When I first announced that I was launching a series of articles about child safety and child sexual abuse issues, I wasn’t quite prepared for the number of emails I received from people wanting to not only express their appreciation that I’m doing this series, but several of them wanted to tell me their personal story of being a victim of sexual abuse, but didn’t feel comfortable leaving a public comment on the post. You may be wondering why I’m even doing this series, since the subject of sexually abused children tends to send chills down the spine of most parents, including mine.
I’ll tell you why I’m doing these posts. I was a victim of sexual abuse when I was a young child, and when I became an adult I did a tremendous amount of research on the subject in order to learn the facts about children being sexually abused, so I could do everything possible to protect my own children from ever becoming a victim.
But, it didn’t work. Despite knowing the statistics and all the known signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse; understanding the “grooming” methods child molesters often use on intended victims; teaching and reminding my children about “good touch, bad touch” on a regular basis; having excellent communication with my children; one of my sons was sexually abused at a young age by a highly respected church minister and close family friend, inside the church we attended at that time.
If you think it is only necessary to watch out for “strangers” who might want to hurt your child, you would be mistaken. You know, “stranger danger” and all that jazz. That is a myth, so forget that idea. Having been abused myself, and being the mother of a child who was sexually abused, I have a lot to say to people who are either uninformed, misinformed, or completely and utterly clueless.
4 Common Myths about Child Sexual Abuse:
Myth #1: You believe that since you live in a nice, safe neighborhood, where you know all your neighbors on a first name basis, and your children play with their children, hanging out at each other’s houses etc, that all is well on the home front.
Fact: Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, in any neighborhood, in every religion or church group, covering all racial boundaries or ethnic groups, and it certainly doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are. You can live in a beautiful, gated-community of homes worth millions of dollars, and your child is still not protected from being molested or abused.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice national statistics, 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will become victims of sexual abuse by the time they reach their 18th birthday. Not only that, but statistics show that children in elementary school are the most vulnerable and likely targets, and children with disabilities have even higher risk factors. That’s not good news for parents with little children, making it vitally important for parents to become educated about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in society today, without becoming completely paranoid about it.
Myth #2: You have already talked with your children about not allowing anyone to touch their private parts, perhaps even calling those body parts by their proper name, and you believe that’s pretty much all there is to do. You may even have said to your children something like, “No matter what, you can always tell me anything that is on your mind, and I will believe you”.
Fact: Sexual abuse occurs by forcing or manipulating a child in a way that allows the sexual offender to touch the child’s private parts (which may or may not include penetration), or takes photo’s of children without any clothes on, or when an offender exposes themselves to a child, etc. Children need to be taught about sexual abuse, and they need to learn and know the words “sexual abuse”. Listen, you can tell your children over and over about “good touch vs. bad touch” and proper names of body parts, but if your child doesn’t know the correct terminology, how are they going to know how to tell you they were “sexually abused”?!
Myth #3: Most sexual abuse cases are committed by people who are complete strangers to you or your child.
Fact: Closely monitoring the online database for sex offenders who may have moved into your neighborhood simply isn’t enough. 85-90% of child sexual abuse cases are committed by trusted family members and close friends. That includes fathers and mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, babysitters, daycare workers, boyfriends of single mom’s, fellow church members and clergy, and so on.
If I have to write a thousand more posts about sexually abused children, to make it crystal clear who the most likely offenders are, I will write them gladly if it will help just one more parent develop greater awareness to this issue.
Myth #4: You believe that your child would automatically tell you that he or she had been sexually abused. You may say to yourself, “My child and I have such great communication, that I KNOW my child would come and tell me immediately”.
Fact: Most sexually abused children do not tell anyone they were abused, even when directly asked by parents or other authority figures. Victims of sexual abuse are often too afraid that the news will hurt their parents, or they are afraid of not being believed, or they were threatened in some way by the offender.
While some schools offer programs that provide useful information and resources, for children and parents alike, the responsibility of educating children about sexual abuse belongs to the parents. And by the way, sexual abuse does occur in schools too!
Were you a victim of child sexual abuse at some point in your life? Are you a parent of a child who was sexually abused, perhaps now dealing with the agony of not knowing it was happening? Even if you personally have never been abused in this way, I can promise you that someone you know has been victimized sexually, but they just haven’t told you their personal story.
Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse
The Profile of A Pedophile: Identifying Characteristics and Behaviors of Child Molesters
Launching the Child Safety and Child Sexual Abuse Series
Why Kids Don’t Tell? Talking to Your Children about Sexual Abuse
Sexual Abuse Books-Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse-Healing Sexual Abuse
(Photo by: Beppie K)