Child Sexual Abuse
Recent stories in the news have many of us on red alert for any sexual abuse in our own communities. Certainly, the health and wellbeing of our children is always a top concern.
It’s disturbing to think about, but many children and young adults are sexually abused within environments we all think are safe, and many times by the very people they trust. It can happen in schools, churches, community organizations, or any other place where an offender sees they can establish a relationship with a victim.
Sex abuse victims are often hesitant to report the crime of sexual abuse and assault or sexual exploitation out of a sense of shame. After an assault, young victims are often confused about what to do. Many teenagers and young children are scared and feel alone. Parents may trust the perpetrator and sometimes children are told that their parents won’t believe them if they tell. This is the start of how sexual abuse becomes a secret. Predators groom children to trust them, and then they attack.
So what can we do? First, we all have to commit to reporting any reports or suspicions to law enforcement. Although we may be hesitant to do so, our police and sheriff’s departments are better trained to investigate and analyze the situation. Many cases get worse simply because we fail to report early suspicions.
Next, we need to educate and teach our children at a young age about healthy, positive relationships with adults. We also need to make sure our children understand what sexual abuse is and let them know we support and believe them. This needs to start at a very young age and should be a continuing conversation.
The most important preventative measure is good parent/child relationships and non-judgmental open communication. Evidence shows that many child victims’ lack of good parental relationships made them vulnerable to the interest shown by an adult who later becomes their abuser.
It is Important to know your children’s teachers, coaches, friends’ parents and older siblings, etc. Ask questions and listen and observe without becoming a helicopter parent. Be involved. Use your intuition and train your children to do the same. Things that “just do not seem right” should always be discussed with parents.
We simply cannot risk, or tolerate, the tremendous damage that can be done to our young people. Child Sexual Abuse is not something that is easily overcome. Victims often become perpetrators themselves as adults. We must prevent the abuse to stop the cycle.