Tag: child sex abuse

How To Protect Your Children – Keep Your Faith In God

October 19, 20150 Comments

Guidance for teaching your children to be sensitive to potential danger.

By Janel Breitenstein from FamilyLife

Sarah vividly remembers an evening nearly 40 years ago. It was the night her parents discovered that one of their closest family friends, a chosen leader in their local church, had been sexually abusing her.

Her family and his had spent time together every week and even went on vacations together. But one evening, exhausted from evading the pursuits of her abuser for the majority of the day, Sarah (not her real name) had enough. She refused to go to the friend’s home after church that evening, even at her father’s insistence.

Her parents protested because they thought she was being rude.

“I don’t care,” she said.

Then they warned of consequences.

“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter what you do to me. I’m not going in.”

Her mother and father proceeded into the house, humiliated by their 14-year-old’s behavior. Yet later that evening, her mother came into Sarah’s bedroom and asked directly if she had been touched inappropriately. The story of two years’ abuse, degradation, and humiliation poured out.

Unfortunately, far more victims have never told a soul. Not their husbands, their wives, their pastors, parents, or siblings.

Can this be prevented? The following ideas may protect your child from the tragedy of sexual abuse—and its devastating effects on generations to come.

1. Understand what an abuser looks like. Interested in what the profile might look like?

It could be anyone.

Nobody is beyond the power to abuse. Most of us can name at least one person whom we thought, for example, wouldn’t be subject to moral failure … only to discover how wrong we were.

This does not mean that you should live in fear and distrust. However, we should not love in foolishness. We are told to be “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

One of the pitfalls of the “Stranger Danger” campaign of the 1980’s was the message children received that a “stranger” would be wearing a trench coat, hat, and dark glasses: in essence, that children could identify people who were harmful to them. This is not necessarily the case and often an abuser is someone the child knows.

A more apt concept in The Berenstain Bears Learn about Strangers finds Mama Bear cutting apples for the cubs. One apple that looks gnarled on the outside is perfectly fine on the inside; but another that looks beautiful outwardly is full of worms.

2. “I believe you.” This is a crucial message to communicate. Imagine, for example, that your son or daughter is in a conflict, and you find another adult chastising your child. Rather than asking for the child’s version of the story, you proceed to punish. Now imagine that your child did nothing wrong in that situation and was mistakenly accused.

Your child thinks, If they believed another adult when I didn’t do anything wrong, what will happen when I think something is wrongWhat if it was my fault that this person touched me––or what if I misunderstood what just happened?

Children are far from innocent, and they often try to manipulate us. But they also must feel they will be heard and trusted. Early in life you can try to instill honesty and accuracy in their speech in the smallest communication, so that when it matters, the relationship is there. They can be trusted to tell the truth and you can be trusted to listen.

3. “You can believe me.” Jesus describes Himself as Truth (John 14:6) and Satan as the father of lies. Even simple, understandable, truthful explanations about the world establish a relationship of trust. When your children ask questions about sex, for example, do you pretend you don’t know what they’re talking about? Or, do you communicate that this is an embarrassing topic?

If authenticity is the policy, your children will feel more comfortable approaching you sooner should abuse take place. If you can’t talk about sex without looking ashamed or evasive, you can’t expect children to feel comfortable approaching you about questionable sexual activity.

4. Talk about it. Open communication is a key to stopping abuse before it happens. You have the ability to lovingly prepare your children for experiences you can’t anticipate by speaking of sex and other topics in healthy, secure ways. This not only gives your children confidence with you; it may also grant them confidence in the presence of a potential abuser.

Remind your children that they can always tell you if someone makes them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable—that you won’t be angry with them. Communicate respect for their bodies and help them feel comfortable and articulate about themselves by calling private parts by their proper names.

5. Be alert to signals or changes in behavior. Does a child demonstrate strange conduct or resist spending time with a particular person? Is he suddenly withdrawn or performing poorly in school?

Being careful not to discourage open communication, try to figure out why a child asks certain questions.  After you answer the question honestly, you might say, “That’s an interesting question. What made you want to ask that? I like to hear how you process things and how you think.”

A child’s artwork or premature knowledge of sexual terms may act as clues to their sexual experiences. They may also tip you off to someone who has been introducing inappropriate television programs or magazines to your child.

6. Know the patterns of a perpetrator. Many abusers begin by giving their potential victims unique privileges, gentle touch, or special gifts. This creates a sense of affection, making the victim feel set apart or special. As stated before, it also desensitizes them to further advances. Ask your children to tell you if they receive special gifts or attention.

7. Avoid situations of unnecessary risk. Without acting out of fear, or unreasonably keeping your children from life experiences and relationships, use discernment with your child’s activities. What will the atmosphere and activities be like at the slumber party? Will someone else be riding home with your child and the coach? Are you aware of your children’s location when they’re with friends or family? (By the way, establish an “open door” policy at your own gatherings.)

