With “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar in rehab for sexually molesting his sisters, attention turns to child sexual abuse prevention.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Usually, DV usually refers to physical abuse, but there other faces: sexually exploited children.
Stats show that 1 child in 10 is sexually molested by age 18 said Darkness to Light. And 3 in 4 of those children were abused by someone they knew well in places they trust (home, relative’s home, school, church). So the stereotypical stranger molesting in strange places is far less common.
But parents have two important tools in protecting their children: shared experience and knowledge. Predators are known for “grooming” children for sexual abuse. Here’s how child molesters like Josh Duggar groom victims. The abuser singles her out for attention or presents.
Abusers treat the child older than he is. This may flatter the child at first. Abusers try to be alone with the victim and isolate them from others. Child molesters cross touch boundaries.
They “accidentally” bump the child in private areas or are excessively affectionate physically. If touch looks wrong to you, it probably is.
Abusers try to fill needs or parental roles. An abuser encourages confidences that he promises not to tell. She puts the child to bed, takes her to the bathroom or sleeps with her.
It’s scary to imagine that abusers ready their targeted victims. But it’s also an important weapon against sex abuse.
By know the warning signs, parents may catch a predator before he or she can hurt their child. Of if the unthinkable does happen and the child is molested, parents can end it, get help and start the family toward healing more quickly.
The most important thing is that the parents acknowledge abuse. Keeping it secret is the worst possible thing parents can do. Hiding it helps the abuse continue. Anonymity gives the abuser immunity. Parents must respect the child’s need for privacy and use discretion in who to tell.
They need to be sensitive to the child’s comfort level in talking about it. Children must be heard, believed and validated. They need to know that mom and dad will protect them. He needs to know he is not alone.