Your child is vulnerable to sexual abuse. To protect your child you
must first acknowledge the possibility that someone may hurt or take
advantage of your child. As many as one out of every four children will
be a victim of sexual abuse. Children of all ages are victimized and most
all of these children will be abused by someone they know and trust:
a relative, family friend, older child or caregiver.
Sexual abuse may be physical, verbal or emotional and includes:
sexual touching and fondling
sexual intercourse and oral sexual behaviors
exposure to adult sexual activity or pornography
causing a child to pose, undress or perform in a sexual fashion
for self, others or in order to photograph or video record
making a child engage in sexually explicit conversations over
the telephone or into a recorder
engaging a child in sexually explicit conversations in internet chat rooms
Sexual abuse involves pressuring, enticing or forcing a child into
sexual awareness or activity. Sexual abuse also happens between children where
older children prey on younger. Whether by adult or child, the abuse
often begins gradually and increases over time.
The use of physical force is rarely necessary. Children are trusting
and dependent. They want to please others and gain love and approval.
Children are taught not to question authority and they believe adults are
always right. Molesters know this and take advantage of these
vulnerabilities in children. Sexual abuse is an abuse of power over someone
Many children cannot or do not tell about being sexually
abused. Physical evidence of abuse is rare. Therefore, we look
for behavior signs. Unfortunately, there is no one behavior alone,
nor a combination of behaviors that definitely determines a child has
been sexually abused.
The following are general behavior changes that may occur in
children who have been sexually abused:
Sexual activity or pregnancy at an early age
Fear or dislike of certain people or places
Hostility or aggression
Withdrawal from family, friends, or usual activities
Often children do not tell anyone about sexual abuse because they:
are too young to describe their experience
were threatened or bribed into keeping the abuse to themself
may be afraid of being punished for doing something wrong.
feel confused by conflicting feelings, positive and negative, about the abuser and the abuse
may be afraid of rejection, either by the parent or, in some
cases, by the offender.
fear no one will believe them because they would be telling on an adult
may be afraid of the negative reactions from friends and/or other
blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being "bad"
may fear that people will treat her differently if they know
about the abuse.
feel too ashamed or embarrassed to tell
worry about getting into trouble or getting a loved one into trouble
may be afraid of upsetting his parents and/or breaking up the
may be afraid of being sent or taken away.
The child's silence enables sexual abuse to continue, protecting the molester.
Disclosure is an extremely difficult, often fearful experience. Your understanding
and loving support can help the child stop the abuse.
Protecting children from sexual abuse is a difficult task. Supervision and education are most important. Children are
seduced and abused just out of sight of unwary caregivers. Others are seduced over the computer monitor within the child's own room.
We can't always be there to protect them, but we can teach children
about ways to protect themselves. We should start early and provide them with safety
information at each stage of their development. The following guidelines offer age-appropriate topics to discuss
with your children:
18 months - Teach your child the proper names for body
3-5 years - Teach your child about private parts of the body
and how to say no to ANYONE wanting to see or touch these parts.
Give straight-forward answers about sex.
5-8 years - Discuss safety at and away from home. Teach the difference
between good touch and bad touch. Begin teaching about internet safety. Encourage your child to
talk about uncomfortable or scary experiences. Give straight-forward answers about sex.
8-10 years - Stress personal safety. Remember, children this age are
curious about various sexual activities. Oversee internet activities. Start to discuss rules
of sexual conduct that are accepted by the family before your children learn other values. Give straight-forward answers about sex.
11-18 years - Continue personal safety discussions. Include coversations about rape, date
rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy. Give straight-forward answers about sex.
The teen years are particularly difficult for families. These are years when children begin to explore adult activities and adult relationships, often without guidance from adults. Young people encounter pressures to engage in activities but do not know how to effectively say "No". They, particularly boys, have not learned to listen with their ears. Some young people also have difficulty accepting responsibility for their involvement in sexual activity and afterwards blame the other participant. Exploring adult relationships can leave both young people traumatized, one feeling violated, the other betrayed. Parenting under these conditions is like walking through a minefield.
Responsible parents routinely instruct their children about personal hygene and safety
issues until those children leave home. Along with those conversations, they need to provide age-
appropriate information related to sexual matters and personal privacy. Although even the best educated child cannot always
avoid sexual abuse, children who are well prepared will be more
likely to tell you if abuse has occurred. Again, in order to protect children,
to feel good about themselves; let them know they are loved
that their bodies' private areas are places nobody has the right
to touch, hurt, or see
the difference between safe and unsafe touches
that personal privacy rules apply to all persons, not just strangers
the difference between appropriate and inappropriate conversations in chat rooms
the proper names for all body parts
that it's okay to say "no" to requests that make them feel
uncomfortable...even from a trusted friend, relative or family friend
to report to you any secret or private games an older person suggests to them
that some older children and some adults have problems
to tell a trusted adult about abuse if they feel too uncomfortable
to tell you
Sometime, someplace, a child may trust you enough to tell you about sexual
abuse. How you react is very important to the child's emotional health and recovery.
