A threat to our children
What is child sexual abuse? - It is sexual activity with a child by a family member or other caretaker. Sexual abuse can be:
- Fondling or any kind of inappropriate touching.
- Rape or attempted rape.
- Using a child to create pornography.
- Indecent exposure.
- Plain talk about sex designed to shock the child or spark his curiosity.
- Allowing the child to watch or hear sexual acts or materials.
A child may be sexually abused by:
- Parents or foster parents.
- An older brother or sister.
- Other relatives.
- A baby sitter.
- Teachers or other school staff.
- Residential or day-care staff.
- Youth activity leaders.
Incidents or abuse may occur just once or be repeated many times over several years.
Why learn about child sexual abuse? - Because it is more common than many people think, and its effects can be devastating. Child sexual abuse hurts:
Victims of sexual abuse may be girls or boys of any age. The abuse can cause serious and long-lasting psychological harm.
Family and friends of the victim
Learning that a loved one has been sexually abused can be very painful. If friends or family members are involved in the abuse, they may be covering up the problem and feeling guilty.
Sexual abuse may lead to shattered families, crime and other problems.
Sexual abusers don't look different than anyone else.
Abusers come from every kind of community. The reasons people abuse are complex and the causes of sexual abuse vary from person to person. Abuse is often the result of emotional problems. People with low self-esteem or a need to control may sexually abuse a child in order to feel powerful and in control. Parents with sexual problems may turn to their children to meet their needs. Abuse may start as an impulse. At first it may be a response to a stressful event or situation. But it can develop into a pattern that involves serious sexual disorders.
- They can be male or female.
- Most abusers are men, but women may abuse children as well.
- They can be young or old.
- Abusers come from all age groups. Some abusers may not be much older than the victim.
- They can be of any race or income level. Abuse is a problem among the rich and poor of all skin colors.
- They can be from the city, suburbs or country.
Alcohol or other drugs may play a part, the use of alcohol or other drugs can reduce self-control, making child sexual abuse more likely. There may be a history of abuse, Many abusers were themselves abused as children. The pattern of abuse can be passed from one generation to the next.
HOW ABUSE HAPPENS
The abuser may try to control the victim by various means, including:
Afterwards, the abuser may make the child promise not to tell.
The effects of sexual abuse on a child can be serious and long-lasting.
- Emotional or Psychological harm.
- Physical harm.
- Feelings of guilt.
- A loss of trust.
- Self-destructive behavior.
- A loss of self-esteem.
- Sexual problems.
Help prevent child sexual abuse
Be sure to:
Teach children what to do if approached or abused. Tell them to:
- Discuss sexuality.
- Teach your children to say no.
- Be alert for clues.
- Listen carefully.
- Let children know they can speak openly.
- Seek help if you or your partner is having difficulty meeting each other's sexual needs.
- Get away.
- Say no.
- Run for help.
- Tell an adult.
- Realize they are not guilty.
If you think a child has been sexually abused, here is how you can help:
- Control your emotions.
- Give emotional support.
- Don't deny the problem.
- Get information.
- Get medical assistance.
- Contact the appropriate social agency.
What you can do about sexual abuse:
As a parent:
- Know where your children are, who they are with and what they are doing.
- Ask children what happens when they are alone with babysitters, friends, etc.
- Encourage your children to talk about any problems or questions they have.
As a member of the community:
- Support efforts of social agencies and police to deal with the problem.
- Encourage treatment for the child and abuser.
- Support children's rights to accurate information about sexual abuse.
You can help protect children from sexual abuse:
Find out about the causes, extent and effects of sexual abuse.
Teach children about sexual abuse and how to take precautions.
Be alert for signs of sexual abuse in children you know.
Give emotional support to a child who has been sexually abused.
Give your support to programs that are working to prevent abuse.
KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE FROM SEXUAL ABUSE IS EVERYONE'S RESPONSIBILITY.
Excerpts from the 1995 Channl L. Bete Co., booklet: Sexual Abuse - A threat to our children.
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