Any form of child abuse is primarily a psychological trauma that affects all areas of the child’s functioning – physiological, intellectual, emotional, personal and interpersonal.
What is sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse is a very complex and controversial topic, causing rejection, protest and a range of conflicting experiences. Even many qualified specialists are not ready to work with children with this type of trauma because every such case requires a lot of strength, attention and energy. And our society is not ready to accept such truth of life because it violates all the laws and foundations of the society that have long been established.
The prevalence of child sexual abuse in the world is estimated at about 20% in girls and approximately 8% in boys (according to an analysis of 22 countries in 2009). According to reports, the highest level of sexual abuse of children is in Africa (about 35%), the lowest – in Europe (9%).
Not all adults who commit sexual violence against children are pedophiles (there are about 10% of them), most criminals are familiar with their victims (about 30% are relatives of the child, about 60% are “friends” of the family) and only 10% are strangers.
Sexual abuse does not necessarily imply physical contact. A child can be forced to watch a pornographic movie or watch someone masturbate. A child can be lured into a sex chat on the Internet. A rapist can spy on a child when he or she is undressed or taking a shower. Kissing, petting, sexual intercourse, oral and anal sex are also included in the concept of sexual violence.
Child sexual abuse often leads to dire consequences and often to psychopathology, especially if the child is alone with his or her problem.
Psychological signs of child sexual abuse
The main psychological signs of child sexual abuse are as follows:
- Knowledge about sexual relations, which is uncharacteristic of age;
- Sexual games, erotic behavior; example – a 5-year-old child offers to play a game where his or her genitals are involved or plays with dolls, emitting sexual intercourse, showing increased interest in the topic of sex;
- Nightmares, fears, enuresis. This indicates a neurotic child. This may mean something happened to the child, which should be paid attention and clarified;
- Depression, low self-esteem;
- Suicidal thoughts;
- Prostitution, promiscuous sexual intercourse;
- Aversion to your body (especially true for girls). After sexual violence, the attitude to your body often changes, untidiness appears, the body is perceived as dirty, disgusting. A psychological attitude is being formed – «if they did this to me, then I’m bad».
- The increased level of aggression, etc.
What to do if a child is a victim of sexual abuse?
Experts believe that it’s not natural for children to make up stories about sexual abuse, so parents should take these stories seriously. You can ask your child clarifying questions, but be sure to keep calm. What else is required:
- It is necessary to decide what is the primary goal you are pursuing? Find and punish a criminal or rehabilitate a child?
- Clarify all the circumstances and be sure to report the incident to the child services, social services and police;
- Listen to the child, try not to broadcast your anxiety. If he or she told you about sexual abuse, this is a sign of trust. Be for him/her a container for feelings and emotions;
- Do not make vain promises such as “I will find this person and punish him/her” or “This will not happen to you again”;
- Do not advise the child to forget everything, it is pointless;
- Make sure your child understands — no matter happens to him/her, you still love him/her;
- Let the child know that he/she is not to blame and you can’t return anything back (often children tend to take all the blame on themselves: “If I had not gone to the rehearsal that day, this would not have happened”;
- Be sure to seek the help of a qualified specialist who will correctly build a rehabilitation strategy for the child, depending on the age, situation and severity of the trauma;
- Believe that you can overcome everything, the main thing is not to despair and build life guidelines correctly.
And remember, parental love works wonders.