Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What Parents Need to Know About Child Sexual Abuse

Renee's blog, Playground in My Mind (http://writeawayzine.blogspot.com/), had this entry back in 2005. I have posted it here because it I think it is contains information to help keep children safe and protected. I thank Renee for the find.

Child Sexual Abuse: The Hidden Epidemic
By Sherryll Kraizer, Ph.D., Coalition for Children

While abduction by a stranger is one of the most terrifying things for a parent to think about, children are actually far more vulnerable to abuse by people known to the family and community. Child abuse occurs when an adult causes, or threatens to cause, emotional, physical or sexual harm to a child. Child abuse includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Parents should know that:
1. 85 to 90% of all abuse occurs at the hands of someone known to the child, someone in a position of trust.

2. About one in every four children will be sexually abused by the age of eighteen.

3. Most sexual abuse involves no outwardly visible physical damage to the child.

4. The damage comes from the physical and emotional violation of the child, and the violation of a trusted relationship. These can be more long-lasting than physical injury.

5. Most abusers are family, friends, and neighbors, someone the child knows and trusts.

6. Parents, schools and organizations may use all of the avoidance technology at their disposal against strangers, yet experience tells us that they are almost always surprised to discover perpetrators in their midst.

7. Parents obviously don't leave their children in the care of people they believe to be perpetrators, but the facts tell us that parents must be prepared for such an event.

A Child's Best Defense
The best way to prevent abuse when the parent or care-taking adult is not present is to provide children with the skills they need to help protect themselves. The essential prevention of child abuse skills can be taught without talking about abuse. Children don't need to be told what abuse is, who the offenders are, how they operate, what they do, or why.

They don't need to be told that the people they love might hurt them. Rather, prevention is learned through positive and concrete messages that give children the skills they need to act effectively on their own behalf when they are in potentially abusive situations. The reality is that there are times when children can and must be responsible for their own well-being, such as when they are alone with a potential abuser.

At such times, they need permission to speak up. They need specific skills and techniques to stop what's being done to them. And, they must know they will be believed and supported by the adults in their lives.

The Best Overall Defense Children Have Against Abuse Is:
* A sense of their own natural abilities (instincts).

* The ability to accurately assess and handle a variety of situations.

* Knowing where and how to get help.

* Knowing they will be believed.

A Child Needs To Know:
*Your body belongs to you.

*You have a right to say who touches you and how.

*If someone touches you in a way you don't like, in a way that makes you feel funny or uncomfortable inside, or in a way that you think is wrong or your parents would think is wrong, it's okay to say "no."

*If the person doesn't stop, say, "I'm going to tell" and then tell, no matter what.

*If you're asked to keep a secret, say, "No, I'm going to tell."

*If you have a problem, keep talking about it until someone helps you.

Children learn that they can have more control over what happens to their bodies when we teach them, and when we show them through our own behavior, that their bodies do, indeed, belong to them. Children as young as two and three already know what touch they like and what touch they don't like. Touching they don't like makes them feel uneasy and may seem wrong to them.

The Safe Child Program gives children permission to speak up. It teaches them how to speak up effectively and in a way that is appropriate. Prevention of child abuse techniques must be learned not just as ideas, but as real skills. Proven classroom programs for children and follow-through by parents are the best way to learn these skills. This means practice.

Part of effective prevention education includes role-play, giving children an opportunity to see how it feels to say "no" in a difficult situation. Just as children don't learn to ride a bicycle by talking or reading about bicycling, children don't learn to prevent child abuse without opportunities to work with the techniques, to practice and feel comfortable with the skills. Role-play, practicing and parental reinforcement are the keys to teaching children to protect themselves when adults are not there to protect them.

How to Respond if a Child Tells You About Abuse
The trauma of a child reporting abuse is very real. If this happens, the first concern is to remain calm and supportive of the child. Give the child an opportunity to tell you in his or her own way what happened. Don't over-react or criticize the child in any way.

The Child Needs To Be Told:
*That you believe him/her and you're glad s/he told you.

*That s/he didn't do anything wrong.

*That you will do your best to see that s/he is not hurt again and you will make every effort to get help.

*Do not promise the child that you will do anything specific. You may not be able to keep that promise.

*Children who report sexual or physical abuse need to be examined by a doctor. Make the child a part of the process. If possible find a physician the child knows or one who is particularly experienced in abuse cases.

REMEMBER: Almost without exception children do not lie about abuse, except to deny that it happened.

REMEMBER ALSO: The trauma of abuse is long-term and not always apparent. When a child reports being abused, the process of recovery begins.

Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect
The decision to report suspected abuse is almost always difficult. Remember that 85-90% of all sexual abuse and virtually all physical and emotional abuse involve someone known to the child. This means that the offender is usually known to the community.

