How To Protect Your Child From Child Abuse

Child Abuse Among Children and Young People

October 19, 20150 Comments

Age appropriate sexual behaviour

We all know that children pass through different stages of development as they grow, and that their awareness and curiosity about sexual matters change as they pass from infancy into childhood and then through puberty to adolescence. Each child is an individual and will develop in his or her own way. However, there is a generally accepted range of behaviours linked to a child’s age and developmental stage. Sometimes these will involve some exploration with other children of a similar age. It can be difficult to tell the difference between age appropriate sexual exploration and warning signs of harmful behaviour. Occasionally we may need to explain to children why we would prefer them not to continue with a particular behaviour.

This is a chance to talk with them about keeping themselves and others safe and to let them know that you are someone who will listen. Disabled children may develop at different rates, depending on the nature of their disability, and they can be more vulnerable to abuse. Children with learning disabilities, for example, may behave sexually in ways that are out of step with their age. Particular care may be needed in educating such children to understand their sexual development and to ensure that they can communicate effectively about any worries they have.

It is important to recognise that while people from different backgrounds have different expectations about what is acceptable behaviour in children, sexual abuse happens across all races and cultures. Remember that each child develops at his or her own pace and not every child will show the behaviours described below. If you have any worries or questions about a child you know, talk to someone about it.

Pre-school children (0-5) years commonly:

  • Use childish ‘sexual’ language to talk about body parts
  • Ask how babies are made and where they come from
  • Touch or rub their own genitals
  • Show and look at private parts

They rarely:

  • Discuss sexual acts or use sexually explicit language
  • Have physical sexual contact with other children
  • Show adult-like sexual behaviour or knowledge  

School-age children (6-12 years) commonly:

  • Ask questions about menstruation, pregnancy and other sexual behaviour
  • Experiment with other children, often during games, kissing, touching, showing and role playing e.g. mums and dads or doctors and nurses
  • Masturbate in private

They rarely:

  • Masturbate in public
  • Show adult like sexual behaviour or knowledge

Adolescents:

  • Ask questions about relationships and sexual behaviour
  • Use sexual language and talk between themselves about sexual acts
  • Masturbate in private
  • Experiment sexually with adolescents of similar age

NB. About one-third of adolescents have sexual intercourse before the age of 16.

They rarely:

  • Masturbate in public
  • Have sexual contact with much younger children or adults 

Warning signs of sexually harmful behaviour

One of the hardest things for parents to discover is that their child may have sexually harmed or abused another child. In this situation, denial, shock and anger are normal reactions. If it is not responded to quickly and sensitively, the effect on the whole family can be devastating. For this reason it is vital to contact someone for advice about what to do as soon as you suspect that something is wrong. The positive message is that early help for the child or young person and their family can make a real difference. Evidence suggests that the earlier children can get help, the more chance there is of preventing them moving on to more serious behaviour. It is important to be alert to the early warning signs that something is going wrong. If you are in this situation, remember that you are not alone. Many other parents have been through similar experiences, and, as a result, the child and family found the help they needed are were able to rebuild their lives. The first step is to decide that it would be helpful to talk it over with someone else.

Do you know a child or adolescent who:

  • Seeks out the company of younger children and spends an unusual amount of time in their company?
  • Takes younger children to ‘secret’ places or hideaways or plays ‘special’ games with them (e.g. doctor and patient, removing clothing etc.) especially games unusual to their age?
  • Insists on hugging or kissing a child when the child does not want to?
  • Tells you they do not want to be alone with a child or becomes anxious when a particular child comes to visit?
  • Frequently uses aggressive or sexual language about adults or children?
  • Shows sexual material to younger children?
  • Makes sexually abusive telephone calls?
  • Shares alcohol or drugs with younger children or teens?
  • Views child pornography on the internet or elsewhere?
  • Exposes his or her genitals to younger children?
  • Forces sex on another adolescent or child?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should talk to the child or young person and seek advice.

What you can do if you see warning signs

Create a family safety plan. Don’t wait for ‘proof’ of child sexual abuse. You can visit our family safety plan page for information and advice.

