Sexual Abuse in Children


Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children

Physical Signs:

  • Bleeding, irritation or bruises in the genital or anal area.
  • Vaginal or penile discharge.
  • Difficulty sitting or walking.
  • Urinary tract infection.
  • Venereal disease.
  • Rubbing bottom or groin area.

Other Warning Signs:

  • Withdrawal and isolation.
  • Feelings of depression, shame or guilt.
  • Poor school performance.
  • Preoccupation with sexual activities and bodily functions
  • Unusual knowledge of, or interest in, sex
  • Poor self esteem, dependency and overcompliance
  • Acting out behavior, running away.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Sleep disturbance.

Listening to the "Secret"

When a child has made the decision to tell someone about the sexual abuse, it is important he/she knows that he/she is not to blame and that telling a trusted adult is the correct way to handle the problem. Many adults are shocked when a child reports the abuse and might respond with anger or disbelief, triggering still more fear and confusion in the child.

When a child reveals the secret, you can make the situation easier for him by doing the following:

1. Listen calmly and let him know you believe his story and are glad he has told you.

2. Let the child know you are sorry it happened and you you understand his feelings.

3. Explain to him that the adult was wrong, not the child, and that you will do your best to prevent it from happening again.

4. Encourage the child to talk about his feelings.

5. Help the child fell in control by telling him what to do if he is approached again.

6. Let the child know you need to report the incident to the proper authorities.

NOTE: It is a state law in Kentucky (and every other state) to report suspected child abuse. If a suspected incident occurs, call the Dept of Human Services in your county, or the police.

 

Getting Help

It is important to address the feelings of a child who has been sexually abused. Those who have been abused often feel like "damaged goods". However, their depression, anger, confusion and fear can be overcome through treatment. Treatment focuses on assisting a child in working through those feelings and rebuilding self esteem and trust.

Peer group therapy with other victims of sexual abuse is a major aspect of treatment. Such groups help a child feel less alone, provide the opportunity to safely express feelings and be reassured that the child need not feel guilty or responsible for the abuse. Sexual abuse therapy groups are available at specialized facilities and mental health centers.

Unfortunately, some children are so deeply affected by sexual abuse that they require hospitalization. These children may be confused and anxious to the extent they require more intensive treatment than an outpatient program can offer. Hospitalization, individual psychotherapy, group therapy and sometimes medication can be used to help a child regain enough control to benefit from outpatient therapy.

Source: Vanderbilt Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital

 

© Rick Voakes 1999, Health-bytes LOGO  by Rie Cramer