Interpersonal relationships and community considerations frequently bring hesitation to report. At these times, it is important to remember that the TOTAL responsibility for the offense lies with the offender.

Reporting PROTECTS the child and may protect other children from becoming or continuing to be victims of abuse. A person who reports suspected abuse is not responsible for ruining the offender's life. The person who has the courage and takes the responsibility to report is saving a child as well as future victims.

ANYONE may report a suspected case of child abuse or child maltreatment. It is important to know that the law does not require certainty before reporting and that you have no responsibility to investigate or to try to gather more information yourself. Any suspected case should be reported.

Reporting suspected abuse or maltreatment does not make a person legally liable, however there may be penalties for failure to report. The law protects any person, official, or institution that makes a report in good faith (meaning an honest belief that a child is being abused) by providing immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise result from such actions.

While reporting child abuse can be difficult, all of us have an obligation to act on behalf of all children. If we do not act, who will?

The National toll-free number to report suspected abuse is 1-800-4ACHILD at http://www.childhelpusa.org/ THE COALITION FOR CHILDREN is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1983, which is committed to creating and providing positive and effective prevention programs for children and families.

The Coalition is not a group; rather it acts as a catalyst, bringing together individuals and organizations for specific projects and community action. To learn more, please visit: http://www.safechild.org/.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. Children need to be believed. Sadly, there are so many who are not...even later as adults reporting abuse that happened when they were children, so many refuse to believe it at all. My question has always been "Who would make this shit up?!" Peace.

DareDevil said...

very interesting and useful post, thank you :)

Nancy said...

I remember this post. Excellent! Thanks for posting it again!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing about this, Deb. Children need to be believed. Teaching about "stranger danger" is needed, but so often, it's someone that is involved in some way in the child's life.

Dawn said...

i have a question about this, but i think the answer will be very extensive. can i put it here, or over on the Questions & Answers: The Doctor is In?

Joel said...

My mother was particular obsessed with warning me again and again about strangers. I knew to reject the advice of unknown strangers but no one told me that I could escape the pack of ghouls who abused me every day. They matched most of the criteria listed above. And my mother covered for herself and the rest of them by telling me two things: that strangers were a greater danger than she and that there was nothing I could do to escape the ugly doings in the pink house.

I wrote about it last Saturday night:


Godwhacker said...

Great post on a very important subject but "anonymous" seems to have missed a dose...

Donna said...

It isn't always a stranger, that's for sure. And abuse is not always sexual. In the news today:


Rue said...

Yes, Thanks Deb. Fear stopped me from talking. There is still one person in my life who will never know about what happened to me. I've done the work and I am okay now. My abuser is dead. Telling that person would only hurt her needlessly. I don't want to do that.

Personally, I think the abuse for the abuser is over with the act when they bother to think about thier victim. They simply don't allow themselves to consider the residual effects the act has. Lord, there are still nightmares when I am stressed about other things. There is still that clutch in my chest when someone gets closer then I would like them too. This happened when I was 8..I'm 42. The memory is still there and very clear. I can live with it now. I am not nearly as fragile now. I understand it now but...no amount of therapy can erase your memory of justify it all for you. You can't ever have an acceptable answer to 'why?'

jumpinginpuddles said...

as a parent who has been abused and who thought had kept her children safe. Only to find that that wasnt the case. Now as a parent we have the hardest task of taking our two children to T each week and hope that this nightmare isnt true.
Isolation for a parent going through a counselling process for children with suspected abuse is also isolating. There is no one we can talk to or have really talked to about this. Its a taboo subject. There is only anger from people even for us loss of friends. But unfortuneately this is one subject that is rarely raised and one that if it is is raised in such a way as you must have let it happen you are as bad as the abuser.
The abuser doesnt just wreck the childs life but he/she can wreck a parents life as well.
And i think a blog is coming on at some stage about all this.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Traci,
Yes, there are many children who are not believed. It's sad.

Dear Daredevil,
You're Welcome. And the picture of Malaysia on your blog is breathtaking. What beauty!

Dear Nancy,
I also thought it was a great post when I saw it at Renee's.

Dear Donna,
In this day and age we need to empower children. And we need to start teaching them young!!

Dear Dawn,
You can email me your ? or wait for the next Q& A, which I will do as the very next post.

Dear Joel,
It is,indeed, sad when you realize that you've grown up in a toxic, abusive home. Many children are abused by people they know and trusted. I'm going to visit your blog after I complete these comments here.

Dear Godwhacker,
LOL! Thank goodness for the garbage can power button!

Dear Donna,
So true. I'm gonna check the link out.