If you are concerned about the sexualized behaviours in a parent, cousin, sibling, friend, or neighbor, you should consider contacting the police or children’s services in your area, they can take action if appropriate. If you choose not to do that, care enough to talk to the person whose behaviour is worrying you.

Make sure everyone knows that it’s OK to talk with you about what may have already happened – that you love them and will help them. Click the links for additional resources or for advice on developing your Family Safety Plan,

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about sexual abuse, abusers and protecting children – watch our learning programme here.

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

National Statistics on Child Abuse

October 19, 20150 Comments

In 2013, an estimated 1,520 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States.1

In the same year, Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country served nearly 295,000 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support
to these children and their families. In 2014, this number was over 315,000.2

2013 National Abuse Statistics 1

  • An estimated 679,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect (unique instances).
  • 47 states reported approximately 3.1 million children received preventative services from Child Protective Services agencies in the United States.
  • Children in the first year of their life had the highest rate of victimization of 23.1 per 1,000 children in the national population of the same age.
  • Of the children who experienced maltreatment or abuse, nearly 80% suffered neglect; 18% suffered physical abuse; and 9% suffered sexual abuse.
  • Just under 80% of reported child fatalities as a result of abuse and neglect were caused by one or more of the child victim’s parents.

2014 Children’s Advocacy Center Statistics Highlights 2

2014 Full Child Advocacy Center Statistics

Among the over 315,000 children served by Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country in 2014, some startling statistics include:

  • 116,940 children were ages 0 to 6 years
  • 115,959 children were ages 7 to 12 years
  • 81,025 children were ages 13 to 18 years
  • 205,438 children reported sexual abuse
  • 60,897 children reported physical abuse
  • 211,831 children participated in on-site forensic interviewing at a Children’s Advocacy Center

Among the over 244,000 alleged offenders investigated for instances of child abuse in 2014, some startling statistics include:

  • 154,529 were 18+ years old
  • 26,294 were ages 13 to 17 years
  • 20,040 were under age 13 years
  • 95,913 were a parent or step-parent of the victim
  • 127,358 were related or known to the child victim in another way
  • 23,696 were an unrelated person the victim knew

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children & Families. Child Maltreatment 2013. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2013  

National Children’s Alliance 2013 and 2014 national statistics collected from Children’s Advocacy Center members and available on the NCA website: http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/cac-statistics

How To Protect Your Children – Preventing Abuse: An Age-By-Age Guide

October 16, 20150 Comments

Depending on your child’s developmental stage, you’ll need to focus on specific issues and address (or avoid) certain topics.

Ages 2-4
Use the right language. “Skip the euphemisms,” says Robin Sax. “Call a vagina a vagina and a penis a penis.” This decreases potential confusion and improves your child’s ability to discuss sexual situations.

Explain what’s private. Tell her that besides herself, her parents, and her doctor (and caregiver if your child’s still in diapers), no one should touch her private parts. If anyone does, she can tell you and you won’t be mad.

Give him ownership of his body. Has a stranger ever ruffled your child’s hair, telling you how cute he is? Your tendency may be to politely tolerate the behavior. But it’s a great teachable moment. Saying “I don’t feel comfortable having someone we don’t know touching my kids” models to your child that it’s okay to say “no” to touch—even from outwardly “nice” people.

Be a safe refuge. You may think this is obvious to your child, but explicitly state that she can tell you if she ever feels confused or scared about anything and that you’ll help and love her no matter what has happened.

Break the taboo around sexuality. If your 4-year-old asks where babies come from, for instance, give her a brief, honest, and age-appropriate answer. “If we tell a child she’s not old enough to know, or to not ask such questions, then we’ve given the message that this subject is off-limits,” says Robin Castle.

Ages 5-8
Reinforce boundaries. Support your child if he wants to say “No, thank you” to hugs or kisses from relatives. If your son is squirming away as Grandma leans in give him a kiss, you can say, “Vincent isn’t really in the mood for a kiss right now, and that’s okay, isn’t it, Grandma?” suggests Linda E. Johnson.

