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Child Sexual Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse is generally defined as the use of a child for the sexual gratification of an adult (or another child in a position of power over the child) or allowing a child to be used in this way. This includes such offenses as child molestation (genital or oral stimulation, sexual intercourse), child pornography, indecent exposure, and peeping.

Child Sexual Abuse may be of any age (from infants through teenagers), of any ethnic group, or of any social class. The abuse can happen in familiar places (home, school, another home in the neighborhood), in public places (playgrounds, parks, restrooms, movie theaters), or in unfamiliar or deserted areas (wooded areas, hiking trails, campgrounds.)

                                 Information about Abusers
                                 Has your child been sexually abused?
                                 Effects of Sexual Abuse
                                 How to respond if a child tells about being abused
                                 How can parents protect their children from sexual abuse?
                                 Internet Crimes against Children

Check the Indiana Sheriffs' Sex Offender Registry, where you can enter an address and learn if there are any registered sex offenders living near you.


Information about Abusers

 

Child Sexual Abusers can be Anyone

  • Male or Female: The large majority of abusers are men who sexually abuse girls and boys;
    but women may abuse children as well.
  • Young or Old: Abusers come from all age groups.
  • Familiar or Unfamiliar: The majority of all abuses are committed by someone
    the child knows and/or trusts -- a family member, relative, babysitter, or neighbor.
  • A Former Victim: Victims of sexual abuse could grow up to sexually abuse children themselves (or to marry or live with someone who does.)

 

Sexual Abuse of Children Tends to be Habitual

When the abuser is a stranger:
  • He or she will probably abuse a child only once, but will continue to abuse other children.
  • This type of abuser has severe sexual problems and difficulty relating to other adults.
  • Fear of sexual rejection from other adults may compel some people to abuse children.

 

When the abuser is a familiar person:
Sexual abuse (repeatedly of the same child) may begin as an impulse. It may be a response to some unusual stress (for example, marital or personal relationship troubles), and can develop into serious sexual disorders.

Has your child been sexually abused?

The surest way to know if your child has been sexually abused is if she/he tells you directly. Open, honest discussion about everyday activities is the best way to assure that your child will discuss problems with you. Often though, children are too afraid or ashamed to tell about sexual abuse. Abusers threaten victims or trick them into thinking the children are at fault. 

Physical Indicators
Physical signs of sexual abuse are usually not visible, but if your child has unexplained:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • bleeding
  • unusual odor or discharge
around the genital or anus, take your child immediately to the doctor and discuss the possibility of sexual abuse. Also be aware of any pain the child has in walking and sitting.

Behavioral Indicators
Behavior changes are the most common signs of sexual abuse in children. A child who is being sexually abused may display some of these behaviors:

  • A change in sleeping habits, bed wetting, or nightmares;
  • A change in usual behavior -- becoming aggressive, withdrawn, infantile, seductive or promiscuous;
  • Unusual fearfulness of a place or person;
  • A sudden change in school performance;
  • Psychosomatic illness;
  • Running away;
  • Suicide attempts;
  • Sexually abuses another child;
  • Self-destructive behavior;
  • Taking frequent baths, particularly after seeing one person;
  • Unwilling to change for gym class or participate in physical education class;
  • Compulsive masturbation, precocious sex play, excessive curiosity about sex;
  • Starts fires;
  • Draws pictures of people which show genitals.

Effects of Sexual Abuse
  • Embarrassment, fear, confusion
  • Guilt, anxiety, sense of rejection
  • Distrust of adults, strangers
  • Behavioral problems
  • Psychological harm that can result in nightmares, extreme depression, anxiety, eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviors, etc.
  • Physical harm including cuts and bruises, venereal disease, pregnancy.

Sometimes an incident doesn't seem to affect a child. Parents should still be alert for reactions. 
Symptoms of emotional harm may not be evident for years, often not until sometime in adulthood. It is VITAL that the child get help immediately in order to start the healing process before the wounds turn into permanent emotional/behavioral problems later on in life.

How to respond if a child tells about being abused
Get help for a child who has been sexually abused -- even if no immediate symptoms are evident.

  • Believe your child. Children often invent fantasies but very rarely invent fantasies about sexual abuse.
  • Reassure your child that it was okay to tell. You may be upset, angry, and shocked; but it is vital that you, first of all, help your child understand that you are angry with the abuser, not with your child; that what happened is not the child's fault, and that you will continue to love and protect him/her. Get help from another adult if you need someone with whom you can talk about your feelings. Your child may blame himself/herself about your upset feelings.
  • Report the suspected abuse. Call Child Protective Services at the County Division of Family and Children's Services. This may be difficult to do, particularly if the abuser is a member of the family. However, the law requires that you report abuse even if you think you can protect your child from further abuse. The abuser must be stopped from abusing other children.
  • Consider your child's welfare. Children who have been sexually abused may be frightened, anxious or feeling guilty about the abuse. Don't pressure your child, but be ready to listen and answer questions if she/he wants to talk. Emphasize that the abuse was not your child's fault but that you understand she/he may have confused feelings about it.

How can parents protect their children from sexual abuse?

Know who is with your children

  • Check out baby-sitters and day care providers. Are providers licensed?
  • Get to know any adult in frequent contact with your child.
  • Recognize and get to know your children's friends.
  • If someone seems "too good to be true," they might well be.


Teach your children safety rules

  • "Don't play with matches."
  • "Look before crossing the street."
  • "Your body belongs to you."
  • "Say NO to anyone who tries to touch the private parts of your body."

 
Talk with your children and listen carefully to them

 

  • Talk with children about all aspects of their lives, including touching. Listen to and respect your children's concerns. If your child ever tells you about an abuse problem, believe him or her!


Internet Crimes against Children
One in five children is sexually solicited online. This is a very real danger facing our children, but there are ways to increase their safety. Get educated immediately!  Here is a great website to start.


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