Dear Rue,
You are so brave to share here. I also am a survivor, and it took a long time to share that with my family. Fortunately, they believed me, but it caused *tremendous fallout* for the extended family ...and the rift still exists today. Therapy will not erase the trauma, how could it?! But therapy can help you find a way to dissolve some of the pain, make sense of the trauma and reconnect in ways that will allow trust to be more in the forefront.

Dear Jumpinginpuddles,
I would very much be eager to read anything you write on your blog. And I think it would be so healing should you ever feel you wish you.


Clare said...

Interesting post as ever Deb and thanks :).

Heidi said...

Everytime I hear a story about child abuse in the news I just shake my head with such saddness.

Thankyou for posting this via Renee.

CQ said...

Thanks for reposting this. I am printing this out for my kids to read. I can't express it enough, but hopefully now they will understand why I don't trust them with just anyone.

Mr. Death said...

does this abuse involve actual sex, or does that mean that 1 in 4 kids are hit on, fondled and the like??

Medicoglia, RN said...

I often wonder how my life would be today, had someone noticed or said something back then.

I think #7 should be slightly rephrased though. GOOD parents don't leave their children in the care of people they believe to be perpetrators...and many times the parents ARE the perpetrators.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Deb said:

"therapy can help you find a way to dissolve some of the pain, make sense of the trauma and reconnect in ways that will allow trust to be more in the forefront."

I just came from my weekly therapy session and I'm wondering how to ever make sense of the trauma. I've been in therapy of some kind for over 10 years now and I have such huge trust issues. I wonder how I will ever make sense of it all.

Thank you, Deb, as always for your time and energy. Peace.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Clare,
You are so welcome.

Dear Heidi,
I agree it is an important subject.

Dear L'oquent,
In this day and age, we have to keep ourselves aware and protected.

Dear Johnny,
That some kind of sexual contact has occurred. Hope that makes sense.

Dear Sera,
That is true.

Dear Traci,
You will. I know that will happen for you.


jumpinginpuddles said...

i have blogged about this, if you think that when you read it, it may help others then please refer them, you know where we are.
Life Spacings

Phi said...

This is such a tough subject I can hardly find the words to say: thank you Deb.
I had to go through an abuse when I was 10. I told my mom. She couldn't cope with the thought, I think, and dropped the subject. Simple as that.
That man died some 10 years ago and still no one knows what he did to me and to many other little girls I knew then.
I've been in therapy for 3 years now, and last year I told my mom how sad and hurt she made me feel when all that happened. I told her that if only she had shown her love to me I wouldn't have grown up thinking (in the deep) that bad guys always make it while good girls are always misunderstood (if not worse).
I felt so relieved in saying this to her....we deeply talked about it and I think we've both grown up a bit thanks to our conversation.
Nothing can erase the scars in my self-esteem, but the wounds are healing day by day.

Hope what I wrote is correct enough for you all to understand..

Anonymous said...

Dr. Deb: I am so glad that this horrible act is now being talked about. I am 48 and had a pretty rocky childhood (nobody would ever have guessed as we were one of the "upper class" in our town.) My father was an alcoholic and our weekly visitations consisted of him taking me to the "club" and he would get hammered while I choked down Shirley Temple's.My mom did the best she could at the time-she eventually was able to persuade the judge to halt visitations with my father. Like one earlier post though, my Mom chose never to speak of any scary events. In her mind they were over and she had kept me from anything happening in the future. I truly believe that she was naive and her generation didn't dwell on the past. In some strange way the events of my childhood made me a much more aware mom myself and I have never hesitated to let my kids have power over circumstances. My 15 year old has called me from parties asking to be picked up because he is uncomfortable (drinking,drugs, etc). I go-NO questions asked-and he always feels safe telling me what was going on.I am thrilled that I was able to break that horrible cycle and I am sure that I am raising aware and confident sons.

Michelle said...

Child sexual abuse -- what a heartbreaking topic. I don't have kids, but I imagine if I did I would be overly protective when it came to who was around them for this very reason. Thanks for sharing again more valuable information.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear JIP,
I will get over to read it now.

Dear Phi,
What you wrote was amazing and so poignant.

Dear Chris,
I think you are awesome.

Dear Michelle,
You'll be an amazing mom. It is such a tough subject.


Motherhood is Here said...

