Childhood Sexual Abuse
TW Sexual Assault, Child Sexual Abuse, Rape, Related Symptoms
Child Sexual Abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activities with a minor but does not have to be physical. Some forms of sexual abuse include:
- Exposing oneself to a minor
- Masturbation in front of a child or forcing the child to masturbate in front of them
- Obscene phone calls, texts, or messages
- Sex of any kind, including vaginal, oral, or anal
- Sex trafficking
- Any other sexual acts that are harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical health
In as many as 93% of sexual abuse cases, minors under the age of 18 know the offender. The offender does not have to be an adult to abuse a child. The perpetrator can be anyone including:
- An older sibling
- A playmate
- A family member
- A teacher
- A coach
- A caretaker
- Or the family member of another child
Abusers can manipulate the victim into staying quiet and not say anything. The tactics they use are fear, guilt, the abuser’s position of power andeven threats to hurt the family or child so they will not say anything.
There are often physical and emotional warning signs that come with a child being sexually abused. Some of the physical signs to look for are:
- Bleeding, bruising , or swelling in the genital area
- Bloody or stained underwear or underclothes
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Frequent Urinary or bladder infections
- Pain, itching, or burning in the genital area
Some of the emotional signs to look for are:
- Changes in hygiene, such as not wanting to bathe or bathing excessively
- Develops Phobias
- Exhibits signs of depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Expresses suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents and teens
- Has trouble in school, such as a drop in grades, or skipping school
- Inappropriate knowledge of sexual behaviors
- Nightmares or bed-wetting
- Overly protective of siblings or taking on a caregiver role
- Returning to regressive behaviors such as thumb sucking
- Runs away from home or school
- Shrinks away from authority
- Gets uncomfortable with any physical contact, such as hugging.
So what do you do if you suspect a child is being sexually abused? The first thing to do is look for the warning signs that I listed above. If you see any of this behavior the first thing to do is talk to the child. Here are some tips to talk to a child:
- Pick your time and place carefully. Make sure the conversation happens where the child feels comfortable and is not around anybody who could be causing the abuse.
- Be aware of your tone: Do not start off the conversation in a serious tone, it can make the child feel worried or anxious. Make the conversation more casual so the child will feel more at ease and tell you the truth.
- Listen and Follow up. Allow the child to take their time and take breaks. Follow up on anything that may have concerned you that they said.
- Avoid Judgement and Blame. Start with “I” statements and sentences. Instead of saying,“You said something that made me worry,” trying saying, “I am concerned because I heard you say something and I wanted to make sure you are okay.”
- Reassure the child. Let them know they are not in trouble and that your main priority is their safety.
- Be Patient. Understand that they are processing what they are going through and trying to make sense of it all.
If anything seems out of the ordinary or the child admits to sexual abuse going on, there are several things you can do to help such as:
- Call 911 immediately to report the abuse.
- Contact Child Protective Services
- Find a Therapist in your area specializing in sexual abuse cases
- Use an anonymous helpline to figure out what to do next.
I have my own story of childhood sexual abuse that I would like to share. This happened to me when I was 5 years old and in the school bathroom. At my school, they had an afterschool program where kids from other schools could come and wait for their parents to pick them up. To use the bathroom, you had to bring another child with you. I was always a quiet child and played by myself a lot. One day this older kid was watching me and asked if I wanted to play checkers with him. I was excited and happy to have someone to play with.
As the game went on, he made some remarks and said we should go into the bathroom together. I was terrified but I still went ahead with it and he took me into the girls’ bathroom. Once we were in the stalls alone, he was saying things like, “I will show you mine if you show me yours.” and saying he would buy me things to keep me quiet about what happened. I honestly don’t remember much after that, but I remember feeling ashamed, confused, and scared.
The worst part of it was that I never saw the kid again. I also never told my parents about it. They both worked full-time jobs and never really noticed I was acting different and withdrawn. I really wish they had paid attention. I am slowly still getting over it and working with therapists on getting the help I need. It is never too late to tell your story or get the help that you need. Please help us keep kids safe. Pay attention! And never stop supporting or loving a child!