Child Sexual Abuse: What It Is and How to Prevent It
Sexual abuse of children is a grim fact of life in our society. It is more common than most people realize. Some surveys say that at least 1 out of 5 women and 1 out of 10 men recall sexual abuse in childhood.
Parents need not feel helpless about the problem. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides the following information to help prevent child sexual abuse.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
It is any sexual act with a child that is performed by an adult or an older child. Such acts include fondling the child's genitals, getting the child to fondle an adult's genitals, mouth to genital contact, rubbing an adult's genitals on the child, or actually penetrating the child's vagina or anus.
Other, often overlooked, forms of abuse occur. These include an adult showing his or her genitals to a child, showing the child obscene pictures or videotapes, or using the child to make obscene materials.
Could My Child Be Sexually Abused? By Whom?
Boys and girls are most often abused by adults or older children whom they know and who can control them. The offender is known by the victim in 8 out of 10 reported cases. The offender is often an authority figure whom the child trusts or loves. Almost always the child is convinced to engage in sex by means of persuasion, bribes or threats.
How Would I know if my Child is Being Sexually Abused?
You hope that if your child is abused, the child will tell you or someone else about the abuse. Yet, children who are being abused often have been convinced by the abuser that they must not tell anyone about it. A child's first statements about abuse may be sketchy and incomplete. He may only hint about the problem. Some abused children may tell friends about the abuse. A child who is told about or sees abuse in another child may tell an adult.
Parents need to be aware of behavioral changes that may signal this problem. The following symptoms may suggest sexual abuse:
- striking, exceptional fear of a person or certain places,
- an uncalled-for response from a child when the child is asked if he has been touched by someone,
- unreasonable fear of a physical exam,
- drawings that are scary or use a lot of black and red,
- abrupt change in conduct of any sort,
- sudden awareness of genitals and sexual acts and words, and
- attempts to get other children to perform sexual acts.
Physical signs of abuse include sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea or herpes. In an exam, a doctor may notice genital or anal changes indicative of abuse.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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