You read that correctly and very likely you may be a parent who is encouraging your child to be sexually abused without even realizing it. Child sexual abuse is estimated to affect 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males prior to the age of 18. Often it is the result of the unintended consequence of circumstances created by parents and reinforced by society at large. The proliferation of child sexual abuse is the real Inconvenient Truth that our society does not like to admit and maintains as a taboo. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Throughout this year I will be presenting to you multiple postings regarding different aspects of child sexual abuse. I am not going to be subtle about these messages. I am not assessing blame or trying to label anyone as a negligent parent. Instead I am seeking only to expose common behaviours that contribute to the sexual abuse of children and provide guidance on how to protect your children.
In this first posting I will be attacking the use of euphemisms for sexual activities and body parts. I am not going to go through the parade of absurd labels for a penis or a vagina. Many of these are well-known while some are exclusive to a particular parent and child set.
I have had children self-report sexual abuse to me. Sometimes children are very blunt in their reports but most often they exhibit trepidation and test the adult's openness to receiving the report. Few make an outright spontaneous report of all the details. This is why it may take multiple attempts and result in conflicts in the reporting. The adult receiving the report must be appropriately responsive to the child's reporting methodology or the child will regress in the reporting process. It is this type of sporadic rather than chronological reporting that results in some untrained judges failing to acknowledge or confirm the abuse. The consequences can be that a child is placed with an abuser because the practitioners and judge thought it was a custody ploy.
As a general proposition we have placed the onus of preventing child sexual abuse on the children – “just say no”, good touch, bad touch and etc. I contend that such efforts are doomed when coupled with the practices of parents. I believe that parents have a mandate to prevent sexual abuse of their children and that it only happens when parents allow it to happen.
If a child came to you and said that “The babysitter put a magic wand in my treasure box” what would your response be? If a child came to you and said that “The babysitter put a vibrator in my vagina” what would your response be? It should be the same; an immediate contact with a parent and possibly a report to law enforcement. But that is not the reality. In the first instance an adult may reply, “Well that was nice of her” – conditioning the child that sexual abuse is an acceptable and “nice” behaviour. This is directly the result of a parent or guardian failing to properly educate the child about his or her anatomy. Males have a penis, females have a vagina.
From the perspective of the perpetrator who is surveying for potential victims the use of euphemisms and slang terminology for the sexual anatomy and acts identifies a susceptible mark. The reason for this is that when a perpetrator grooms a child for abuse – a process that make take years – it is dependent upon maintaining trust, secrecy and the feeling of a special relationship. The improper naming of the child's anatomy signals to the perpetrator that this child does not have a healthy relationship with a responsible adult about sexuality and what is inappropriate behaviour or contact. Thus, the child's education about his or her sexuality has been relegated to the abuser. The perpetrator can also expand the child's perception that his or her sexuality is secret and private by encouraging the child to maintain the secrecy of the abuse.
When a child knows the proper terms for his or her anatomy this is a clear signal to a potential abuser that this child has been informed about his or her sexuality. The time to teach children about this is concurrent with the teaching about other parts of the child's anatomy.
If you don't feel that you can openly discuss any sexual related issue with your child at anytime – at your prompting – then you don't need to do that because others will readily do this for you. They include child sex abusers, rape counselors, psychological therapists, divorce attorneys, probation officers and judges imposing criminal penalties.
So make the decision about who is going to teach your child about his or her sexuality and child sexual abuse and then act upon it.
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Sadly, there are many cases of sexual abuse in children where adults, especially their own parents, do not support them. I find that the aftermath of the abuse, especially in the support (or the lack of it) from their elders is just as much as damaging as the abuse in itself. I hope posts like these educate more parents (and more people in general) to be more aware and sympathetic of their child's concerns, especially in matters like these.
The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C.
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