Dear Parents: There is a Chance Your Child Will be Sexually Abused

Given the statistics, your child is more likely to be sexually violated than be hit by a car while crossing the street.
Elementary aged children are the most vulnerable. Children with disabilities are even at a higher risk. As a mother, father, sister, grandparent, sibling, or friend, when we remain silent, we condone rape culture, the multigenerational transmission of trauma, and the generational gift of shame. Discussing sexual abuse with your child probably feels worse than talking to them S-E-X. For parents, it’s normal and instinctual to shield, to remain silent, and to protect the way a child navigates and sees the world – a wonderland filled with goodness and the sheer joy of life. Talking about sexual abuse means talking about violence! There is a high risk in avoiding an uncomfortable conversation to protect innocence. Not talking about it means not teaching your child to feel safe enough to break their silence. Child sexual abuse is commonplace in many cultures across the globe and is woven into the fabric of everyday life. Yet, we are appalled and shocked when these incidents materialize into reality. Grooming Outwits Good/Bad Touch Since child rape is a crime of access and familiarity, the meaning of Good Touch/Bad Touch can confuse to a child. Not all sexual behaviors are explicit in nature – tickling, hugging, kissing on the cheek or forehead, and stroking non-private areas (e.g., shoulder, neck, or head). Thus, Good Touch/Bad Touch talks are never enough and do not protect a child from GROOMING. Grooming is a deceptive well-planned and incremental process of desensitizing boundaries to eventually sexualize a relationship – grooming a child to be touched or to touch another person’s body parts. Grooming ensures the child will remain silent and retain the secret. The perpetrator can also groom the child’s family and community into believing he/she is a good person, a pillar of the community, an individual who would never commit the crime of rape or molestation. Examples of Grooming: Methodically building trust and preparing a child for sexual abuse to take place is not always obvious. It can be achieved by
· limiting privacy by accidentally walking in while using the bathroom or bedroom; behavior continues until it becomes normalized · testing the child’s reaction to affection/touching – putting an arm on the shoulder, a back rub, a long hug that leads to further testing · peek-a-boo shower time, especially is parent/child bathing are/were family rituals · creating an environment where it is ok to be naked – parent walking around naked · filling the emotional need by treating a particular child as a favorite or special – emotionally starved kids, latch key kids, neglected kids · isolating a child by reinforcing the special connection – special trips and activities
Your Kids Will Keep the Secret
90% of my adult patients with a history of child sexual abuse, never told their parent(s)
Even at a young age, child survivors of sexual trauma internalize blame and often struggle with conflicting feelings toward the abuser, typically a person they loved and trusted. When children are led to believe they deserve the abuse or had the power to stop it, the word “bad” carries with it the shame to remain silent. Silence is also maintained by perceived consequences – fear the perpetrator will harm them, siblings, or a pet, parents divorcing, abuser going to jail, removal of children from the home, and financial ruin for the family. Including the Word “If” Children do not have the physical power or mental agility to stop the abuser. All children deserve to learn body safety rules and boundaries, good vs. bad touch, and stranger danger. BUT the conversation must move beyond this safety zone to include developmentally appropriate discussions encompassing what to do “if” she/he is raped or sexually abused and “how” to keep themselves safe from further abuse. Our societal discomfort in talking about sex and sexuality is indeed challenging between adult and even more so with children. Yet, if we choose not to engage in these conversations with our children, how can we possibly expect them to feel safe enough to let go of fear and break the silence of abuse?