No doubt watching a child suffering from physical abuse is very painful, however knowing how sexual abuse affects the physical and psychological well-being of our children is much more devastating.
Although physical abuse is more tangible with its bruises and scars, sexual abuse print has a far-reaching, profound and persistent effects.
Contrary to the conviction that avoiding talking with the children about sexual abuse for the sake of preserving their innocence; experts believe that awareness is much better than innocence in this particular case.
“Lack of sufficient knowledge will unfortunately lead the children to be more vulnerable to be attacked,” highlighted Samar Abdo, an Egyptian social counselor.
Knowledge Better Than Innocence
Educating children about sexual abuse won’t necessarily include using inappropriate terms or explaining details of sexual relations.
It shouldn’t also be frightening for the kids, you’d rather chit chat with them about social activities they like to practice and talk briefly with them about risks they might face when they are alone dealing with strangers.
Factual discussion is always the best way to make them fully comprehend what sexual abuse is, who is likely to do it, and what to do in such cases.
Here are some facts that might help you spot the problem in a more systematic and informative way:
1- First of all, sexual abuse includes a wide range of behaviors that range from sexual exploitation to full intercourse, in which a very simple behavior might cause a serious psychological impact.
It also includes getting the children involved in any sexual activities or to produce child pornography.
2- Psychological influence might appear on children who suffer from sexual abuse in different forms like:
- General fear or fear associated with certain people or places
- Feeling of shame or guilt
- Sleeping and eating disturbance
- Attention problems
- Social withdrawal
- Aggression, anger, hostility, hyperactivity
- Poor school performance
- Drug addiction
- Imitating mature sexual behaviors
- Suicidal attempts.
It might also reflect on the pictures they draw and the stories they tell, that abnormally contain sexual content.
Fear, insecurity, anxiety, inferiority, and embarrassment are also very common among abused children.
Physical signs that parents should be aware of include:
- Blood or semen in their underwear
- Trouble walking or sitting
- Oral and anal bruises
- Presence of objects in the vagina or the anus
On the long term, abuse can lead to low self-esteem and difficulties in intimate relationship, or unity with the predator and abusing kids.
3-The person who practices this behavior, is not necessarily a stranger, he/she might be a relative, parent’s friend, neighbor, teacher, trainer- anyone, just anyone.
4-The predator is not a weird person; they might be very nice people.
“Incidents of children abuse are not necessarily violent, it might be exactly the opposite”, Abdo asserted.
She explained that it is not uncommon that those people show extra care for the kids, while brainwashing their heads to keep the practice going.
Parents should always question money and belongings found with their kids that are not logic and might be a strong signal of someone manipulating them.
5- Persons who practice child abuse are not necessarily victims of abuse themselves.
6- No one is secure or immune to be abused; it is not associated with disturbed families, certain socioeconomic level, gender, or race.
Timid children are more vulnerable, as well as those who don’t receive adequate love or care from their families.
7- Prophylactic measures are mandatory to protect the children both indoors and outdoors.
Believe Your Children
1- Express your unconditional love and support to your child by different ways, this will be sufficient to create mutual trust and will help him/her tell you if anything goes wrong.
2- Teach your child that certain organs in their bodies are private (not dirty or shameful) that shouldn’t be seen or touched by anyone.
3- Teach them to say no when necessary, and that they shouldn’t accept whatever they feel a scary or weird situation, and how to seek immediate help from a grown up.
4- Always keep an eye on your children at home or wherever they present, and be sure you know their caregivers in either ways.
5- Set your online rules, like parents’ control techniques and banning any secret activities online.
6- Make a network with other parents in the school, club, or neighborhood; this will help you all cooperate in the kids’ protection.
7- Any query incident associated with inappropriate language or touch should be reported to the parents, whom will handle the whole issue in a better way.
“Children tend to imagine things, but this is very unlikely to happen in the case of sexual abuse”, the social counselor Samar Abdo said.
This is because they didn’t experience similar incidents before to build on, that’s why parents should basically believe their children unless there is a strong reason to reject their statement.
In many cases, children will be afraid, anxious, and confused while talking about abuse incidents; for this parents should listen attentively, and believe the child even if some details are not very accurate.
8- Reassure them and assert that they are not at all responsible for this behavior.
Taking an action towards the harassers especially in major cases is mandatory, not only to ensure it won’t happen again, but also to help the child get over the situation and report further possible attacks.
The child will have a better chance to recover if the parents’ intervention is quick and appropriate.
First published: May 2014