“About one in ten children experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday,’ according to statistics presented by the Darkness to Light© organization. The organization shares other statistics, that ‘about 40% of victims are 11 years old or younger; youth are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults. Though some 9% of 10 to 17 year olds receive a sexual request from the internet, 90% of children who are sexually abused know their abuser; 30% are family members; 60% are people the family trusts; 40% are older or larger youth such as babysitters or cousins’. The organization offers training in the five steps™ to protect children which include: ‘learning facts, minimizing opportunity, talking about it/sharing information about bodies, sex and boundaries; recognizing the signs, and reacting responsibly’.
For example, a four- year old boy left with family friends’ children to ‘play’, left the kids room when an older boy began to teach the kids ‘a game’ that was highly sexualized and inappropriate. Other kids did not have the same presence of mind, and remained with the youth in a closed bedroom while the adults were immersed in television sports and card games. They didn’t pay attention to the child, who’d been sworn to secrecy and pretended to not feel well, staying close to his mom’s side, and played quietly under the table. ‘Did you like Trevor and Jamal?’ asked social climber mom on the way home. ‘No, I don’t want to see them again,’ the boy said, emphatically. To her husband, ‘I wonder what’s got into him?! Sometimes I don’t get that boy!’ Affirming the child and having a private conversation later might have been a better solution. About 10% of unduplicated new reports on abuse and neglect listed sexual abuse; 38% physical abuse; 21% neglect; 1% emotional maltreatment; 11% multiple allegations and 19% family in need of services/other according to the PCSAO Factbook 12th edition.
Pomegranate’s wellness and infection control nurse, Lori Turner, is training in the Stewards of Children Program®. She explained that ‘psychiatry is more than giving a child a pill –with a little therapy thrown in. These are still children who need to be protected.’ Turner said that parents need to be pro-active. ‘Adults have a hard time parenting today. We need to let them know we care about them, and we need to educate adults to advocate, teach them what is good touch and bad touch, and to be a voice for kids. By having parents who are pro-active, we can make a difference.”
Examples abound. ‘Marie’ was a preschool teacher for a large church in a smaller community. One child exhibited signs that something wasn’t right. She would cross her arms and pout, not join in, rock, and drew a completely inappropriate picture of her new step-father demonstrating awareness uncommon among children that age. Marie later shared the picture with the director of the center and expressed concern. The director called in the parents and the stepfather threatened Marie, who became so distraught and intimidated, she resigned. The parents removed the child from the class and left the church, outraged. In situations like this, it may have been preferable for the Director to contact that state’s children service agency. [Many years later, the preschooler, now young adult woman, suffers the effects of what subsequently turned out to be long-term abuse; her mother left the stepfather, and now blames herself.]
“The course teaches how sexual abuse in childhood affects the adult they will become,” Turner said. “Childhood abuse has consequences which may include PTSD, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, higher rates of mental illness and depression and leaves children afraid to make decisions, a greater likelihood of aggression and defiance, more likely to self-harm or be promiscuous, delinquent, or suffer other health problems including risk of suicide. Parents need to learn to select safer situations for their children, with multiple adults supervising kids, prevention training, and caregivers with background checks. Explain to children that no one should touch areas a bathing suit covers, that they can say ‘no’-and also control any interaction,’ added Turner. ‘Your relationship with your child is exceedingly important; believe him or her. There is help and healing is possible, but it will take individuals taking a stand and spreading the word.’
Darkness to Light© helpline 1-866-FOR-LIGHT
Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD
The National Children’s Alliance www.nationalchildrensalliance.org 1-800-239-9950
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children http://www.missingkids.com/CyberTipline or call 1-800-The-Lost if you find child porn or commercial exploitation of children online
[photo credit: Dreamstime # 49307384]