Child sexual abuse is defined as all sexual activity –violent or not- between an adult and an under-age person when the first one exerts power over the child either by force, coercion or persuasion. This act is not only a crime punishable by law, but also an action that can probably damage the personality of the victim forever, with all the problems involved. Relevant data shows that one in four girls and one in six boys are vulnerable to sexual abuse before reaching adulthood, and many children remain silent about these abuses. About 65% of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles (under 18) and 34% of all victims were under 12 years old. Organizations such as CPIU, in charge to educate and help people about this important topic, state that one of every seven victims of sexual assault were under six years old.
This problem is more common than we think and, perhaps, we should keep this relevant information in mind to try to prevent child sexual abuse and safeguard childhood and innocence in our children. Bellow, we present 7 steps to prevent child sexual abuse based on the guide created by RANA (Red de ayuda a niños abusados) .
Start to prevent by:
- Knowing the facts: parents are the main responsible for the safety of the children and they must be alert at any moment to prevent a possible situation of abuse. It is said that a third of the victims are abused by family members, so the main risk can come from those who are close. You should know that abusers often try to find a trustful relationship with the parents of the victims. Do not forget: anyone can be and abuser.
- Reducing the risk: child abuse often occurs when the adult is alone with the child. Try to know the person with whom the child is and always try to establish situations in which they can be observed by others. Monitor the use of the Internet at home, abusers always take advantage of this mean to plan a future situation of abuse.
Talking about the topic: as the statistics say, children often keep the abuse in secret. This is because abusers manipulate and confuse children in order to make them believe that what they are doing is normal or even a game. This manipulation also includes the threat to harm the child and the child’s family. Always talk about child abuse to your children, adapting the conversation to a child speech to remove the barrier of silence.
- Staying alert: give a careful credit to different signs such as irritation, swelling or rash on the genitals, urinary tract infections, and even other problems like abdominal pain or headaches result of anxiety. It is also very important to recognize emotional signs such as withdrawal or depression, excessive self–imposed, unexplained anger or rebellion problems. Stay alert to sexual behavior and language that can be atypical at short ages, they can be warning signs.
- Being informed, knowing how to react: do not express disbelief or anger, this can make the child try to justify the abuse or change the version and avoid questions or conversations about the topic.
- Acting when you have suspicions: even if you’re scared about it, suspicions can be the only opportunity to save an under-age. Denounce and contact socialservices.
- Getting involved: you can fight against abuse by supporting laws and organizations to combat child sexual abuse.