Childhood sexual abuse: be prepared.
It is time we face the fact that the sexual abuse of children is not an occasional deviant act, but a devastating commonplace fact of everyday life” Florence Rush The Best-Kept Secret
Sexual abuse of children happens. It is common and widespread. Like last year, a bunch of volunteers have been spreading information about childhood sexual abuse this month. I hope you follow @csaawareness on twitter and their website. On the website you will find interviews with experts in the field of sexual abuse, as well as links to posts by other bloggers on the issue.
Some Characteristics of CSA
Lack of consent
Children cannot grant consent about sex, not because they are ignorant, but because there is no equality between them and an adult, and consent for sex can truly only be given between people on equal footing.
Any sexual contact between a child and an adult is exploitative in nature, Children are manipulated or coerced into sexual behavior by adults who are stronger, more resourceful, and more knowledgeable. They may buy the child
gifts, may persuade the child that all parents teach their children about sex, may threaten the child with punishment or more.
Children are often found to be ambivalent about what’s happening to them, many don’t understand whats happening. Most know that it is not good, but since they are in a vulnerable position they cannot do anything about it. The sexual acts might be physically pleasurable, and this adds to their confusion, to which they react with ambivalence or by pretending it is not happening.
Children are forced to participate, this can be physical force or more commonly by manipulating children’s emotions and beliefs. They can be threatened, or promised rewards.
“….killing an animal in front of the child and telling her that the same fate awaits her if she does not cooperate, threatening to abuse other siblings in the family, or suggesting that the family will be broken up if the child tells anyone.”
This is related to force, in that the child is also convinced that if he or she speaks up about it, something horrible will happen. eg. Family will break up, mom will leave us, no one will believe you etc.
Sexual abuse accommodation syndrome
is something seen in children who have been abused, they develop a group of beliefs and behaviors described as secrecy; helplessness; entrapment and accommodation; delayed, unconvincing disclosure; and retraction
Whats this information for?
The reason I just described these is to give you an idea how difficult it is for the child to come out of such a situation. This is also why it is very important for parents to start talking boundaries with their children very early. Most experts agree that as early as the age of 3, one can tell a child that the parts covered by her underwear or if she is taught names of her private parts, those, are private and no one should touch them, and if someone does, they should tell their parents, or another caregiver immediately.
This talk at 3 years, of course wont happen if parents are otherwise not open to talking about sex. If you cannot talk to your partner about sex, boundaries and what is acceptable and what is not, it is unlikely you will be able to do this with your child.
If both parents are caregivers, it makes sense to have early talks about sex and boundaries with both parents present.
The house also needs to be a safe space for the child, if when the child complains about other things, or stands up for herself in other occasions but parents respond with anger or ridicule, she will not be comfortable talking about something so sensitive.
- Teach your kid to say no, early on
- Teach her what other people are not allowed to do
- Prepare with your partner/spouse before you have a child
- Be supportive and a trustworthy parent in everything, not just talking about abuse.
I dont want to repeat what various bloggers have already said, and here are some for further reading:
- Six Myths about childhood sexual abuse, featuring data from india
- I survived to tell the tale: Abuse is NOT love!
- Keep out children safe, doing something about it- Alternative.in
If you are a survivor of abuse and want to talk about it, I would love to listen, as would others. If you are a parent who would like some more info or help with talking to your child about this, write to me or the good folks at CSA Awareness month.