This month we’ve talked about April being National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This week we are focusing on one area of victimization, child sexual abuse that is both child abuse and sexual assault. Please read on to learn more about how to recognize possible indicators of child sexual abuse and what you can do to help prevent it!
What is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse is a form of abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Some forms of child sexual abuse include but are not limited to:
– Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor
– Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
– Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
– Sex of any kind with a minor
– Sex trafficking
– Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare
What do perpetrators of child sexual abuse look like?
The majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are someone within the child’s family, or someone the child or family knows. As many as 93 percent of victims under the age of 18 know their abuser. Perpetrators are also from all races, religions, socio-economic backgraounds, genders, and ages, including other children. These abusers are often someone that has a relationship with the child, such as a parent, sibling or playmate, family member, teacher, coach, instructor, caretaker, or the parent of another child.
Abusers also often manipulate victims to stay quiet about the sexual abuse using a number of different tactics. They may use their position of power over the victim to coerce or intimidate the child. They may tell the child that the activity is a normal part of their relationship. An abuser may make threats if the child refuses to participate or threatens to tell an adult. Child sexual abuse is not only a physical violation; it is a violation of trust and/or authority.
What are the indicators of child sexual abuse?
Often because of the relationship victims and families have with the perpetrator, and their manipulation, child sexual abuse isn’t always easy to spot. Consider the following:
- Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area
- Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Frequent urinary or yeast infections
- Pain, itching, or burning in genital area
- Changes in hygiene, such as refusing to bathe or bathing excessively
- Has trouble in school, such as absences or drop in grades
- Sexual knowledge or behaviors inappropriate for their age
- Avoids physical contact with others
- Nightmares or bed-wetting
- Overly protective and concerned for siblings, or assumes a caretaker role
- Regressive behaviors, such as thumb sucking
- Runs away from home or school
- Self-harming behaviors
- Develops phobias
- Exhibits signs of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder
- Expresses suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents
How can I protect children from sexual abuse?
There are ways to protect children through awareness and prevention education. The Monique Burr Foundation for Children (MBF) is proud to be a founding member of the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition of Northeast Florida (CSAPC). CSAPC offers the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children program to community members and organizations to teach adults 5 Steps to protect children from child sexual abuse. Visit www.csapc.org for more information and class dates.
It is equally as important for children to learn prevention strategies to protect themselves from all types of victimization. Check with your child’s school to see what type of school based prevention/safety program they may be using. If they are not using a program, encourage them to learn more about and use the MBF Child Safety Matters™ program for elementary schools. MBF Child Safety Matters educates and empowers students and all relevant adults in their lives to prevent, recognize, and respond appropriately to not only sexual abuse, but all types of child abuse, bullying, cyberbullying, and digital dangers as well. Visit mbfchildsafetymatters.org for more information and download the “Child Safety Matters” app at no cost from the App Store or Google Play to learn the 5 Safety Rules and how to better protect the children in your life.
MBF also offers free 1 hour online courses where you can learn more about pertinent topics related to child safety:
- Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse/Neglect
- Real World Safety: Protecting children online and off from bullying, cyberbullying, and digital abuse
- Protecting Children from Child Sexual Abuse
Visit www.childsafetymattersedu.org to enroll in and take any of our free online courses.
Learn more child sexual abuse and sexual assault awareness month with these resources:
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