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  • Tips for parents: child sexual abuse prevention

    April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to recognize that we can each play a part in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families in communities.

    How can I protect my children?

    Teach children about body safety and the difference between “okay,” “not okay” and “confusing” touches.

    Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.” Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.

    Be suspicious of any adult who wants to spend a lot of time with your child. Adults should have adult friends not friends who are children.

    If you are concerned about possible sexual abuse call for help. MultiCare Child Abuse Intervention Department: (253) 403-1478.

    Behavioral and physical signs of possible sexual abuse

    Symptoms of anxiety - unexplained sleep disturbances; new or unusual fear of certain people, places, locations; unexplained periods of panic or alarm.

    Abnormal sexual behaviors or symptoms - excessive masturbation; leaving clues that appear to intentionally invite discussion of sexual issues; pain while using the toilet or exhibiting symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (odor, unusual rash, etc.); resistance to removal of clothing at appropriate times, symptoms of physical trauma to the genital or anal area; engaging in persistent sexual play with friends, toys or pets; initiating sophisticated sexual behaviors, language, or knowledge; asking an unusual amount of questions about human sexuality.

    Changes in personality or mood - unusually aggressive behavior toward family members, friends, toys, and pets; a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person; withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities; abrupt changes in academic performance.

    General behavioral changes - beginning to wet the bed; experiencing a loss of appetite or other changes in eating habits, including trouble swallowing; developing frequent unexplained health problems; regression to behaviors too young for the stage of development previously achieved; or engaging in self-destructive or self-mutilative behaviors.

    Changes in beliefs or discussions - these changes can include refusal to talk about a secret shared with another adult or older child; discussions about a new, older friend; suddenly things of self or body as dirty, bad or repulsive.

    Myths about child sexual abuse

    Myth: he looks normal and acts normal, so he can’t be a child molester. 

    Reality: sex offenders understand the importance of their public image, and can hide their private behaviors from friends, neighbors, colleagues and even family members. They use a number of strategies to gain access to children while hiding their true motives. Some child molesters appear to be charming, caring, morally sound and trustworthy.

    Myth: only men sexually abuse children. 

    Reality: male perpetrators tend to be the majority of reported abuse cases, but women are also capable of child sexual assault and have been reported in cases involving both male and female children.

    Myth: child molesters target any and all children nearby. 

    Reality: just because a child is in the proximity of a sex offender, this does not mean the child will automatically become a target or a victim. Sex offenders carefully choose and groom their targeted victims, and not every child fits the mold of what a pedophile is looking for. There is a process of gaining friendship or trust.

    Myth: abused children always tell, or my children know they're supposed to tell. 

    Reality: children often fail to disclose their abuse. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they're 18, but only one out of 10 of them will tell someone. It takes time for children to process and understand what has happened, and realize they should tell. Additionally, sex offenders will emotionally victimize a child to prevent the truth from being uncovered.

    Myth: the victim is always a girl.

    Reality: just as women may be sex offenders, boys may be victims of abuse. However, many factors such as fear of showing vulnerability and social stigma make male children less likely to report abuse.

    Myth: child victims of sexual abuse will have physical signs of the abuse.

    Reality: many acts leave no physical trace. In fact, abnormal genital findings are rare, even in cases where abuse has been proven using other forms of evidence. Injuries resulting from sexual abuse tend to heal very quickly, and often exams of child victims do not take place on the same day as the alleged act of abuse.

    Myth: stranger danger.

    Reality: 85 percent of all reported cases of child molestation involve a child and someone they know. It is not the stranger in the park abusing your child - it is the friend, relative, babysitter, tutor, etc. you have in your home. The people most likely to abuse a child are the ones with the most opportunity, access and trust.

    Myth: sexual victimization as a child will inevitably result in the child growing up to become a sex offender.

    Reality: although early childhood sexual victimization can increase likelihood of sexually aggressive behavior, most children who were sexually victimized never perpetrate against others.

    Myth: child sexual abuse is a cultural or socio-economic problem.

    Reality: sexual abuse crosses all socio-economic, neighborhood, race and class barriers. 

    Posted on Apr 17, 2013 in Kids' Health