Thoughtfully, prayerfully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of your boundaries. Choose wisely and then leave the protection of your children in their Father’s capable hands.

8. Ingrain respect. Dan Allender’s invaluable work on the healing of abuse, The Wounded Heart, reported that 29 percent of sexual abuse occurs in relationship with a family member, and that 60 percent of abuse takes place with someone else known by the victim. Instilling respect of women (see 1 Peter 3:7) and a high value of the marriage bed to your children (see Hebrews 13:4) can proactively help prevent abuse––working to keep boys from becoming perpetrators and your children from becoming victims.

Even very young children have opportunities to stand up for weaker children, protecting them and showing them compassion. Boys in particular learn the underlying message of manners––respect––when they give girls special honor by opening doors for them, carrying heavier items, and performing physical chores (tasks otherwise known as chivalry). Girls simultaneously learn that they are worthy of respect and honor no matter their gender or physical strength, and that their bodies are precious gifts.

9. Don’t always believe the best. It is a well-founded biblical principle that we regard others with love and charity. But we also need to train our children that if someone makes them feel uncomfortable in any way––including those in authority or someone they know we like or respect––they can and need to actively, confidently resist that person and tell us.

A common mentality of any abuse victim involves thoughts like, That must have been a mistake. He didn’t mean to do that. I must have done something to make him treat me like that. I must be wrong. Teach children to trust their instincts, and to assertively draw boundaries.

In addition, instruct them that if someone tells them not to tell something which is uncomfortable or relates to their body, that is when it’s most important to tell you.

10. Pray for your children. Pray for their protection according to God’s will, and for the healthy development of their sexuality. Pray for increasing wisdom as you teach and guard them. Pray also that your children will not harm others and will enjoy the freedom God intends within the purity of a marriage relationship. Pray that if your children are in a dangerous situation, they will have wisdom beyond their years, that a predator will be quickly discovered, and that healing and God’s best will flow from even the worst of situations (see Genesis 50:20).

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

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.

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.

Child Sexual Abuse Warning signs

October 19, 20150 Comments

What to look for in adults and children

What is considered child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse includes touching and non-touching activity. Some examples of touching activity include:

  • touching a child’s genitals or private parts for sexual pleasure
  • making a child touch someone else’s genitals, play sexual games or have sex putting objects or body parts (like fingers, tongue or penis) inside the vagina, in the mouth or in the anus of a child for sexual pleasure

Some examples of non-touching activity include:

  • showing pornography to a child
  • deliberately exposing an adult’s genitals to a child
  • photographing a child in sexual poses
  • encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
  • inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom

 

As well as the activities described above, there is also the serious and growing problem of people making and downloading sexual images of children on the Internet. To view child abuse images is to participate in the abuse of a child. Those who do so may also be abusing children they know. People who look at this material need help to prevent their behaviour from becoming even more serious.

 

Warning signs in children and adolescents of possible child sexual abuse

Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. There may be many reasons for changes in their behaviour, but if we notice a combination of worrying signs it may be time to call for help or advice.
What to watch out for in children:

  • Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects
  • Nightmares, sleeping problems
  • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
  • Becoming unusually secretive
  • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings and seeming insecure
  • Regressing to younger behaviours, e.g. bedwetting
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
  • Outburst of anger
  • Changes in eating habits
  • New adult words for body parts and no obvious source
  • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts
  • Self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
  • Physical signs, such as, unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy
  • Running away
  • Not wanting to be alone with a particular child or young person

Any one sign doesn’t mean that a child was or is being sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you should begin to ask questions and consider seeking help. Keep in mind that some of these signs can emerge at other times of stress such as:

  • During a divorce
  • Death of a family member or pet
  • Problems at school or with friends
  • Other anxiety-inducing or traumatic events

Physical warning signs

Physical signs of sexual abuse are rare, however, if you see these signs, take your child to a doctor. Your doctor can help you understand what may be happening and test for sexually transmitted diseases.

 

  • Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth
  • Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
  • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training

Signs that an adult may be using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons

The signs that an adult is using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons may not be obvious. We may feel uncomfortable about the way they play with the child, or seem always to be favouring them and creating reasons for them to be alone. There may be cause for concern about the behaviour of an adult or young person if they:

  • Refuse to allow a child sufficient privacy or to make their own decisions on personal matters.
  • Insist on physical affection such as kissing, hugging or wrestling even when the child clearly does not want it.
  • Are overly interested in the sexual development of a child or teenager.
  • Insist on time alone with a child with no interruptions.
  • Spend most of their spare time with children and have little interest in spending time with people their own age.
  • Regularly offer to baby-sit children for free or take children on overnight outings alone.
  • Buy children expensive gifts or give them money for no apparent reason.
  • Frequently walk in on children/teenagers in the bathroom.
  • Treat a particular child as a favourite, making them feel ‘special’ compared with others in the family.
  • Pick on a particular child.

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

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