With the kind of world we all live in, everyone faces a lot of violence, intolerance, ingenuity and many other things. We as adults have seen much more than the current younger generation. A question arises for all of us – Should our children be subject to child abuse?
Obviously not. But none of us know how to stop it. Sexual abuse of children is a grim fact of life in our society. It is more common than most people realize. Some surveys say that at least 1 out of 5 women and 1 out of 10 men recall sexual abuse in childhood. Boys and girls are most often abused by adults or older children whom they know and who can control them. The offender is known by the victim in 8 out of 10 reported cases. The offender is often an authority figure whom the child trusts or loves. Almost always the child is convinced to engage in sex by means of persuasion, bribes, or threats.
Parents need to be aware of behavioral changes that may signal this problem. The following symptoms may suggest sexual abuse:
1. Striking or exceptional fear of a person or certain places
2. An uncalled-for response from a child when the child is asked if he has been touched by someone
3. Unreasonable fear of a physical exam
4. Drawings that are scary or use a lot of black and red
5. Abrupt change in conduct of any sort
6. Sudden awareness of genitals and sexual acts and words
With child abuse cases occurring frequently, activists and psychiatrists say it’s time to focus on prevention because the same script plays out in all these cases with different faces. What is the kind of personal safety instruction parents give their children? How many children are being told it’s not right for anyone to touch them, except to keep them clean and healthy. It’s time for parents to wake up and start training their children as soon as they develops awareness of their body and are curious about it. Let the awareness be a part of children’s upbringing. We must also teach them to identify feelings. They may be scared or nervous but unable to articulate it. For different age groups the manifestations are different. An adult aggressor may try to make it look like a game rather than a forceful act. If an “uncle” gives sweets or gifts to a small child for several days, warning bells should ring; if another makes a child sit in his lap, that’s a sign, too. Children know instinctively something is wrong. But parents need to at least ask about their day in school and the activities. We as grown ups keep our jewellery in lockers but let our child be with a stranger for two hours every day. How can you leave your children with just anyone without vetting the adult first?
The hard but healthy way to deal with the problem is:
1. Face the issue.
2. Take charge of the situation.
3. Work to avoid future abuse.
4. Discuss it with your pediatrician, who can provide support and counselling.
5. Report abuse to your local child protection service agency and ask about crisis support help.
Talking about sexual abuse can be very hard for the child who has been told not to talk by a trusted adult. It can be just as hard for adults if the abuser is close to them. Still, the abuse should be reported to your local child protection agency or your doctor. It is the best thing to do for both the child and the family.
Prevention measures to safeguard your children should begin early, since a number of child abuse cases involve preschoolers. The following guidelines offer age-appropriate topics to discuss with your children:
> 18 months:
Teach your child the proper names for body parts.
> 3 – 5 years:
Teach your child about private parts of the body and how to say no to sexual advances. Give straightforward answers about sex.
> 5 – 8 years:
Discuss safety away from home and the difference between good touch and bad touch. Encourage your child to talk about scary experiences.
> 8 – 12 years:
Stress personal safety. Start to discuss rules of sexual conduct that are accepted by the family.
> 13 – 18 years:
Stress personal safety. Discuss rape, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancy.
Your pediatrician understands the importance of communication between parents and children. Your doctor is trained to detect the signs of child sexual abuse. Ask your pediatrician for advice on ways to protect your children. Hence parents, it’s better late than never.