Head off guilty feelings. Don’t wait until you suspect something is wrong. “Kids need to hear that it is never their fault if someone behaves sexually with them and that they can always come to you,” says Jolie Logan, CEO of Darkness to Light. In doing so, you help take away the perpetrator’s most powerful weapons—shame and fear. Bathtime is one opportunity to talk about bodies and boundaries, says Logan (“I want you to understand that people shouldn’t touch your private parts, or ask you to touch theirs”). Or use current events: “There are grown-ups who like to do inappropriate things with children, and it’s my job as a parent to keep you safe. You can always come to me if you feel uncomfortable.”

Teach Internet safety. Many experts consider kids this age too young to be online by themselves. Use parental controls to limit her access, and explain that people are not always who they claim to be online. Insist your child never disclose personal information, and ask her to tell you if she ever feels uncomfortable about messages she receives.

Ages 9 and up
Continue the conversation. As children near adolescence, their peers could sexually threaten them. Indeed, your child’s own budding sexuality may get him into situations that offenders may readily take advantage of. Look for chances to talk about this; it can include brainstorming ways for your child to avoid or get out of uncomfortable situations with peers. Reinforce that it is never a child’s fault when someone mistreats her.

Monitor devices. Kids can easily, and often accidentally, access porn through smartphones and gaming systems such as Nintendo Wii and Sony PSP that can be connected to the Internet. “We’re seeing a record- high number of these cases in our practice,” says Dr. Julie Medlin. “Most parents have no idea that their kids can access porn so easily in this way, nor do they understand just how much of a negative impact such exposure can have on the child’s sexuality.” Consult your device’s user guide to enable parental controls and limit access to certain games with mature content and to manage Web browsing, chat features, and purchases.

Help identify trusted adults. Many children cannot bring themselves to disclose sexual abuse directly to parents, Sax says. So she encourages teaching kids to seek out adults whom they feel comfortable turning to when something is bothering them. She adds that they should continue to tell until someone acts on the issue. By law, teachers and school counselors must report suspected abuse to authorities, and in 18 states (and Puerto Rico), all adults who suspect abuse are required to report.

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

How To Protect Your Children – How To Talk About Abuse

October 16, 20150 Comments

If your child ever discloses abuse to you, you have one main responsibility: “Listen for all you’re worth, and be loving and supportive,” says Johnson. Incidents reported by children are rarely false, experts agree. There’s no template for this discussion; it depends heavily on the child’s age, the possible suspect, and how long ago the potential abuse may have occurred. But you should follow certain guidelines. First, have the conversation in private. Be aware of your body language: Lean forward, make eye contact, and get close to his eye level to help your child feel more comfortable, says psychologist Julie Medlin, Ph.D., coauthor with Steven Knauts, Ph.D., of Avoiding Sexual Dangers: A Parent’s Guide to Protecting Your Child.

Immediately reassure your child that you believe him and that he did the right thing by telling you. Keep your questions open-ended (“What did you do together?” “What happened next?”), avoiding detailed ones that are suggestive, such as “Did he put his mouth on your penis?”

Unfortunately, some parents deny the abuse (“Your Uncle John would never do such a thing!”), blame the child (“How could you let this happen?”), or become hysterical (“I’ll kill him!”). Such responses can cause kids to shut down or alter their story out of fear. Instead, reiterate to your child that you are not upset with him and that it’s not his fault.

If there’s any good news here, it’s this: “Sexually abused children who receive support and help can and do heal,” says David Finkelhor, Ph.D., director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. Research has shown that the majority of sexually abused kids grow up with no significant mental-health or behavioral problems, he adds. The factors that appear to help include social support, strong self-esteem, and a child’s understanding that she was not to blame for the abuse. Child psychologists and psychiatrists with specialized training can help kids begin the process of overcoming the trauma. This is why it’s so crucial for children to speak up. “Keeping the secret can subliminally reinforce feelings of shame that can be harmful later in life,” says Houser.

P.S. As a parent, it’s quite natural to worry over the safety of your child. But at the same time, it’s crucial to ensure that your child’s safety is guaranteed. Click here if you want a guaranteed way to protect your children from predators.

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