Child sexual abuse is a terrifying thought, isn’t it? It is terrifying even to imagine your child may get abused. But you need to think about it so you can protect your child against sexual abuse.
The statistics are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys suffer child sexual abuse at some point in childhood. And 91% of child sexual abuse is done by someone the child or child’s family knows. Other statistics say that 60 percent of child victims are sexually abused by someone their family trusts. And about 40 percent of child victims are sexually abused by older or more powerful children.
Effects of child sexual abuse:
Sexual abuse can leave long-lasting effects on the child, hampering their physical, psychological, and social wellbeing. It can cause physical injuries, lead to unwanted pregnancies, and may even cause health issues later in life, including heart disease, obesity, and cancer. There may be many adverse psychological effects as well that can torment the victim throughout life. Sexual abuse can lead to depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, abusive behavior, or other behavioral problems, and increased risk of suicide or suicide attempts.
How to prevent child sexual abuse
Sexual abuse can destroy the life of even an adult. But when children face it, the effects may seep even deeper and be less obvious but longer-lasting. So, you need to ensure your child’s safety. Here are some ways you can save your kids from child sexual abuse:
Know what’s happening in your child’s life:
You may be busy. Still, you need to stay involved in your child’s life. And you need to be aware of what they do, where they go, who they meet, and how they are passing their time. Show interest in your child’s day-to-day life. Encourage them to talk to you freely and openly. Ask them about how they feel about different persons in their life. This will help you notice if the child feels uncomfortable or troubled with any person or place.
Be careful about caregivers:
Don’t trust anybody blindly. Whether it is a new babysitter, teacher, coach, or even a neighbor — screen them carefully before entrusting them with your child’s care. Remember, a large number of children are sexually abused by people their family trusts.
Teach your children:
Talking to your children about good touch and bad touch or sexual abuse is an uncomfortable conversation. But it is necessary. Talk to your children in age-appropriate language about good touch and bad touch. Give them the confidence that they own their body and can refuse anybody’s touch, even if it is a hug from an uncle or aunt. From a young age, teach your children the proper names of the body parts so they feel comfortable about their body and can talk about it without embarrassment.
Teach your children about arousal:
A child may become more vulnerable to sexual abuse if attacked by a skilled molester who will make the child experience arousal. As it feels good, the child may equate the act with love and become willing prey to the bad guys. You need to teach your child that touching certain parts of their body will evoke a physiological response. But they must never allow anybody to touch these parts (mouth, chest, private parts) or to undress them. The children must have the confidence that they own their body and can say no to any touch. You will also need to tell them about ‘safe touch’ by parents and doctors, which is needed to ensure their hygiene and health.
Assure your kids:
Assure your kids you are available for them whenever they want to talk about anything. Tell them they can ask you or tell you anything. Assure them that if they experience abuse, it will not be their fault and they need not hide it or feel ashamed of it. Tell them they won’t get into trouble no matter what they wish to communicate to you. Give them the confidence that you are there to help them, no matter what the problem. Do it repeatedly. This will give them the confidence to confide in you if anything makes them uncomfortable.
Despite all your assurances, your child may still hesitate to tell you about the abuse he or she is facing. So, you need to be watchful. Different children would react to the abuse and trauma differently. But if you notice any marked change in the child’s behavior, find out the reason behind it. Your child may suddenly start wearing baggy clothes, or cut her hair very short, try to look unattractive, or starts showing extreme reactions to minor problems … all this can result from the abuse he or she is facing. If you notice any marked difference in your child’s behavior, talk to your child, and understand the problem.
If your child becomes a victim of sexual abuse and tries to tell you about it, believe it. And tell your child, “I believe you.” Don’t interrogate them yourself. There are professionals who know how to find out things without making the child relive the trauma. Get the child professional help as soon as possible. And assure them it is not their fault.
Child sexual abuse is a nightmare no parent wants to think about. But avoiding this topic can prove too expensive. Teach your child from an early age that they own their body and make them comfortable in talking about it. Give them the confidence that they can talk to you about anything. Be very careful while choosing caregivers for your child. And if you notice any marked change in your child’s behavior, find out the reason behind it without any delay.