The following suggestions will help those disclosing sexual abuse:
Keep calm. Emotional responses can be confusing to
the child. Children can mistake negative emotions as being directed towards
Believe the child. Children who are sexually abused are further
traumatized when they tell if they feel you don't believe them.
Be positive Let the child know you are proud of them for telling.
Explain to the child that he or she has done nothing wrong. The child may have feelings of guilt and responsibility. Most
children are enticed or tricked into acts of exploitation, and they think they should have been smarter or stronger.
Listen to and answer the child's questions honestly.
Respect the child's privacy. Do not to discuss the abuse with people who do not need to know what happened. Do not discuss the
abuse with anyone while within hearing range of the child.
Arrange a medical examination. Make sure the child is not physically injured. Do not guess. Let professionals make an independent judgment about
treatment. It can reassure you and your child that there has
been no permanent physical damage and may verify important
Be responsible. Notify police and child protective services. They can help protect the child's safety and provide
resources for further help.
Consider the need for counseling or therapy for the child. Pretending the incident never happened will not help the child
deal with the trauma.
Indiana law requires that any person who knows, or has reason
to suspect, that a child has been sexually abused must report it to
the local Child Protective Service. Remember, "reason to suspect" means
that you have received information of abuse. It does not mean that you
are certain that abuse has occurred or have proof of abuse.
Panic or overreact when the child describes the experience.
They need your help and support to make it through their disclosure to you.
Criticize the child.
Display emotional outbursts such as "I told you not to go into anyone's home!" will only hurt your ability to help.
Challenge the child with "Why" questions. "Why didn't you tell me this before?" or "Why did you let it happen?".
Pressure the child to talk or avoid talking about the abuse.
Let the child disclose information at his or her own pace. Probing for information
can be harmful. Silencing the child will not help her or him to forget. You can take
action to protect the child without having all the details.
It is important for you to know that
if the details of the case have been discussed between you and your child, the evidence to be
used in a criminal case may be considered to be contaminated. An accusation that the parent has coached or put the ideas into the child's head may
arise during the cross-examination of the child during the trial.
Confront the offender, especially in the child's presence. The stress on the
child will be harmful. Premature confrontation with the offender may prevent authorities
from obtaining vital information later.
Blame the child. Children commonly assume there is something wrong with them but
SEXUAL ABUSE IS NEVER THE CHILD'S FAULT.
There are a number of possible outcomes following an investigation. Authorities may determine that your child has not been sexually abused. This does not mean they think your child has lied but, in some situations children or circumstances are misunderstood.
Still some may truly believe abuse has happened, even when the authorities were unable to confirm it.
Regardless, it is vital for you to support your child through your love and care for them.
Trying to influence your child to say anything the child is not ready to say will only confuse
the situation, making things more difficult for the child.
Another possible outcome is that the authorities may determine that sexual abuse has
taken place, but the offender will not always be charged, convicted or imprisoned. Despite the
truth of the abuse there may be reasons why charges cannot be filed. Such reasons may
include insufficient evidence to have the offender charged or convicted. Sometimes by virtue
of a child's young age, it was not possible to get a detailed disclosure, or qualify the child
as a witness. Authorities must weigh carefully the probability of conviction against the
possibility a child will not be believed by a jury, leading to another trauma in their life.
The filing of criminal charges resulting in conviction is viewed as an ideal outcome,
but may not be interpreted so positively by the child. Our entire legal process is traumatic
for families, even more so for the victimized child. It is not uncommon for children to later
regret having disclosed the abuse after a conviction of the abuser. It is important we realize
that an adult's desire for justice may create additional stress and confusion for the child, who
may then abandon efforts to process their negative feelings.
Even if it is not possible to file charges or attain a conviction, this does not suggest in
any way that the child or youth is not or should not be believed. It is important to reassure
the child that he is not to blame if the abuser is not charged or convicted. The child should be
praised for their courage and participation in the entire process. It may be helpful for
parents/caregivers to explain to their child that it was not his/her job to ensure a conviction
of the abuser - that is the role of the adults. The child's responsibility was to tell the
truth. The court process is only one small part of the child's experience. The goal now is for
the young person to feel secure so that he can do what he must in order to move on with a healthy