Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN) defines child sexual abuse as a perpetrator engaging sexually with a minor. If an adult engages in any sexual touching or non-touching behavior (looking, showing, or touching) with a child to meet the adult’s interest or sexual needs, it is sexual abuse.
Recognizing Child Sexual Abuse
It’s not just about understanding – It’s about having the conversation.
It’s not always easy to spot a child who is being sexually abused. Most of the perpetrators are a part of the child’s everyday life. There are signs we need to share with our children, but the most important takeaway is that if you are not willing to have a conversation with your child about what they are, you may not see it coming or may not ever stop it from happening.
The Conversation That is Never Had
It’s better to hear from a child that someone said something inappropriate to them or that someone is making them feel uncomfortable than to find a bruise on their body after the fact
Recognize The Signs
RAINN gives us a clear picture of the examples of Physical and Behavioral Signs of Child sexual abuse. Here are some of the examples they give. Behavioral Signs: Changes in hygiene, such as refusing to bathe or bathing excessively, Inappropriate sexual knowledge, Nightmares or bedwetting, Returns to regressive behavior, such as thumb sucking Self-harm Physical Signs: Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes Difficulty walking or sitting Frequent urinary or yeast infections Pain, itching, or burning in genital area Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in the genital area
The Conversation Behind Closed Doors
Children who are not taught to have open conversations about sexual abuse are often being told to keep quiet about the secrets happening behind closed doors
What Does a Perpetrator Look Like
Perpetrators come in all shapes and sizes. They are disguised as family, friends, and trusted individuals in the child’s life such as the church pastor or the coach of the child’s team. Many of these perpetrators have established a relationship with the child and their family, so the child believes that whatever they are doing and saying is trustworthy. When a child experiences sexual abuse, even though they do not like it and feel it is wrong, there is a part of them that feels like it must be right because an adult is telling them it is okay. Some perpetrators use gifts and emotional bonds to keep children quiet. Others use threats or even place the blame on the child twisting the truth to make the child believe they themselves will be in trouble if someone finds out.
The Conversation That Can Save a Life
Understanding what can happen, what does happen, why it’s okay to say “No”, and why it’s important to tell someone, are what a child needs to be able to protect themselves.
Why Aren’t We Talking About It?
“I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know how.” Too often this is the response of someone who has never really had a conversation about sexual abuse. Society was built on not talking about things that are or seem inappropriate and sheltering children from hearing such things. As progressive as our world has become, we still feel that sheltering is protecting lives when sheltering is actually destroying lives. Unfortunately, with something like this, the only person that can truly protect a child is the child itself. Unless they know it’s okay to speak up, no one can help them. The conversations we have today with our children about sexual abuse can alter their entire existence.