I couldn't imagine my child enduring abuse. How is it possible for an abuser to convince my child to participate?
Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship with the family to take advantage of one-on-one time with the child. Once the victim has been groomed, it becomes difficult for a child to escape abuse or feel comfortable telling someone about the abuse. The grooming has created a sense of loyalty from the child to the abuser; in 93% of abuse cases, the child knows and trusts their abuser.
What does it mean when a perpetrator "grooms" a child or family?
Grooming is when a perpetrator builds a relationship with a child and building trust. Grooming makes it difficult to escape the abuse and keeps the child from telling, as he likes the person and feels loyalty to him. It makes the child feel that it is his/her fault. At times power and authority is used as a tool.
It is important to recognize when grooming may be occurring; once a child is groomed they internalize the abuse as their own fault, making the possibility of them telling someone minimal. Some signs of grooming to look for:
Buying the child gifts/giving the child money
Finding excuses for one-on-one time with the child
Treating the child as more special than other children
Viewing child when nude or exposing child to nudity/pornography
Excessive appropriate touching/inappropriate touching
Talking about sexual activity with a child
What is involved with sexual abuse between an abuser and a child?
Perpetrators many times bring down the defenses of children by explaining they are merely playing a "game". Abuse usually begins with touching and kissing and progresses to more severe sexual activity. The perpetrator often creates names for the child's and his/her own genitals to lessen the child's alarm at what is happening (i.e. a girl's vagina has been called a "pocketbook" for the abuser to put his "stuff" in).
I feel my child tells me everything. Wouldn't he/she tell me if he/she was being abused?
Abusers not only groom children to allow abuse to occur, but abusers also manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to disclose the abuse, as the abusers have given them any number of reasons as to why the child shouldn't tell.
Some reasons the child do not tell include:
Abuser is a trusted friend/family member; the child thinks no one will believe him/her
Child feels ashamed or embarrassed
Abuser has threatened the child or the child's family
Abuser blames the child; the child feels responsible and doesn't want to get in trouble
Abuser bribes the child
Child likes his/her abuser and doesn't want the abuser to get in trouble
If my child doesn't tell me about abuse, how else can I find out if abuse has occurred?
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday.
Only 1 in 10 will tell. A recent study of 116 confirmed cases of abuse where a child disclosed, showed that 74% of the time it was an accidental disclosure. This means that the abuse was discovered not by the child coming forth with the information, but by third parties observing unusual behaviors or symptoms. Some signs to look for in a child suffering from abuse are as follows:
Child acts out sexually
Child acts out behaviorally
Child develops venereal disease and infections
Child has frequent fears, anxieties, nightmares
Child has poor self-esteem or depression
Adolescents may run away, commit crimes, abuse drugs & alcohol
Adolescents become withdrawn and depressed
Adolescents are self-injurious or suicidal
It is important to note here that many times children and adolescents display no symptoms (over 1/3 of confirmed cases). For this reason, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your home about sexual abuse. Talk to your children about "welcome" and "unwelcome" touches. Empower them to say "No!" and get away from uncomfortable situations. They need to know they should tell you or another trusted adult if someone has made them uncomfortable. If you can't see the symptoms of abuse, giving your child the opportunity for open dialogue can make all the difference in preventing and treating sexual abuse.
My child has been sexually abused. What will this abuse do to their mental health?
Many victims report that the emotional damage from abuse brings more suffering than the abuse itself. It is important to know the common effects of sexual abuse. Otherwise, if the effects of abuse go untreated, your children continue to suffer.
Common mental health issues that plague children include:
- Depression - Victims are 3-5 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- Damaged goods syndrome - "No one will want me now because I've been abused."
- Distorted body image - eating disorders
- Low self-esteem and poor social skills
- Poor development and immaturity
- Anger and hostility Inability to trust
If abused, does my child have a chance at becoming a functional, contributing member of society?
Your child can certainly lead a fulfilling and rewarding life post sexual abuse. With the proper amount of treatment, victims can stop blaming themselves, feeling ashamed, and suffering from the debilitating effects of abuse. Seeking mental health professionals and continuing your role as a supportive/nurturing parent is vital to your child's success.
I've recently discovered that my child had been abused several years ago. How might this history affect my child's quality of life?
We know it is crucial for a child to receive treatment once he/she is a victim of abuse. That being said, it is important to know the statistics regarding the long- term effects of sexual abuse so that you can combat your child's potential to participate in destructive behavior. The facts are as follows:
Victims are three to five times more likely to suffer from depression than their peers.
Victims are twenty-five times more to participate in substance abuse.
65% of inmates were sexually abused; 90% of murderers were as well.
Sexual abuse victims suffer academically; lower IQ scores and higher drop-out rates occur with these victims.
Victims may also have to cope with eating disorders, post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), difficulties in relationships, and an increased risk of major health problems.
Don't we as parents need to be concerned about the validity of our child's allegation of sexual abuse? What if he/she is making up the abuse?
Children rarely lie about abuse. Only 2-8% of allegations are false; therefore the overwhelming majority of true allegations beg you as a parent to believe your child. Additionally, questions of a child's credibility arise when court cases involving divorce and child custody are involved. As an example, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Research Unit, out of 9000 divorce cases from 12 different cases, only 1.5% of the cases involved sexual abuse allegations; only 9 of these allegations proved to be false. From this objective study, only 0.1% of child abuse allegations were determined to be fabricated. We urge you to always believe your child and follow through with the next step of reporting.