Child sexual abuse is any contact or interaction between a child and an older person in which the child is sexually abused or used for sexual assualt:
- affection, eroticized care;
- demonstration of the genitals, the use of a child for sexual stimulation of an adult;
- rape or molestation, oral-ginetal contact;
- sexual exploitation (exhibitionism, porn, pornographic materials with children);
STEP ONE: Fixing the signs
#1. The child becomes unsociable. It is worthwhile to be wary if your usually responsive and energetic child turns abruptly into a shy and secretive, difficult to contact. Often, a boy or girl who has experienced sexual abuse feels ashamed, embarrassed and confused about what happened, and since, due to their age, children have not yet got the hang of clearly recognizing and expressing their feelings, they keep and block them in themselves. The child behaves quieter than usual for a long time – an alarming signal that cannot be ignored.
#2. The behavior of the child does not correspond to his age – there is a rollback several years ago. A specific symptom that a child has experienced sexual abuse. Here are some examples of this behavior:
- the child begins to pee again at night;
- the child becomes hysterical or aggressive for no apparent reason.
#3. Nightmares and other sleep disorders. Children often have nightmares, and insomnia periodically haunt them, and you should not panic because of a couple of such nights. Nevertheless, if your child has been for a week (and there is a suspicion that it will not be limited to one such week) as he sees nightmares in a dream, cries when you leave his room before going to bed, and cannot fall asleep in his bed alone, you need to take steps to establish the causes of such violations.
#4. Suspicious” games. Sometimes sexually abused children unknowingly recreate what happened while playing with other children or using toys. In such cases, the child’s play takes on an obvious sexual connotation, while the girl or boy will not be able to explain to you why the game has such a form.
#5. A sharp change in character. A sincere, sociable and cheerful child turns into a morbidly morose touchy person, at the moment he changes his usual way of child’s life: other games, new friends and vice versa. A modest, quiet and shy child turns into a neurotic, demanding constant attention, violent child. Frequent, for no apparent reason, there are mood swings.
#6. Unhealthy reactions to specific places and people. The child begins to persistently show unwillingness to be in his usual place (courtyard, school, apartment) or next to a specific person, which also causes him to react to escape, attempts to hide, numbness, crying, screaming.
#7. Injuries. The rapist rarely leaves marks on the child’s body, but still:
- pain, bleeding or secretions, discoloration (everything in the mouth, vagina, and anus);
- pain when urinating and intestinal discharge;
- bruising around the genitals;
- bruising (bite marks) on the neck and other thin-skinned areas.
#8. The norms of sexual behavior for the child.
It is necessary to distinguish between adequate and inadequate sexual behavior of the baby. So, the norms of sexual behavior of a child (0-5 years old) include:
- the child’s use of extremely simple, figurative childish language when describing intimate parts of the human body or similar places on the surface of a doll or toy;
- showing interest in the question of where children come from;
- touching and exploring your intimate places, showing interest in the structure of your body.
STEP TWO: Your very first conversation with your child about what happened
#1. Security. The child should feel safe during the conversation. Sexual abuse vs sexual assualt is a difficult topic for both parents and children, so it is critical that the conversation takes place in the most comfortable environment. Guess a free moment when neither your son / daughter nor you need to rush anywhere. Invite the child to talk, warning in advance that you intend to ask some questions, honest answers to which will not entail any negative consequences for the child.
#2. Asking the child whether his / her sexual integrity has been violated. Once you are sure that your child is comfortable with you now, gently start a substantive conversation. The main question can be formulated as follows: “Has anyone touched (asked, planned) or did any other manipulations ever to your intimate parts?” When describing body parts that other people should not touch or show interest, use simple words and phrases that are familiar to your child.
#3. If the child says “No” or keeps silent, ask the baby / toddler a question about the reasons for the change in his / her behavior, which became the reason for the ongoing conversation. For example, you might say that you have noticed his / her fear of going to workout, kindergarten, school, which you have not seen before, and would like to know about its origins: “You have become shy (aggressive, secretive, etc.). ). Why? I am worried and would like to talk about it.” A specific question should be asked about whether a particular event or a particular person caused a change in behavior.
#4. Secret. Often the abuser takes a promise from the child to keep what happened (is happening) a secret; intimidation of a child of a criminal in order to conceal the atrocity is not excluded. If your child confirms that he / she promised not to tell anyone, explain to him / her that there are situations when it is normal to reveal a secret, and no one will be hurt by it, especially “you, baby”.
#5. Support. First of all, reassure your child that the real conversation has only one purpose – you want to protect him / her or help in a dangerous situation. Show your loyalty and support. And if the fears are not confirmed, assure that if his / her sexual integrity is once violated, then the child can and should always tell the parents about it.
STEP THREE: Prevention, Reaction and Defense
We identify what situations can be defined as sexual violence against a child:
- sexual contact with a child, regardless of its form and the fact of the child’s consent / disagreement to such contact. For example, the age of consent in Ontario, Canada is 16 years old;
- various touches to your child’s genitals in order to satisfy personal sexual desire;
- forcing a child to touch someone else’s (adult or other child’s) intimate places;
- demonstration to adults of their genitals to the child, as well as forcing the child to adults to observe various sexual manipulations with their genitals, sexual intercourse;
- showing the child pornographic images;
- photo and video filming of the child in the nude.