A guide to realizing if
your child is at-risk, displaying
self-destructive behaviors, and
needs your help and intervention.
Practical Help, Real Answers
for Adoptive & Foster Parents
How can I help my ADDICTED TEEN?
How can I deal with the ANGER
in our family?
Is my teen's BEHAVIOR just normal teenage rebellion?
What do parents and teachers need to know about BULLYING?
How can I help my OVERWEIGHT
Help! My teen is a RUNAWAY!
My teen is cutting. What do I need to know about SELF-INJURY?
What is 'normal' teen SEXUAL BEHAVIOR and what is cause for concern?
ABUSE: Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse has been reported between 300,000 to 400,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater, because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult.
Sexual abuse includes fondling a child’s genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
Many experts believe that sexual abuse is the most under-reported form of child maltreatment because of the secrecy or "conspiracy of silence" that so often characterizes these cases.
Child sexual abuse can take place within the family, by a parent, step-parent, sibling or other relative; or outside the home, for example, by a friend, neighbor, child care person, teacher, or stranger. When sexual abuse has occurred, a child can develop a variety of distressing feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.
No child is psychologically prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation. Even a two- or three-year-old, who cannot know the sexual activity is "wrong," will develop problems resulting from the inability to cope with the over-stimulation and emotional deceit.
The child of five or older who knows and cares for the abuser becomes trapped between affection or loyalty for the person, and the sense that the sexual activities are terribly wrong. If the child tries to break away from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child with violence or loss of love.
When sexual abuse occurs within the family, the child may fear the anger, jealousy or shame of other family members, or be afraid the family will break up if the secret is told.
A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal. Personality disorders, such as Dissociative Identity Disorder (also known as Multiple Personality Disorder) have been linked to sexual abuse.
Some children who have been sexually abused have difficulty relating to others except on sexual terms. Some sexually abused children become child abusers or prostitutes, or have other serious problems when they reach adulthood.
Often there are no obvious physical signs of child sexual abuse. Some signs can only be detected on physical exam by a physician.
Sexually abused children may develop the following:
Among the findings of a study titled The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico:
In adolescents and adults, common symptoms of childhood sexual abuse include:
NEXT: Emotional Abuse
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More Information on Sexual Abuse
Adolescent sex offenders are often stereotyped and treated as socially inept, but new research negates this image, finding that they are more likely to be characterized by atypical sexual interests -- such as desire for prepubescent children, coercive sex with peers and adults, and exposing their genitals to strangers. They are also more likely to have a history of sexual abuse themselves, been exposed to sexual violence in their families, and experienced early exposure to sex or pornography.
Adult-Child Sex: Is It Abuse or Misuse? ~ If we diminish the term "abuse" and do not hold adults accountable, don't we send the clear message to children that they are responsible? If we even casually suggest that a child is responsible for adult-child sex because of some "initiated" inappropriate behavior, are we not alleviating adults of the responsibility to be the protectors and guardians who guide children toward healthy development?
Adult Manifestations of Childhood Sexual Abuse ~ The common symptoms of childhood sexual abuse include addiction, depression, anxiety, obesity, eating disorders, physical presentations such as chronic back pain, and self-injury (a coping mechanism used for protection during the abuse or later to guard against feelings of overwhelming helplessness and terror).
Consensual Incest Between Adults? ~ Those who have been in incestuous relationships with a parent -- even as adults -- "mix up" power, love, affection, attention and abuse. Although anthropologists Margaret Mead and Claude Levi-Strauss argued that the incest taboo was "among the essential mechanisms of human society," consensual incest is legal in China, France, Israel, the Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and Turkey -- and one Columbia University professor said: "It's OK for homosexuals to do whatever they want in their home. How is this so different?"
Dirty Secrets: Why Sexually Abusive Teachers Aren't Stopped ~ This series of articles uncovers the pervasive problem of sexually abusive teachers, examines their activities and discusses how to plug the holes in the system that allows the molesters to circulate throughout the country.
Grooming Children for Sexual Molestation ~ A predator will identify and engage his victim. He'll gain the child's trust, break down his defenses, and manipulate him into performing or permitting the desired sex act. If necessary, the predator will gain access to the child by employing the same techniques with the child's parent or adult caretaker.
How Prostitution Works ~ The sex industry ultimately is about power -- the industry takes great care to ensure that those it uses are powerless. The predators are neither irrational nor stupid. They watch carefully for a kind of "victim profile," especially children and teens who have already experienced any type of abuse.
Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery ~ Country by country reports of human trafficking, including commercial sex exploitation.
Juveniles Who Commit Sex Offenses Against Minors (pdf) ~ Youth commit more than one in three sex offenses against other youth and one in four sex offenders is a juvenile.
Let's Fight This Terrible Crime Against Our Children ~ Child pornography is a multi-victim crime and a multibillion-dollar business. It is also a war against humanity. Andrew Vachss tells us what we can do to stop this monstrous evil.
Mother-Son Incest: Hidden in Shame and Rising ~ One of the unspeakable secrets in the world of child sexual abuse is that mothers can be molesters. Often, they prey on daughters, but more frequently their sons -- who report increased feelings of isolation and sexual confusion along with thoughts of suicide.
Pornography is a Civil Rights Issue ~ Feminist Andrea Dworkin's impassioned testimony before the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography.
Recovered Memories of Sexual Abuse ~ Comprehensive presentation by Dr. Jim Hopper of research, statistics and theories on amnesia, repression, and delayed recall of sexual abuse.
Ritual Abuse: The Attack on Our Children ~ Excerpts from Dr. Corydon Hammond's lecture on ritual abuse.
Sexual Abuse of Males ~ Prevalence, possible lasting effects, and resources.
Sexual Abuse Survivors Have Increased Psychiatric Disorders ~ A history of sexual abuse -- no matter the victim's gender or age when the abuse occurred -- is associated with suicide attempts, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, and sleep disorders.
Sibling Sexual Abuse: A Parent's Guide ~ This booklet is written for parents who know or suspect there is sibling abuse in their family and want to do something about it, and for parents who want to understand and prevent sibling sexual abuse in their family.
Taking Ritual Abuse Concerns to the Public: Reality and Perception in the Media ~ Ritual abuse consists of traumatizing procedures that are conducted in a circumscribed or ceremonial manner. Ritual abuse may occur in a group setting, but occasionally it is perpetrated by an individual.
Teacher's Arrest Raises Questions About Why No One Spoke Up ~ The answer lies in a web of shame, self-blame and societal attitudes toward sex and power.
The National Report on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking: America's Prostituted Children (pdf) ~ Read this unprecedented report to learn the reality that American children are being recruited from our neighborhoods and sold on our streets
by Cynthia L. Mather
This book, written by an incest survivor for future survivors, is a step-by-step guide that speaks directly to sexually abused teenagers about coming to grips with what is happening to them and overcoming the isolation, confusion, and self-doubt they feel. With straight-forward language and hands-on information, this book provides a variety of real options for escaping abusive situations, taking control of their lives, and beginning the healing process. Based on actual case studies and person-to-person interviews with adolescent survivors, the authors addresses with candor and warmth the tough and most fundamental questions and issues that abused teens face.
© Focus Adolescent Services