What is child sexual abuse?
Darkness to Light, a sexual abuse prevention organization, reports about 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18. We tend to think strangers are abusing children, but this is rarely the case.
Over 90% of the time the person who abuses a child is known to the child and the family. Most of the time this person is a friend, family member, babysitter, coach, teacher, clergy person or neighbor; just about anyone you or your child knows.
Strangers are the least of your worries, so you can take them off your list of people to fret about. If you think about the stories you hear about abduction, it’s nearly always someone the child or family was acquainted with or knew.
How to define sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is sexual touching or activity with a child by an adult, adolescent or older child. All sexual touching or behavior by an adult with a child is sexual abuse. Besides touching, it includes non-touching behaviors such as:
- Exposure to private body parts
- Exposure to pornography
- Voyeurism (spying or “Peeping Tom” behaviors)
- Communicating in a sexual manner by phone or internet, including sexting — sending naked pictures, sexually suggestive poses, or sexual messages by text message.
Things to consider when a child or adolescent may be the perpetrator:
- Age — Is there a 3 year age difference?
- Size — Is one kid physically bigger than the other?
- Developmental age difference — Is one child developmentally younger or older than the other?
- Status — Does one child hold power over the other, like a babysitter?
- Type of sexual activity — Is it developmentally appropriate?
- Problematic dynamics — Any threats, coercion, or bribery involved?
Who abuses children
Adults who sexually abuse children usually appear to be incredibly trustworthy and unfortunately, you cannot tell by looking at someone if they would sexually abuse a child. Most adult perpetrators “groom” the child and family by gaining their trust.
They spend time with the parents in order to gain access to their children. Most abuse occurs when the abuser has one-on-one time with the child. You need to be very aware of who has access to your child, anyone who pays special attention to them or arranges one-on-one time with them.
This is why it’s very important to have safety conversations with your children from an early age so they understand when an adult breaks a family rule about safety.
Knowledge is empowering and it’s your responsibility to empower your children with tools and information that will keep them safer from sexual abuse.
Amy Lang, MA is a sexuality and parenting educator. Her goal is to help 1 million more kids grow up to be whole and healthy adults by teaching parents of all beliefs how to rock the sex talks. BirdsAndBeesAndKids.com