April is “Child Abuse Prevention Month.” I think that every month of the year should be child abuse prevention month! I’d like to raise awareness regarding childhood sexual abuse. Because there often are no physical indications that a child had been molested, it often flies under the radar for years before ever being detected – long after the harm has been done. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, creed or social status. It truly can happen in any family. Statistics are alarming. Some sources indicate that as many as 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys under the age of eighteen are sexually abused each year. If you believe that somehow your family is immune, you won’t be looking for the signs of abuse. This can be extremely dangerous. Denial is a victim’s greatest enemy – next to the abuser.
Sexual abuse usually takes place at the hands of someone who knows the victim – someone who has “groomed” the child over a period of time to earn trust. Abusers are very manipulative, and can scare or “guilt” the child into not telling to protect the secret. Due to fear and intense shame, the child victim most often will not tell someone who could help him/her to escape further abuse; consequently, it often continues. It is so important to talk to your children, and tell them that they can tell you anything – ANYTHING – no matter how difficult, embarrassing, etc. They need to know that you will believe them and protect them no matter what!
Some symptoms of sexual abuse to watch for in children are: changes in behavior such as social withdrawal or acting out; having bathroom accidents when they did not exist prior; fear of being alone, fear of going to sleep, fear of being left in certain places; a drop in school grades; spacing out or having difficulty concentrating at school (when accompanied by other symptoms); hyper sexual or (on the other extreme) cold, “frigid” behavior such as not wanting any hugs or affection; depression; or self-destructive behavior. This is not a complete list. Every child deals with the trauma of abuse in a different way. The key is never to dismiss fears or sudden changes in behavior.
Abuse robs a child victim of their innocence. It changes who that person was created by God to be. Some of the effects of abuse last a lifetime, but with intervention, the child can learn coping skills that will minimize the long-term difficulties. There is tremendous hope! With help, the survivor can come to believe once again that he/she is truly one of God’s great masterpieces!
For more information on how you can begin your own healing journey from childhood sexual abuse – or for information on how to protect your own children from abuse, please check out my story in Hope for Healing From the Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse.
If you live in Louisiana, please visit the link for Prevent Child Abuse Louisiana for events taking place this month.