Child Abuse Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
I couldn't imagine my child enduring abuse. How is it possible for an abuser to convince my child to participate?
Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship with the family to take advantage of one-on-one time with the child. Once the victim has been groomed, it becomes difficult for a child to escape abuse or feel comfortable telling someone about the abuse. The grooming has created a sense of loyalty from the child to the abuser; in 93% of abuse cases, the child knows and trusts their abuser.
What does it mean when a perpetrator "grooms" a child or family?
Grooming is when a perpetrator builds a relationship with a child and building trust. Grooming makes it difficult to escape the abuse and keeps the child from telling, as he likes the person and feels loyalty to him. It makes the child feel that it is his/her fault. At times power and authority is used as a tool.
It is important to recognize when grooming may be occurring; once a child is groomed they internalize the abuse as their own fault, making the possibility of them telling someone minimal. Some signs of grooming to look for:
- Buying the child gifts/giving the child money
- Finding excuses for one-on-one time with the child
- Treating the child as more special than other children
- Viewing child when nude or exposing child to nudity/pornography
- Excessive appropriate touching/inappropriate touching
- Talking about sexual activity with a child
What is involved regarding sexual abuse between an abuser and a child?
Perpetrators downplay the defenses of children by explaining they were merely playing a "game." Abuse usually begins with touching and kissing and progresses to more severe sexual activity. The perpetrator often creates names for the child's and his/her own genitals to lessen the child's alarm at what is happening.
I believe my child tells me everything. Wouldn't he/she tell me if he/she was being abused?
Abusers manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to disclose the abuse, due to the fact that the abuser has told them many reasons why the child shouldn't tell.
Some reasons why a child would not tell include:
- The abuser is a trusted friend/family member; the child thinks no one will believe him/her
- The child feels ashamed or embarrassed
- The abuser has threatened the child or the child's family
- The abuser blames the child; the child feels responsible and doesn't want to get in trouble
- The abuser bribes the child
- The child likes his/her abuser and doesn't want the abuser to get in trouble
If my child doesn't tell me about abuse, how else can I find out if abuse has occurred?
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their eighteenth birthday (CDC).
Only 1 in 10 will tell. A recent study of 116 confirmed cases of abuse where a child disclosed, showed that 74% of the time it was an accidental disclosure. This means that the abuse was discovered not by the child coming forth with the information, but by third parties observing unusual behaviors or symptoms. Some signs to look for in a child suffering from abuse are as follows:
- Child acts out sexually
- Child acts out behaviorally
- Child develops venereal disease and infections
- Child has frequent fears, anxieties, nightmares
- Child has poor self-esteem or depression
- Adolescents may run away, commit crimes, abuse drugs & alcohol
- Adolescents become withdrawn and depressed
- Adolescents are self-injurious or suicidal
It is important to note here that many times children and adolescents display no symptoms (over 1/3 of confirmed cases). For this reason, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your home about sexual abuse. Talk to your children about "welcome" and "unwelcome" touches. Empower them to say "No" and get away from uncomfortable situations. They need to know they should tell you or another trusted adult if someone has made them uncomfortable. If you can't see the symptoms of abuse, giving your child the opportunity for open dialogue can make all the difference in preventing and treating sexual abuse.
My child has been sexually abused. What will this abuse do to their mental health?
Many victims report that the emotional damage from abuse brings more suffering than the abuse itself. It is important to know the common effects of sexual abuse.
Common mental health issues that plague children include:
- Depression - Victims are 3-5 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- Damaged goods syndrome - "No one will want me now because I've been abused."
- Distorted body image - eating disorders
- Low self-esteem and poor social skills
- Poor development and immaturity
- Anger and hostility Inability to trust
Do we as parents need to be concerned about the validity of our child's allegation of sexual abuse?
Children rarely lie about abuse. Only 2-8% of allegations are false; therefore the overwhelming majority of true allegations beg you as a parent to believe your child. Additionally, questions of a child's credibility arise when court cases involving divorce and child custody are involved. As an example, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Research Unit, out of 9,000 divorce cases from 12 different states, found that only 1.5% of the cases involved sexual abuse allegations; only 9 of these allegations proved to be false. From this objective study, only 0.1% of child abuse allegations were determined to be fabricated. We urge you to always believe your child and follow through with the next step of reporting.