When I watch TV shows like Dr. Phil, Iyanla Fix My Life, and My 600lb Life, I noticed that sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence is a common theme in many of the featured stories. The shows highlight sexual abuse as the source of a current problem that causes the person to engage in reckless behavior as an adult. I can’t help but wonder if the abused person would still have had the same problems if the sexual abuse had been reported when it occurred.
It doesn’t matter the culture, religion, or country, child sexual abuse is a complex issue. Child sexual abuse exploits children’s vulnerabilities and because they are innocent and dependent, they are vulnerable to abuse from different people. Sadly, there is a large percentage of sexual abuse that is done at the hand of family members or caregivers who are close to the child. When the perpetrators of sexual abuse are family members or acquaintances, children rarely speak directly about the sexual abuse because of the perceived shame associated with it, the fear their parent will not believe them, or threats from the abuser. As a result, the abuse goes unreported and the child does not receive the much needed proper treatment.
It is important to be aware of the physical symptoms of child sexual abuse in order to be safeguards for children. Some of the symptoms may include: physical trauma to the genitals or mouth, genital or rectal bleeding, sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, and complaints of pain or discomfort of the genital area (Dominguez et. al., 2005). There may not always be physical symptoms of child sexual abuse, so the signs of sexual abuse may be identified by the inappropriate touching of others, sexualized behavior, inappropriate knowledge of sex, dissociation, self-mutilation, or nightmares (Dominguez et. al., 2005).
The traumatic nature of sexual abuse has lasting and devastating effects on children. The most common traumatic affect on a child of sexual abuse is post-traumatic stress disorder. Other impacts can negatively affect the ability of a child to bond with and trust others, ability to form healthy relationships, ability to successfully navigate through difficult situations, and academics. In addition, there are long-term effects of sexual abuse like low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, or anxiety (Dominguez, et. al., 2005).
We can all be a part of the solution. I believe if more awareness is raised about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, it could be greatly reduced or even eliminated altogether. Since child sexual abuse may be committed by family members, acquaintances, or strangers, parents or legal guardians must take precautions to protect their children. The worst act for a parent or legal guardian to take is not to believe the child or blame the child for letting the sexual abuse happen to them. During childhood and adolescence, parents, legal guardians and those of us who have no children, must be vigilant in taking steps to recognize the signs of sexual abuse so that children can be children and not be left to suffer in silence.
If you are a child sexual abuse survivor, or know someone who is, please seek help from a trusted advisor, a trained professional. If you don't know anyone, please check out our faciliated chat rooms at http://yesican.org/chat-schedule.html
For more information on child sexual abuse and prevention:
From Darkness to Light: End Child Sexual Abuse – http://www.d2l.org
12 Confronting Child Sexual Abuse Statistics All Parents Need to Know - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...ab01e4b0740488c3de49
National Children’s Alliance- http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/
Dominquez, R. Z., Nelke, C. F., & Perry, B. D. (2002). Child sexual abuse. Encyclopedia of crime and punishment, 1, 202-207. Retrieved from http://www.geocities.ws/ouclas...ChildSexualAbuse.doc.