“Child sexual abuse or child molestation is a form of abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) to a child with intent to gratify their own sexual desires, or to intimidate the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce pornography.”(rainn.org and wikipedia.org)
According to RAINN, sexual contact with a child can include fondling, exhibitionism, masturbation, intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, obscene phone calls, prostitution, pornography, and any other sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.
Child sexual abuse may consist of a single incident or many acts over time. More often, this abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the child. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse usually escalates over time.
Many adults tend to overlook, to minimize, to explain away, or to disbelieve allegations of abuse. This may be particularly true if the perpetrator is a family member.
NOTE: The absence of force or coercion does not diminish the abusive nature of the conduct, but, sadly, it may cause the child to feel responsible for what has occurred.
There are physical warning signs to watch for in children including:
Difficulty walking or sitting
Bloody, torn, or stained underclothes
Bleeding, bruises, or swelling in genital area
Pain, itching, or burning in genital area
Frequent urinary or yeast infections
Sexually Transmitted Diseases, especially if under 14 years old
Pregnancy, especially if under 14 years old
There are behavioral warning signs to watch for also including:
Reports sexual abuse
Inappropriate sexual knowledge
Inappropriate sexual behavior
Nightmares or bed-wetting
Large weight changes/major changes in appetite
Suicide attempts or self-harming, especially in adolescents
Shrinks away or seems threatened by physical contact
Overly protective and concerned for siblings, assumes a caretaker role
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or Rape Trauma Syndrome symptoms
Sleeping & eating disorders
Psychosomatic symptoms (stomach-ache, headaches)
School problems (absences, drops in grades)
Poor hygiene/excessive bathing
Regressive behaviors – thumb-sucking, etc.
Many of these warning signs are missed or ignored. Unfortunately, many of the same people who should be protecting their own children are the ones inflicting these abuses to them. We should all be trying to protect all children.