Decoding Childhood Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse includes: any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors, when one exerts power over the other; forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act; non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or Internet.
During my work with children and families, I often times found myself providing education around childhood sexual abuse and discussing ways to promote safety. Within the context of these dialogues, I would encourage the parents to reflect on conversations (or lack thereof) facilitated by their parent(s)/guardian(s) surrounding topics of establishing healthy boundaries and understanding their bodies. As a result, I received a mixed bag of responses which included:
-I attempted to ask my Mom about sex and was quickly reminded "you don’t need to know about that-grown folk business”.
-We never really had those conversations.
-Sex education in middle school was my first introduction to learning the appropriate labels for my body.
-I would usually ask a friend or older cousin if I had any questions, but mostly I learned along the way.
Families transfer values and/or beliefs from one generation another. As parents, many of us find ourselves using those experiences as a guide moving forward. The statements above highlight a variety of ways parents may respond and the ways in which children may gain additional information. Lets dig a little deeper and review a few common statements below:
True or False: Strangers are often times the abusers.
True or False: All abusers have served in the criminal justice system.
FALSE: Abusers can be neighbors, friends, and family members. People who sexually abuse children can be found in families, schools, churches, recreation centers, youth sports leagues, and any other place children gather.
True or False: Children can be abused by larger or older children.
TRUE: The younger the child victim, the more likely it is that the perpetrator is a juvenile. Juveniles are the offenders in 43% of assaults on children under age six. Of these offenders, 14% are under age 12.
Given the information above, what can you do?
1. It is truly my belief that it is never too early to initiate the conversation about your child’s body, with the use of correct terms (yes, your child has a penis or a vagina). If your child needs to make a report, make sure they have the appropriate language to do so.
2. Speak to them about establishing appropriate boundaries, the word NO really means no. Furthermore, it is equally important to respect the space of others.
3. When you say “You can tell me anything” make sure you create a safe space for them to actually do so with no judgement.
Child Sexual Abuse can be a dense topic with many layers to unpack. If you need additional information, visit the following link https://www.d2l.org. Lets continue to promote wellness and safety within the Hand Made Dreams community.