Friday, January 15, 2010

How to Spot Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children?

This is every Parent's Guide to preventing sexual abuse in children. Learn the tell tale signs of sexual abuse and the art of preventing it.

Listen to your child’s cries. Look for signs of sexual abuse. Prevent by making the child aware of sexual abuse.

Would you believe that the chances of your child being sexually abused is as high as 90%? And the terrible thing about it is …….. a trusted relative, a long-time friend or respected neighbor will be the perpetrator. Children are so vulnerable to abuse in our society where tradition demands utmost respect for elders. Grown-ups take advantage of this and even threaten a child to make it succumb. Since children can hardly understand the feelings that go with abuse, they are at a loss to explain to parents the incident. Shame, guilt and fear of being reprimanded force the child into agonizing silence, more often leaving an indelible psychological scar for life.

What’s it really?
Sexual abuse can be verbal, visual, physical or emotional. Fondling and touching the private parts is just one bit. Exposing the child to the adult’s private parts, showing revealing pictures or playing adult films in the company of child. Undressing, fondling on the pretext of giving a bath to the child, or even worse getting the child to do things on the adult, are other forms. Older children sometimes indulge in sexual play in the pretext of role-playing as parents.

What dares them to do it?
. Child’s trust in them
. Child’s inadequacy in understanding what’s happening
. Pliability of children
. Children easily succumb to threats
. Parents generally admonish children who may be attempting to say something against an elder
. Confident of not being confronted by a victim’s parent.

Signs of sexual abuse
It is unlikely that a young victim can articulate a sexual exploit. Hence, it’s the parents who must look for signals of distress and abnormal behaviour. Physical tell tale signs are rare. Therefore, an adult has to look for behavioral changes.
. fear or dislike of certain adults
. refusal to go to some people’s home
. sudden drop in scores at school
. general disinterest
. withdrawing from playing with other children
. unusual disobedience
. display of unseen aggression
. interrupted sleeping patterns
. health problems
. odd behaviour in the presence of certain adults
. low self-esteem
. depression
. using ‘sexual language’ that doesn’t go with the respective age
. indulging in sexual play-acts with other children
. undressing or posing nude in front of playmates
. displaying interest when parents change

Listen to the child’s cry
When your child reports an ‘accident,’ never admonish the child straightaway. Encourage the child to express the details. Reassure the child that everything is all right. Assuage his/her feelings to avoid shame or guilt overcoming the child. Assure the child that you’ll warn the offender and see to it that isn’t repeated. Do not discuss the ‘incident’ before others, and help the child to get over it. Commend the child for its honesty and prompt reporting. Remember, the child looks up at you as the protector. And you must act like one.

How to Prevent Sexual abuse of your Child?
Parents can’t always be there when things happen. But, certainly, they can train children to identify and repel probable offenders.
Tell children that certain parts of the body are private and they are not to be touched by anyone.
Ask children to report any ‘advances’ made by adults, however close they may be to the child or you.
Always keep an eye on children when they play with adults or older children.
Teach children to warn adults who misbehave – “I will report this to mom (or dad).
Teach children that dressing and undressing should only be done at home either alone or in the company of parents.
Tell children that they must never do what they dislike. And speak up for things.
Talk to children generally about whom they like and dislike. This will throw up signals, if at all there’s any.

Gosh! My child has been……………. Tell the child that it wasn’t his/her fault at all. Keep out feelings of shame or guilt.
. Comfort the child and encourage it to spell out the incident in detail
. Confront the individual in the presence of the child (tactfully, though)
. Never let the offender ever get close to your child
. Don’t panic or overreact
. Avoid talking about the incident even to others in the family
. Warn the offender if necessary even threaten to take-up issue with the offender’s family
. If child shows abnormal behavioral pattern even after a few weeks, then consult a child psychiatrist

Warning: Don’t brush aside complaints from your child
Believe the child, you’re the only one it trusts
Always remember children don’t have a motive in saying things. So there’s every reason he’s telling the truth.

Is your child being sexually abused?
Always
1. Attend to your child when she displays erratic behaviour
2. Trust the child when she complains
3. Handle it tactfully if you see him posing nude or ‘examining’ a playmate
4. Encourage children to express their feelings.
5. Reassure the child that she’s safe with you.

Never
1. Take her to a place where she’s refusing to go.
2. Let a perpetrator get away.
3. Panic.
4. Brush aside your child’s complaints
5. Forget to commend the child for its honesty.