25 Things Parents Should Know About Child Sexual Abuse
An Oregon newspaper published an article in which Washington County detectives shared 25 things parents should know about child sex abuse. Detective Kiurski said, "Parents are the filter," adding alert parents can often stop a sex offender before he or she harms a child.
Here's what he tells parents they should know:
1. One in four children is sexually abused before his or her 18th birthday.
2. Ninety percent of children are sexually abused by people they know, including immediate family members.
3. Child sex abuse isn't limited to sexual intercourse. It also includes oral sex, genital contact and masturbation.
4. In the vast majority of cases, children who report sex abuse are telling the truth. "
5. Fewer than 5 percent of children who have been sexually abused actually report it. And fewer than 5 percent of perpetrators are arrested.
6. Sex offenders can pass criminal background checks. They may have committed their crimes before laws requiring registration as a sex offender. Or they may have committed their crimes in another jurisdiction.
7. Some sex offenders are "preferential" offenders. These people make a concerted effort to get access to children. "They're going to treat it just like a job," said Anderson. In fact, they may choose jobs and career paths that provide direct access to children.
8. Other sex offenders are "situational" offenders. Anderson gave the example of an offender who finds a child asleep with no one else around and takes advantage of the situation.
9. Sex offenders often target parents and children they see as vulnerable: single parents, parents or children with substance abuse problems, parents or children with mental health issues, children labeled as disciplinary problems, children with few friends.
10. Sex offenders often position themselves as the "hero" saving a child from a difficult or unhappy situation. They may cultivate a highly positive and respected image within the community.
11. Sex offenders don't pounce immediately. They may spend weeks or months "grooming" a child, working to make a child feel special by showering him or her with gifts, special activities and outings, and attention.
12. Sex offenders will work to break down a child's natural inhibitions. These behaviors include "accidental" touching, having the child sit on the offender's lap, roughhousing/tickling, massages, getting involved in a child's personal hygiene, sports training, "accidentally" walking in on a child undressing or showering or using the toilet, showing pornography to a child, photographing a child (in either sexual or non-sexual poses) and providing a child with alcohol or drugs.
13. Sex offenders also "groom" parents and guardians, with the goal of having them lower their defenses and allow the child to spend time alone with the offender.
14. Sex offenders may approach parents with offers that sound too good to be true, such as watching a child after school every day for free.
15. Sex offenders rarely stop at one victim.
16. Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit any of the following symptoms: depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, withdrawal, acting out, unexplained bruises, difficulty walking, redness/bleeding at the genitals/anus/mouth, age-inappropriate sexual behavior, sexual activities with toys and/or other children, masturbation, sexual drawings, fear of touch, a new reluctance to be alone with a certain person, apprehension when the subject of sexual abuse is brought up.
17. But, the detectives warned, children who have been sexually abused may exhibit none of the above symptoms. And children who have not been sexually abused may exhibit some of the above symptoms.
18. Even a parent who has experienced sexual abuse may not recognize it when it happens to his or her child because each sexual abuse experience is different and each person reacts differently to sexual abuse.
19. Include sex abuse awareness among the safety precautions you teach your kids. Just as you tell them to watch for cars when crossing the street, teach them that no one should touch their private parts and tell them it's OK to refuse a hug or other contact that makes them uncomfortable. (Kiurski bemoaned some parents' tendencies to urge their children to "give Uncle Ted a hug.")
20. Trust your gut and stand your ground. If another person's words or actions regarding your child are setting off alarm bells, say "no." If your "no" is ignored, terminate the relationship.
21. Be aware of the technology your kids are using. Kiurski said he's rarely seen a teenage girl's cellphone that didn't contain a naked "selfie" that had been sent to someone else.
22. If you're squeamish about discussing sex with your kids, get over it. Let your kids know they can talk to you about sex and sexual abuse. Give them age-appropriate sex education and use proper names for all body parts. The sheriff's office offers a list of books that parents and children can use to help prevent sex abuse.
23. Know your kids' friends and their families. Identify a trusted adult whom your child can talk to on a regular basis if he or she doesn't feel comfortable coming to you.
24. If your child tells you that he or she has been touched inappropriately, don't start grilling your child. Instead, immediately call law enforcement or the Department of Human Services. Children who are possible sex abuse victims should be interviewed only by professionals, the detectives said. "Just report it … we are happy to deal with that," Kiurski said.
25. Most sex abuse victims do not report the abuse at the time it occurs. Delays of months or years are typical. But in most cases, charges can be filed until the victim is 30. And even after a victim's 30th birthday, it's still worth reporting sex abuse, the detectives said, because that history can be used to build a case against an offender.