This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. I know many adults who have been sexually abused when they were children; the consequences are devastating. These precious adults became heavily involved with drugs, alcohol, self-injury, extreme dieting, and sexual activity, as well as suffering from depression, all from a young age. Many of them are in their thirties still struggling to adjust and live a normal life. If you know someone especially a child who may be a victim of sexual abuse, please seek help. The earlier the intervention, the brighter the future is for the child. To better understand if a child you know is being sexually abused we need to know what sexual abuse is. Child sexual abuse includes two types of activity, touching and non-touching.
Touching sexual offenses include:
- Touching a child’s genitals or private parts for sexual pleasure
- Making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs; and penetrating a child’s vagina or anus.
Non-touching sexual offenses include:
- Exposing children to pornographic material
- Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse; and masturbating in front of a child.
- Photographing a child in sexual poses
- Encouraging a child to watch and hear sexual acts
- Inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom
Many young victims will show signs of sexual abuse through drastic changes in their behavior. At different stages of development, children act out different forms of behavior by themselves and/or with other children. Parents Protect gives a list of behaviors at each stage of development.
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
School-age children (6-12 years) commonly:
- Ask questions about menstruation, pregnancy and other sexual behavior
- Experiment with other children, often during games, kissing, touching, showing and role-playing ex. moms and dads or doctors and nurses
- Ask questions about relationships and sexual behavior
- Use sexual language and talk between themselves about sexual acts
- Experiment sexually with adolescents of similar age
- About one-third of adolescents have sexual intercourse before the age of 16.
If you know a child who might be sexually abused, contact the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). Help is free, confidential, and available 24/7 or contact your local emergency services at 9-1-1.
You might be that child’s only voice. Save a child now!
American Humane Association: http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/child-sexual-abuse.html
The U.S. Department of Justice: http://www.nsopw.gov/en/Education/FactsStatistics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/features/sexualviolence/