Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship with the family to take advantage of one-on-one time with the child. Once the victim has been groomed, it becomes difficult for a child to escape abuse or feel comfortable telling someone about the abuse. The grooming has created a sense of loyalty from the child to the abuser; in approximately 95% of abuse cases, the child knew and trusted their abuser.

Perpetrators downplay the defenses of children by explaining they were merely playing a “game”. Abuse usually begins with touching and kissing and progresses to more severe sexual activity. The perpetrator often creates names for the child’s and his/her own genitals to lessen the child’s alarm at what is happening.

Abusers manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to disclose the abuse, due to the fact that the abuser has told them many reasons why the child shouldn’t tell.

Some reasons why a child would not tell include:

  • The abuser is a trusted friend/family member; the child thinks no one will believe him/her
  • The child feels ashamed or embarrassed
  • The abuser has threatened the child or the child’s family
  • The abuser blames the child; the child feels responsible and doesn’t want to get in trouble
  • The abuser bribes the child
  • The child likes his/her abuser and doesn’t want the abuser to get in trouble

Some signs to look for in a child suffering from abuse are:

  • Child acts out sexually or behaviorally
  • Child develops venereal disease and infections
  • Child has frequent fears, anxieties, nightmares
  • Child has poor self-esteem or depression
  • Adolescents may run away, commit crimes, or abuse drugs and/or alcohol
  • Adolescents become withdrawn and depressed
  • Adolescents are self-injurious or suicidal

It is important to note that many times children and adolescents display no symptoms (over 1/3 of confirmed cases). For this reason, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your children about abuse. Talk to your children about “welcome” and “unwelcome” touches. Empower them to say “no” and what to do in uncomfortable situations. They should know to tell you or another trusted adult if someone has made them uncomfortable. If you can’t see the symptoms of abuse, giving your child the opportunity for open dialogue can make all the difference in preventing and treating sexual abuse.

Common mental health issues that plague children include:

  • Depression – Victims are 3-5 times more likely to suffer from depression.
  • Damaged goods syndrome – “No one will want me now because I’ve been abused.”
  • Distorted body image – eating disorders
  • Low self-esteem and poor social skills
  • Poor development and immaturity
  • Anger and hostility
  • Inability to trust

Children rarely lie about abuse. Only 2-8% of allegations are false; therefore the overwhelming majority of true allegations beg you as a parent to believe your child. Additionally, questions of a child’s credibility arise when court cases involving divorce and child custody are involved. We urge you to always believe your child and follow through with the next step of reporting.

Counseling is not necessary in all cases of abuse, but it can be very helpful for many children. Although sometimes parents feel they would like their child to just forget about what happened and move on, this may actually increase the stress on a child. When the situation is handled in a direct and sensitive way, the negative effects on the child can be reduced. With consistent attendance, most children are able to successfully complete therapy over the course of a few months.

If this is an emergency please call 911