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Sexual Abuse & Incest

Open Discussions About Child Abuse

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Sexual Abuse & Incest

Postby pyewoman » Thu Jun 01, 2006 4:32 pm

Incest and sexual abuse are at epidemic proportions. Current statistics suggest that one out of four females is sexually abused by the time she reaches the age of 18, with about 75% being family members. One out of 6 males is sexually abused by age 18.

Incest is defined as sexual relations of any kind perpetrated by a biologically or non-biologically related person functioning in the role of a family member. Other trusted adults also sexually abuse children and teenagers; these include: mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, stepparents, grandfathers, coaches, baby sitters, clergy, teachers.

It really happens....and not just to other people. Children of every race, religion and economic status are abused and or incested. What makes this problem even worse is that the effects of incest don't stop when the abuse stops. They stay with the child as he/she grows through adolescence and into adulthood. Self hatred, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, eating disorders, the inability to trust and suicide are common results of incest and sexual abuse.

A small percentage of kids who are being incested find the courage to tell someone. These disclosures can be as painful as the incest itself; the child believing he/she is telling on someone he/she loves and reliving the horrible experience. They dont want to cause problems, they just want it to stop. No one really knows what makes one child disclose and another not. We do know that it is incredibly important for a discloser to be heard respectfully and to be believed.

Often when a child discloses incest, he/she doesn't have words to answer all the questions adults ask. They simply don't understand what is happening. Adults who are already uncomfortable, get frustrated and the whole thing gets dismissed....the child was "making it up" or "fantasizing". Most likely, the child won't tell again. After all, he/she wasn't believed so why bother. And regardless of when the incest stops, the effects on the survivor lasts for years.

Every child is vulnerable to sexual abuse. Since one out of four females is sexually abused by the time she reaches age 18 -- that could include you, or a friend, or a brother or sister of yours. Today's teenagers and children must face the possibility that someone may hurt or take advantage of them. Very young children, as well as older teenagers, are victimized. Almost all of these children will be abused by someone they know and trust: a relative, a family friend, or a caretaker. If you were ever sexually abused, even if it was years ago, it is okay to tell a trusted teacher, school nurse, guidance counsellor or friend.


Sexual abuse includes:

Sexual touching and fondling
Exposing children to adult sexual activity, including pornographic and photographs
Having children pose, undress or perform in a sexual fashion on film or in person
Peeping into bathrooms or bedrooms to spy on a child
Rape or attempted rape

Of course, this list goes on. Sexual abuse involves forcing, tricking, threatening, or pressuring a child into sexual awareness or activity. Sexual abuse occurs when an older or more knowledgeable child or an adult uses a child for sexual preasure. The abuse often begins gradually and increases over time.

The use of physical force is rarely necessary to engage a child in sexual activity because children are trusting and dependent. They want to please others and gain love and approval. Children are taught not to question authority and they believe that adults are always right. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse know this and take advantage of these vulnerabilities in children. Sexual abuse is an abuse of power over a child and a violation of a child's right to normal, healthy, trusting relationships.

Because most children cannot or do not tell about being sexually abused and it is up to concerned adults or friends to recognize signs of abuse. Physical evidence of abuse is rare. Therefore, we must look for behavior signs. Unfortunately, there is no behavior alone that definitely determines a child has been sexually abused.

The following are general behaviour changes that may occur in children and teens who have been sexually abused:

Eating Disorders
Sleep disturbances
Physical complaints
School problems
Withdrawal from family, friends, or usual activities
Excessive bathing or poor hygiene
Running away
Passive or overly pleasing behaviour
Low self-esteem
Self-destructive behaviour
Hostility or aggression
Drug or alcohol problems
Sexual activity or pregnancy at an early age; promiscuity
Suicide attempts

Children and teens who have been sexually abused frequently have more specific symptoms:

Copying adult sexual behavior
Sexual play with other children, themselves, toys or pets
Displaying sexual knowledge, through language or behavior that is beyond what is normal for their age
Unexplained pain, swelling, bleeding or irritation of the mouth, genitial or anal area; urinary infections; sexually transmitted diseases
Hints, indirect comments or statements about the abuse

Often children and teens do not tell anyone about sexual abuse they:

Are too young to put what has happened into words
Were threatened or bribed by the abuser to keep the abuse a secret
Feel confused by the attention and feelings accompanying the abuse
Are afraid no one will believe them
Blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being "bad"
Feel too ashamed or embarrassd to tell
Worry about getting into trouble or getting a loved one into trouble

Silence enables sexual abuse to continue. Silence protects sexual offenders and hurts children who are being abused. Sexual abuse is an extremely difficult and damaging experience. Today there are many resources to help victims and their families. Children no longer need to suffer in silence.


Children and teens who have been sexually abused feel many different (and often overwhelming) emotions, including:

Of the abuser
Of causing trouble
Of losing adults important to them
Of being taken away from home
Of being "different"

At the abuser
At other adults around them who did not protect them
At themselves (feeling as if they caused trouble)
Because "something is wrong with me"
Because they feel alone in their experience
Because they have trouble talking about the abuse

About having something taken from them
About being betrayed by someone they trusted
About growing up too fast

For not being able to stop the abuse
For not believing they "consented" to the abuse
For "telling"-- if they told
For keeping the secret -- if they did not tell
About being involved in the experience
About their bodies response to the abuse (if they found it pleasurable)

Because they may still love or care about the abuser
Because their feelings change all the time

Parents want to protect children from Sexual abuse, but they can't always be there to do that. Since that is the reality in life, children and teens need to know about sexual abuse in order to increase their awareness and coping skills. Without frightening children and teens, we need to provide them with appropiate safety information and support at every stage of their development.

Even the best educated child or teenager cannot always avoid sexual abuse, children who are well prepared will be more likely to tell if abuse has occured. This is a person's best defense. As a teenager you need to know:

You are loved and deserved to be safe.
The difference between safe and unsafe touches
The proper names for all body parts, so you will be able to communicate clearly
That safety rules apply to all adults, not just strangers
That your body belongs to you and nobody has the right to touch you or hurt you
That you can say "no" to requests that make you feel uncomfortable even from a close relative, family friend or friend
To report if any adult asks them to keep a secret
That some adults or siblings have problems
That you can rely on others to believe and protect you if you talk about abuse
That you are not to blame for sexual abuse
To tell a trusted adult about abuse even if you are afraid of what may happen

If someone trusts you enough to tell you about an incident of sexual abuse, you are in an important position to help that person to recover. The following suggestions can help you provide positive support. Keep in mind that sometimes it's important just to listen.


Keep calm. It is important to remember that you are not angry with them, but at what happened. Children can mistakenly interpret anger as directed towards them.
Believe them! In most circumstances children or teens do not lie about sexual abuse.
Give positive messages such as "I know you couldn't help it" or "Im proud of you for telling."
Explain to the person that he or she is not to blame for what happened.
Listen to the answer the child's questions honestly.
Respect the person's privacy. Be careful not to discuss the abuse infront of people who do not need to know what happened.
Help them to get help. Getting competent proffesional counseling, even if its only for a short time is essential.


Panic or overreact when the person talks about the experience. People need help and support to make it through this difficult time.
Pressure the person to talk or avoid talking about the abuse. Allow the person to talk at her or his own pace. Forcing information can be harmful. Silencing the person will not help her or him to forget.
Confront the offender in the persons presence. The stress may be harmful. This is a job for the authorities.
Blame the child.

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