Hey Deb,

You know the story of little red riding hood? That is a classic example of how children are only trained to be wary of the stranger. Why are that many children being abused? What is the indication of numbers that are so very high? I mean to me, the numbers are so high that it seems like if someone has been abused they should just be expected to say, "well, **it happens." I really don't understand all of this. For some reason I still don't get the way that children are trained on the issue. I think more efforts need to be placed on recovery for the ones who are doing it. Because children, no matter how confident, are basically naive up until the point of violation. And then all of the self empowerment tactics were bull. Isn't there ever going to be a possibility for deeper thinking on this issue and going past the old fashioned methods of putting kiddy bandaids on adult wounds? Does any of this make sense?

mckait said...

the trick used to be in getting the parent to listen when you told them..

today .. most parents are more aware i think....

good post , Deb

S A J Shirazi said...

You are doing a great service by posting this (and other information) needed by almost every one. Thanks.

S A J Shirazi said...

You are doing a great service by posting this (and other information) needed by almost every one. Thanks.

lady in satin said...

I'm so glad you posted this because this is information that people NEED to read and know. I've learned alot from reading this.

for_the_lonely said...

Kudos to Renee...and to you for posting this...more people need to be aware..and ACTIVE in stopping child abuse! As always, thank you for spotlighting topics of such substantial importance :)


Dr. Deb said...

Dear Anna,
You are bringing up a really good point. These skills do help to "know and be informed". However, there are those vulnerable children who cannot enact the learned strategies because they become so overwhelmed when the abuse starts. It is something that predators realize. Often they know the "best" child to choose. It is as if the predator knows who will protest and who will not. You are right to say more needs to be done to help these more vulnerable children.

Dear Kath,
More people are aware. And that's good.

Dear Shirazi,
Thanks. It is a tough subject, but one that needs to come back into the light time and again.

Dear Lady In Satin,
I love learning, and found reading this post at Renee's so enlightening. So glad you found it worthwhile too.

Dear Sarah,
What a wonderful compliment. I started this blog to do just what you mentioned. To talk about things and get them out there!


sjobs said...

This is a great post. Every year we have a speaker come in from the rape and sexual assault center in MN. They do a great job but unless the parents go over it home I believe it gests lost.

Thank you for posting it.....


I n g e r said...

I read this days ago and it's stuck with me--haunted, even; this is my enormous life fear as a parent: the big thing, the big, awful thing. Maisie started guitar lessons with a new teacher this week and I can't tell you the hours I spent debating whether to allow her to sit in the room alone with the guy. (I conceded when I saw that there was a window on the door and I could see in the entire time.)

Happened to me, too. Happened to so many women I know.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Mary,
I think it's great that you can get a speaker to come in on this subject. And you are right, knowing is only a part of it. The rest has to come with doing and protecting.

Dear Inger,
I also struggle with issues of trust when it comes to my daughter. If I can feel reassured, it helps me let her have new experiences. Damn terrible statistic this issue is.


Playground In My Mind said...

Hey-thanks. I think it is so important to arm people with tools for stopping childhood sexual abuse. My parents lived in denial though it had happened to my mother too...then I am the only one who talks about it. Everyone else acts like it never happened and we should never talk about it. Yet, that is the very reason that it continued happening. Passive permission is damaging...as damaging as holding the victim down. Thanks:) You do so much good. Renee

Grumpy Old Man said...

"About one in every four children will be sexually abused by the age of eighteen."

This is one of those scary quantitative statements that deserves questioning. How is "sexually abused" defined here? And how do they know?

There is such reflexive emotion about this that a lot of injustice has been done, as in the Amirault case in Mass., and the similar case in Manhattan Beach, California.

Sexual abuse of children can be terrible when it happens, but precisely for this reason we need to be careful in defining terms, and in scrutinizing shocking claims.

Dr. Deb said...

Dear Renee,
I loved this post on your blog and wanted to find a time to get it on mine. Thank YOU for the find.

Dear GOM,
You are right on so many levels.


Anonymous said...

This information left me speechless. It was amazing and so true. But what I would like to know is what can a child do if she was sexually abused long ago..and now its too late?

sela said...

Thanks for posting this.

I was sexually abused by a family member when I was a child and never told anyone. My parents still don't know. At the time I knew I hated it (I was 4-5), but I didn't think I could tell anyone. I thought no one would believe me and that I wasn't worth the hassle. He has gone on to abuse several little girls-a fact I did not know until recently-including his own daughter, and he's still out there. He is registered, but what good is that really? So many times I've thought about knocking on the doors of all his neighbors so I could warn them. I can't stand the thought of it happening again. I'm almost 30, and I don't know if there's anything I can do at this point as far as my own situation.

I'm glad I have this post to reference and to show my husband. I want to educate and empower my boys so they can act on their own behalf when I'm not there.

April_optimist said...

Thank you for a wonderfully thorough post about how to protect our children. I suspect many parents don't believe (and don't want to believe) anything like this could happen to their children. Unfortunately as so many of us know, it does.