Child sexual abuse is any incident of sexual contact between a child and an adult, including rape, fondling, molestation, exhibitionism, sodomy and/or incest, with or without force.
Child abuse can be defined as the physical or emotional abuse of a child. It may also include abandonment, or the failure to provide for a child.
Facts you should know about sexual abuse:
- Physical force is present in only a small percentage of child sexual abuse incidents.
- The child's view of an adult as the authority can make it much more likely that he or she can be threatened, bribed or manipulated into following orders.
- Children rarely tell about their sexual abuse because they are frightened and are told not to tell by the offender.
- Children want to tell but they are often afraid they will not be believed or protected.
- The average age of an abused child is eleven, but it is not uncommon for children three years old or younger to be sexually abused.
- The offender is always responsible for his or her own actions. Child sexual abuse is never the victim's fault.
- Most offenders are male. They may hold a professional job, a white-collar job, blue-collar job, or no job.
- Sexual abuse is not limited to any social, economic, or ethnic class.
- A stranger can sexually assault a child and that incident is more likely to involve force and occur only once.
- Typical child sexual abuse will occur repeatedly within a long-term relationship, because the offender abuses his position of power.
- 85% know the offenders; most offenders are not strangers: they may be a father, uncle, brother, grandfather, stepfather, neighbor, family friend, or babysitter.
- Child sexual abuse most often happens in the home - the victim's or the offender's.
- Child sexual abuse may eventually involve intercourse, but it typically begins with touching and is often based on trust being built with the child first. This may include the child being given gifts, taken on special outings, being verbally praised/hugged/kissed, etc.
- Any child, your child could be the victim of sexual abuse!
Help protect your children from sexual abuse:
It is not easy for parents to talk to their children about sexual abuse. Parents do not always know what or how much to tell their children. The more children know about sexual abuse and abusers, the better able they will be able to protect themselves and the more likely they will be to tell their parents what is happening to them.
Ideas to help your children:
- Teach your children the names of their body parts - teach them that there are parts of their body that are private and that no one has the right to touch them without their permission.
- Help your children practice saying "NO" to a touch or touching request they do not like or understand.
- Teach your children to minimize their vulnerability by showing them how to respond to a telephone call or to the doorbell when they are home alone - even when if the other person is someone they know.
- Encourage family activities like "what if" games that help your children think about new kinds of situations that could occur - activities that can help your children feel surer of their abilities to handle new situations, to trust their instincts, and to act in their own best interest.
What to tell your children:
- "Your body is your own - you don't have to let anyone touch you or hurt you."
- "You have my permission to say 'no' or 'don't touch me that way' to anyone - even a close relative or family friend."
- "If you get uncomfortable feelings when someone does something to you or asks you to do something to them, come and tell me."
- "Respecting and 'minding' adults does not mean you have to do anything they ask. If you think what they are doing is wrong, say no and come and tell me."
- "If anyone, even someone you love, threatens you or tries to bribe you into doing something you feel is not right, come and tell me."
- "Girls don't always have to please adults, and boys don't always have to be brave and not run away."
- "Some secrets - like surprise birthday presents - are fun, but a secret that an adult says only the two of you an know is not always right - come and tell me."
- "If any adult touches you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable, come and tell me. I will believe you and protect you."
If you suspect your child is being abused:
- Children frequently do not tell about being sexually abused. Here are some changes that parents may observe in their child:
- Physical Changes to Look For
- Unexplained bruises or swelling of the genitals of a young boy or girl, or problems with urination.
- Vaginal or rectal bleeding, discharge or symptoms of infection.
- Persistent and unexplained vomiting and other gastrointestinal symptoms.
Behaviour Changes to Look For:
- Suddenly or continually protesting when left with someone the child knows, such as a relative, neighbour or babysitter.
- School difficulties or inability to concentrate.
- Withdrawing from usual activities (ie. No longer wants to play hockey?)
- Unusual interest in his or her body and genitals, or in the genitals of others.
- Sleep disturbances - nightmares, trouble falling asleep, fear of the dark, a marked increase in bed wetting.
- Irritability, crankiness, unexplained crying, and/or sudden shifts in temperament.
- A return to a younger, more babyish behaviour.
- Marked changes in appetite.
How to get help:
- If you do suspect abuse, and have noticed some of the aforementioned items, you may take several steps.
- Contact your doctor and take the child for a physical examine.
- Make changes in your child's life to suspend exposure to likely suspects (ie: if they are suddenly scared/upset about going to hockey practice, skip a few games until your suspicions can be investigated).
- Contact your local police. The G.S.P.S. has specially trained officers who will investigate your fears and try and determine if there is evidence to make a case.
- Child sexual abuse cases are difficult to get convictions in, due to the age of the child, lack of witnesses, denial by the abuser, etc. You can assist the investigator by:
- Keeping any physical evidence?.for example if they come home from the sitter with blood or stains on their clothes, DON'T WASH THEM! Forensic investigators will examine the stains for bodily fluids.
- Do not "quiz" your child over and over regarding the facts of the case. This may later be construed by a defence lawyer as you "coaching" the child.
Hopefully you will never have to use any of this information. However, if you do, this information should serve as useful. Although abuse has very traumatic effects on people's lives, the better the issue is dealt with, the better their recovery. For that reason police officers, doctors, lawyers, and judges have are constantly being re-trained on the best way to deal with the victim. We also have counselling agencies equipped to assist you and your children in the recovery stage.
Victims of Violence Website