|| Educating Parents On The Reality of Child Sexual Abuse
by Adrian Perry, Survivors United
No mother or father wants to think their child could ever be sexually abused. It's one of those “worst nightmares” that parents may find themselves briefly thinking about, but it's also that one thing that parents think will never happen to their child. Why after all, you are a fantastic parent who never leaves your child with people you don't know or trust. You watch your child like a hawk. You have or will have that body awareness talk with your child that everyone talks about, but no one really knows how to go about it. Well, moms and dads, it is time for a major wake-up call when it comes to child sexual abuse and the reality behind it.
One in four girls are sexually abused and one in six boys are sexually abused during their childhood. The scary reality is that in the majority of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows their abuser, and often times, they know their abuser VERY well. We have this false idea that a child predator is the creepy looking man that is just waiting to snatch your child. This couldn't be further from the truth. The real-life child predator can be your child's teacher, coach, friend, friends' parent, friends' older sibling, pastor, babysitter, mom or dads' friend, a family member, and the list goes on.
A child predator typically knows the parents. In order to gain access to your child, they have to get through two major doors. Door number one and door number two are Mom and Dad. Once they have the parents trust, they have the child's trust.
The individual may be a very trusted member of the community or hold a very influential job title. The truth of the matter is, in most cases of child sexual abuse, it's the person you never would have imagined. That's the reality. Another truth is that this can happen to anyone. This can happen to the family that is doing everything in their might to raise their children in a safe and loving environment.
Have you ever heard the term “grooming”? Grooming is when a perpetrator uses several tactics to gain your child's trust and also the trust of the parents so they can get access to the child they want to abuse. Some of the tactics they use are: gaining the trust of the parents, gaining the trust of the child, buying gifts for the child, taking extra time to make the child feel special, playing games with the child, playing a role in the child's life that makes the child feel like he or she really loves and cares about them and is almost like family to them if they are not already. They also may find ways to isolate the child by insisting to take care of your child or getting your child into an area where no other adults are around. Once these grooming tactics have been established, the perpetrator starts to initiate contact with your child that is sexual in nature. It may start with something as simple as hugging or tickling that slowly gets the child comfortable with his or her touch and then they begin to do more and more.
Now, let's discuss “the talk”. Many parents think ONE talk about body awareness is the answer to prevention. This is completely incorrect. First, it's never too early to begin having this talk with your children. Parents, you might have this conversation with your child at the age of three (which may be too late) but, by the age of five, your child may not even remember having this conversation because of how the human brain works. This is a conversation that needs to be discussed periodically throughout your child's life. As your child matures intellectually, the conversations can go further. This needs to be a topic that you speak about with your child quite frequently so THEY are comfortable with speaking about it should they ever need to come to you. Make sure you stress to your child that if they were to ever be touched in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, IT IS NOT THEIR FAULT. Drive it home that it is not their fault because GUILT for a child in a situation like this can make all the difference in the world on whether or not they tell. If they think they are at fault or guilty for what happened to them, the likelihood the child will NOT tell is tremendous. Make sure your child understands that he or she will never be in trouble if someone touches them inappropriately because it is not their fault, it is the perpetrators fault. Most of all, make sure your child knows that you will take care of them if this were to ever happen and that you will protect them from it ever happening again.
When parents have the talk, they usually just talk about what should not be done to their body, but they usually don't talk about what happens next if it does happen. TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS IF IT DOES HAPPEN. Talk about how they can come to you, talk about how they will not be in trouble, talk about how it isn't their fault. This discussion will increase the possibility of your child telling you in the event that they are ever sexually abused. Let it be known to your child that even if the perpetrator is someone mommy or daddy knows or even loves, that they can tell you and you will protect them from that person. Your child should always know and believe that their safety and protection are your number one priority.
FEAR is one of the top reason's children do not tell when they are sexually abused. They fear they will get in trouble. They fear they won't be believed. They fear they will let the perpetrator down. They fear the perpetrator will hurt them or hurt their mom or dad. They fear they will upset their mom or dad, especially if the perpetrator is mom or dads' friend. Communication with your child on this topic will help eliminate the fear factor from the equation.
If your child has been sexually abused, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you, as the parents, to stick together. If you start playing the blame game between one another because this happened, your child will see and hear what is going on. Your child will then think they are the cause of mommy and daddy's arguments. The last thing your child needs, in the midst of the trauma that comes with childhood sexual abuse, is to feel regret for telling because their abuse caused mommy and daddy to fight. The truth of the matter is that it is not your fault. Child predators groom the parents too. This can happen to the most amazing of parents. Do not blame one another for this happening to your child. Stand by one another and focus on educating yourself on how to help your child heal and how to heal yourself. Knowing your child has been sexually abused is one of the most painful and heartbreaking things. It can knock you off of your feet and take the wind from your sails. Be sure to get the emotional help you need so you can be the support system your child and your spouse needs.
Make sure you get your child the emotional help he or she needs as well. There are many therapists out there, but choosing the right type of therapy for your child can make all the difference in the world on the outcome of their healing process. A child who has been sexually abused needs to see a therapist who specializes in Child Trauma Therapy. Once the Child Trauma Therapy is completed, your child may need to continue seeing a therapist periodically. Pay attention to your child's emotions and behavior at home. If you feel like they need to talk to someone, don't hesitate. If you are on top of their healing process, children can overcome sexual abuse and go on to have beautiful lives, filled with happiness. Most importantly, LOVE them through it.