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Child Sexual Abuse
Part II

Child Sexual Abuse – How to suspect?

As a parent you must face the possibility that every child is vulnerable to sexual abuse. You must realize that someone may hurt or take advantage of your child. It is not age specific - Very young children as well as older teenagers are victimized.

Last article we saw that Sexual abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional. You may wonder how can my child give in? The abuser is smart.

It involves forcing, tricking, bribing, threatening or pressuring a child into sexual awareness or activity. Sexual abuse is said to have occurred when an older or more knowledgeable child or an adult uses a child for sexual pleasure.

You may also ask – ‘Is a child abused by use of pressure?’

The answer is NO. The abuser is after all scared of being caught. The abuse always 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 believe that adults are always right as they are taught not to question authority. The abuser knows this and takes advantage of these vulnerabilities in children.

What are the signs of Sexual Abuse?

Most children will never tell about being sexually abused. It is upto us adults to recognize signs of abuse, which may at best be subtle. Physical evidence of abuse is rare, hence you have to be on the look out for behavior signs. Unfortunately, there is no single behavior alteration that can alone determine that a child has been sexually abused.

But a child will tell if some such thing happens!

No. Abusers often convince the child not to tell anyone about it. The child may believe that he will be punished if someone finds out. If a child talks about it, his first statements are likely to be incomplete and vague. He may tell a friend about it and the friend may then tell an adult. More often than not, parents suspect abuse because of the child’s behavior. The following are some of the behavior changes that may occur in children who have been sexually abused:

  • Noticeable, new fear of a person (even a parent) or certain places
  • Unusual, unexpected and guarded response from the child when asked if he/she was touched by someone
  • Child drawing sexual acts
  • Reappearance of bed-wetting or loss of bowel control
  • Sudden increased awareness of genitals
  • Questions about sexual activity that are beyond his/her development
  • Changes in sleep habits, such as dreams/ nightmares in young children
  • Constipation, or refusal to have bowel movements
  • Vague physical complaints
  • Headaches
  • Fear of going to school
  • Withdrawal from family, friends or usual activities
  • Return to younger, more babyish behavior
  • Anxiety, Depression and Discipline problems
  • Running away or other Delinquent acts
  • Eating disorders
  • Passive or overly pleasing behavior
  • Low self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behavior

 Specific Symptoms

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

  • Copying adult sexual behavior
  • Persistent 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, genital or anal area; urinary infections; sexually transmitted diseases
  • Hints, indirect comments or statements about the abuse

My child...My responsibility...

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