25 Things Parents Should Know About Child Sexual Abuse

25 Things Parents Should Know About Sexual Abuse.

1. One in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused prior to age 18 in the U.S. 
2. Ninety percent of children are sexually abused by people they know; the largest percentage of these known people are family members. Father figures are the most common offenders.
3. Child sex abuse isn't limited to sexual intercourse or penetration of any kind. It includes any sexual contact, touch or non-touch, such as pornography exposure or observation of sexual acts. 
4. Children who report sexual abuse are not lying. Almost all children are telling the truth!
5. Fewer than 5% of children who have been sexually abused actually report it. And fewer than 5% of perpetrators are arrested.
6. Sex offenders can pass criminal background checks because they are rarely caught, charged, or convicted. Therefore, nothing will show on the background check, and they will not be on a sex offender registry, even if multiple complaints have occurred.
7. Some sex offenders are "preferential" offenders, meaning they only like to have sex with children and may choose jobs and career paths that provide direct access to children.  
8. Other sex offenders are "situational" or "opportunistic" offenders, meaning they may have sex with adults, but if the opportunity presents, they will initiate sexual activity with a child. Many family offenders fall in this category.
9. Sex offenders often target parents and children that they view as vulnerable, such as single parents, homes where substance abuse or domestic violence is present, or children who are isolated, neglected, or have disciplinary problems. These children are often more accessible and more open to the grooming process.
10. Sex offenders may cultivate a highly positive and respected image within the community, so that no doubt will be placed on their innocence.
11. Sex offenders "groom" children. They may spend weeks or months establishing a trusting relationship with the child. Grooming may include gifts, special activities, or outings, giving the child special attention.  
12. Sex offenders often groom parents and guardians of children, with the goal of lowering their defenses and allowing the offender to spend time with the child alone.  
13. The grooming process also involves the sex offender's breaking down a child's natural inhibitions so that the child becomes increasingly accepting and comfortable with touching. The process may include "accidental touching;" sitting on the offender's lap; ticking and roughhousing; massages; involvement in the child's personal hygiene; sports training; walking in on a child who is undressing, bathing/showering, or using the toilet; photographing a child; and providing a child with alcohol or drugs. Showing pornography to a child, although a "grooming" activity, is also considered sexual abuse. Photographing a child in a sexual pose and/or providing alcohol/drugs to commit a sexual act are considered sexual abuse.  
14. Sex offenders may approach parents with offers that are "too good to be true," such as offering to take care of a child after school daily, without charge; or offering to take the child on a special trip or to a special place without cost, such as a camping trip. Such offers should be viewed with suspicion and not accepted. 
15. Sex offenders rarely stop at one victim. Sexual satisfaction gained from abusing a child becomes a habitual pattern. Preferential sex offenders my abuse hundreds of children over their lifespan, while an opportunistic offender may repeatedly abuse family members and less frequently, children outside the family. With either offender type, sexual abuse becomes a habitual pattern, because internal barriers to abusive behavior are no longer present. Both types of offenders look at the opportunity available with a particular child.
16. Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit the following symptoms: depression, anxiety, guilt, fear, isolation, shyness; acting out, extreme anger/rage;  unexplained bruises; difficulty walking; redness/bleeding of genitals, mouth, or anus; age-inappropriate sexual behavior; sexual activities with toys and/or other children; compulsive masturbation; sexual drawings; fear of touch; reluctance to be alone with a particular person; anxiety/fear when the subject of sexual abuse is mentioned.
17. However, sexually abused children may not exhibit any of the above symptoms. Sex offenders are highly skilled at normalizing the sexually abusive behaviors to the child, so that acceptance and trust are maintained. Sexual abuse may not cause any physical discomfort or pain, and the child, even if feeling some internal discomfort with what is occurring, may experience pleasure in the sexual act, and be very confused.    
18. Even a parent who has experienced sexual abuse may not recognize when it is happening to his or her child because each sexual abuse experience is different, and each person reacts differently to sexual abuse.
19. Include sexual abuse awareness among the safety precautions that you teach your children. Teach them about good touch and bad touch, that no one should touch their private parts, and that it is okay to refuse a hug or other contact that makes them feel uncomfortable. Let them know that they can talk to you about sex and sexual abuse. Provide age-appropriate sex education, and teach them the correct names for all body parts. Read books to them about body safety.  
20. Trust your gut as a parent, and stand your ground. If another person's words or actions regarding your child are setting off alarms in you, say, "no." If your "no" is ignored, terminate the relationship.
21. Be aware of the technology that your children use. Sex offenders frequent sites where children and adolescents prefer to go, and they access victims through these means. Make sure that your computers and devices have good filters, and monitor your child's use.  
22. Be aware of the prevalence of sexting and sexual communication among adolescents. Many adolescents meet and engage in sexual activities with people met online, without the parents' knowledge.  
23. Know your children's friends and their families. Identify a trusted adult that your child can talk to on a regular basis, if he or she doesn't feel comfortable coming directly to you.
24. If your child tells you that he or she has been touched inappropriately, don't ask questions. Listen, believe your child, and tell them you will keep them safe. Immediately call law enforcement or a child abuse hotline, such as Department of Human Services. Allow the professionals to do the investigation. Your job as a parent is to provide support and protection for your children.   
25. Most sexual abuse victims do not report the abuse at the time it occurs. Delays of months or years are typical. No matter the age, report the abuse. Depending on the state and statutory limitations, it may still be possible to file criminal charges; and civil charges can also be filed. The report may also help law enforcement build a case against an offender, as there may be other reports involving this person.

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