Four Disturbing Facts About Child Sexual Abuse
As I write this blog, the surprise hit movie, “The Sound Of Freedom,” is in theaters. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that it is about a mission to rescue children from sex traffickers. Child sexual abuse is a topic that should receive more attention than it does. It is a worldwide crisis. Yet many people are uninformed about it and even carry some misconceptions about it. Here are some disturbing facts about child sexual abuse that, I hope, will clear up some of those misconceptions.
Fact #1: Most sexually abused children do not tell an adult
Most people think that with all the years of teaching children about stranger danger, good and bad touching, and how important it is to tell an adult if those things happen, that most children would know when they have been violated and tell a parent. Sadly, this is not true. Abusers are experts at making children believe that what happened is either no big deal or their own fault. Because children don’t naturally know anything about sex, they rarely realize that they are being sexually abused. Also, child sex abusers usually threaten the child that if they tell anyone, something bad will happen to someone close to the child. So, children who have been sexually abused, either out of ignorance about what happened or fear, stay silent.
Fact #2: There are not always physical signs of the sexual abuse
People think that sexual abuse leaves behind evidence. If there is penetration, it does. But child sexual abuse does not always involve penetration but rather inappropriate touching or talking. A relative might put his hand up a little girl’s skirt and leave no physical trace, but sexual abuse definitely happened. Even if the girl tells someone, there is no evidence. An older cousin might “talk dirty” to a child and make him or her feel uncomfortable, but the dirty talk wasn’t recorded and is easy for the offender to gaslight away.
Fact #3: Victims of child sexual abuse don't all become offenders
A commonly accepted belief that you hear quite often is that if a child is abused sexually, that child will grow up to be a sex abuser. Research shows that, while one-third of child sex abuse victims to become offenders later in life, but the majority, two-thirds, grow up and do not become sex abusers. This doesn’t mean that children who are sexually abused should not get help. They definitely should! But it does mean that it’s not a forgone conclusion that their future is now written in stone and they are destined to be a sexual predator. Not always.
Fact #4: Sexual abuse is often committed by someone you trust
The typical image of the sexual abuser is a stranger who comes up with candy or a lie about a lost dog to lure the child away to take advantage of them. And, no doubt, this happens. But it’s not the norm. In most cases, the abuse is perpetrated, not by a stranger, but by someone the child and the parent trust, a family member or a friend. This is one of the reasons for fact #1, children not telling anyone about what he or she has experienced. The child doesn’t want to get the relative or friend in trouble, and can’t believe that this trusted person would intentionally hurt them.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk with your child about the danger of sexual abuse, what it might look and feel like, and who might do it. Especially, you need to keep the lines of communication open with your child so that they know they can talk with you about anything. From time to time, without being dramatic, ask them if anyone has touched them in their private places or talked to them about things that made them feel uncomfortable, that they thought was not right.
If you are a victim of child sexual abuse, or if your child has experienced sexual abuse, I urge you to read more about trauma counseling, and then reach out to us at Christian Counseling Associates for help. We have professional counselors who, like myself, specialize in sexual trauma that can help you.
Sydney Spradlin is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Christian Counseling Associates in Plano. She belongs to the American Counseling Association (ACA), Christian Counselors of North Texas (CCT) and EMDRIA (a professional association for EMDR trained and certified counselors). She works with individuals, couples, teenagers, and families.