Child Sexual Abuse: The Reality
According to (Childhelp.Org, 2021) a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. Every year there are referrals to state child protective services involving 6.6 million children, and around 3.2 million of those children are subjected to an investigated report. The disturbing part is that even though these numbers are high and alarming, there are many more children that are being abused that are NOT being reported. I was one of those children who did not report it. I didn’t even tell my parents. With that being said I want to help other children and their parents or legal guardians with the signs that children exhibit when they are being sexually abused. I want to help communicate that children do not always know what to do when they are being abused. They are kids and how should they know what to do? They don’t.
There are expectations that children are supposed to know exactly what to do and that it should be easy to speak up and tell someone. Let me say that it is NOT an easy thing to do and we have no idea what to do when we are being sexually abused. We are scared. We are confused. Just think about this for a minute; If grown men and women that were sexually abused are afraid to tell someone what makes you think that a child would? It is so much harder for a child to speak out and tell someone. I want to highlight some of the reasons why we as abused children do not speak out.
The first reason why we don’t speak up is because of the shame that we might feel. Most times if we do speak up and share what happened to us then the experience becomes a reality and that alone scares us. Reliving the experience is even worse because most times the person we are telling what happened to now wants to know details surrounding the abuse so we rather not say anything. This is also in alignment with self-blame. I thought that I was doing something wrong and I blamed myself for a long time. In my mind, I thought that I could have done something and since I did not do something to stop it, it was my fault. After I stopped fighting my abuser, I also started thinking that it was my fault that it continued. In my thought, at age 11 I thought that since I stopped kicking and screaming it was my fault. My young mind would race often wondering if I could have done something to prevent it from happening over and over. When I could not come up with an answer then it made me feel even more shameful. The majority of the abusers are much older and or bigger than the child and that alone will have a child living in fear every day because of what may come if they did speak out. The intimidation is real.
Lastly, I want to communicate the signs that children exhibit when they are being sexually abused. When the child is around their abuser, they feel small, they feel uneasy, they get squirmy, and just don’t want to be around them. Or the abuser and the child may seem closer than before because now that child is the abuser’s property and they form that kind of relationship in which they want the child close to them as much as possible. The child may come extremely quiet around their abuser because again the intimidation. Another sign is that the child will always be in their room and barely want to hang out with the family or be anywhere else in the house. The personality of the child spins a 360. For example, if the child loves a certain food or even a hobby and they do not show any interest in it anymore, that is a sign. If their grades slip in school or their health changes, that is another sign.
Even if their communication skills are off, that is another sign to look out for.We have to do better as adults when it comes to protecting our children and making them feel safe. It is our job to do so. They cannot protect themselves. We have to pay more attention to them and ask questions and keep asking questions if we feel that something isn’t right. Children need to feel safe and it is our job as adults to make sure they do.