Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is not a topic most mothers want to read about. However, if you suspect or already know that your child has been abused, you want to obtain as much information as you can about child sexual abuse. You want to know what the warning signs and symptoms, the process to follow when abuse is suspected, and how to best help your child. And you also want to be able to survive this crisis.

Sexual abuse is a devastating event. It alters the life of the child and causes emotionalmental, spiritual, social, sexual, and relational damage. It may result in physical changes in the child's body and brain. There is no aspect of a child's life that is not affected. Depending on length of time, severity, and other aspects of the abuse, and who the perpetrator was, consequences are increasingly severe. Child victims differ in immediate and long-term effects of abuse. coping abilities, supportive  resources, and resilience are factors contributing to severity of consequences. Some children will develop posttraumatic stress symptoms and/or be diagnosed with PTSD as a result of sexual abuse. Some may develop dissociative disorders and other mental health and physical problems. Some will not. Some may demonstrate many of the signs and symptoms of sexual abuse. Others will not. Resilience and other factors protect some children.

Children need their mothers to believe them and support them. Without this, they will not do well and will suffer more serious effects following sexual abuse. Two very important things to keep in mind as you begin to go through this process:
  1. A child is NEVER responsible for the sexual abuse. The perpetrator may say that the child asked for it or the child did something or somehow the child holds the responsibility. The responsibility of adults is to protect the children in their care and maintain the safety of all children. If sexual abuse occurs, it is always the responsibility of the adult.  
  2. Children almost never lie about sexual abuse. Sometimes they tell and then they "take it back." This is not because the original disclosure was a lie, but because they were afraid of what would happen after they told. As a matter of fact, children rarely tell. They are usually threatened by the perpetrator. And they feel guilty, believing that this bad thing that has happened to them is their fault.

Decades ago child sexual abuse was not discussed as it is today. Movies, books, television talk shows, magazine articles, and academic research have informed the public about the prevalence and effects of sexual abuse. People get angry about it, but it continues. People deny it, and it still continues. 

It is important that mothers face the facts and not minimize the reality of the abuse. This is a difficult task because sometimes the perpetrator is someone you love very much - your partner or your child. Your life is altered. Your identity has changed. You are now the mother of a sexually abused child.  


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