Lend Your Ear
The most important thing you can do for someone who has been sexually abused as a child is to let them know you are available to them when they want to talk about it. Keep in mind that pressing them to tell you about their experience can trigger emotions and memories they may not be ready to deal with, so let them initiate the conversation, if and when they choose to do so.
Tell Them You Believe Them, Do Not Blame The Victim
The act of victim-blaming remains a common practice when it comes to sexual abuse. A victim of childhood sexual abuse experiences a number of different emotions such as guilt and shame, as well as the turmoil and trauma of the experience itself. Moreover, many of them fear that their story will not be believed. Taking the time to validate their experience and make sure they know you believe them can make a world of difference in their recovery. Some examples of validating statements may include the following:
- “I believe you.”
- “I support you.”
- “Thank you for sharing your experience with me.”
- “I respect your decision to speak up about what happened to you.”
- “What happened to you was not your fault.”
Each survivor's story is unique. You can, however, be helpful to your loved one if you understand the adverse effects that abuse can have on someone's life. Below are some excellent resources that will help you gain a deeper understanding.
- The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
- The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)
- Child Abuse and Family Violence Institute
You can view the complete list of supporting organizations on our website here: https://yablonovichlaw.com/resources/
How Common is Sexual Abuse?
Despite the pervasiveness of sexual abuse, very few perpetrators are ever held accountable for their crimes. Too often, sexual abuse is overlooked, ignored, or hidden.
The following are more sobering statistics related to sexual abuse.
Sexual Abuse Statistics
According to RAINN, Child Protective Services (CPS) finds evidence of child sexual abuse every nine minutes.
Children between the ages of 12 and 17 are the most likely to experience abuse. Sixty-six percent of sexual abuse victims are in this age group, while 34 percent are under 12-years-old.
Often, sexual abuse has long-term physical and psychological consequences. Those who have experienced abuse are approximately:
- Four times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
- Four times more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder as adults
- Three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults
The fact that 93% of sexual abuse offenders know their victims is one reason survivors of childhood abuse often take years and decades to come forward. Survivors may find it challenging to sort through their trauma and realize they have been abused because they trusted the person that abused them or continues to abuse them.
This is why the extension of the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases in California is so important. Under the law, sexual abuse survivors have to bring their claims in court within a certain time. This is known as the statute of limitations. Victims of sexual abuse have recently been given more time to file a lawsuit and to seek just for their claims. It is important to act to ensure that a legal claim is brought before it is time-barred.
The Warning Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse
To address and stop sexual misconduct, please read below to find out more about the warning signs of childhood sexual abuse and learn how to respond if you suspect a child has been abused.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
A child may be sexually abused physically as well as non-physically, such as someone exposing themselves to the child, sharing inappropriate images with the child, and taking obscene photos or videos of the child.
Every nine minutes, government authorities respond to a report of child sexual abuse, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).
Childhood sexual abuse is almost always perpetrated by someone close to the victim. Those who commit such acts are aware of what they are doing. They know they can use trusting relationships with children to confuse and intimidate their victims and reduce the likelihood that they will report the crime.
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse can often take decades to sort through their trauma and recognize that they have been abused. As a result, in many states, the statute of limitations may have expired by the time the survivor is ready to report the abuse, allowing the abuser to avoid justice.
Where Does Childhood Sexual Abuse Happen?
Childhood sexual abuse occurs in many different environments, particularly those where children have close and trusting relationships with adults, including the following:
- Sports teams
- Foster homes
- Daycare facilities
- Religious institutions
- Doctors’ offices and hospitals
There is a widespread misconception that childhood sexual abuse is exclusively committed by male strangers against young girls in poor areas. Childhood sexual abuse affects both girls and boys equally; it is committed by men and women of all ages, in both large and small communities, and in all areas of the world regardless of race or socioeconomic status.
The following are examples of relationships that sexual abusers manipulate to commit their crimes:
- Parent and child
- Teacher and student
- Doctor and patient
- Coach and player
- Religious worker and churchgoer
As a result, sex abuse can occur in a private residence or a public place, such as a school, hospital, or church.
Because childhood sexual abuse is so common, you should know the warning signs so that you can take action when you suspect it.
What Are Warning Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abusers are skilled at covering their tracks. Therefore, knowing how to identify the various physical, behavioral, and emotional signs of sexual abuse in a child is crucial. Examples include:
Physical Warning Signs:
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Signs of genital trauma
Behavioral Warning Signs:
- Bedwetting or soiling the bed if the child has already outgrown these behaviors
- Not wanting to be left alone with certain people
- Not wanting to remove clothes to get dressed or bathe
- Nervous habits, changes in appetite and other behavioral changes
Emotional Warning Signs:
- Talking about or knowledge of sexual topics
- Nightmares or fear of being alone at night
- Excessive worry
How to Respond if You Suspect Childhood Sexual Abuse
You can take the following measures to talk to your child about your concerns if you see warning signs of abuse or harassment:
- Select a time when the child feels comfortable. Avoid discussing this topic in front of others.
- Use a sensitive tone of voice. Being too serious may scare the child. During this conversation, try to maintain a casual, non-threatening tone.
- Ask the child direct questions. Speak in simple terms the child will understand.
- Give the child your full attention. Ensure that the child says everything they want to say. Do not interrupt them with additional questions.
- Avoid making judgments and assigning blame. Children who feel the abuse is their fault are less likely to speak up about it.
- Reassure the child that you will support and protect them no matter what.
- Having patience is key. Children may find it challenging and confusing to talk about this. Give them the chance to express themselves.
After this discussion, if your suspicions about childhood sexual abuse have grown, you can report it by taking the following steps:
- Before reporting the abuse, ensure the child is in a safe environment and away from the abuser.
- Contact the appropriate authorities if you suspect a crime has been committed. State laws vary regarding which authorities you need to contact. Report the abuse to the police department, the sheriff's department, the county probation department, and/or the county welfare department in California.
- Maintain your supportive role in the child's life. Your support will be necessary during this hard time.
Why Does Sexual Abuse Go Unreported?
Why do many cases of childhood sexual abuse go unreported? Threats, manipulation, concealments, and coverups.
Threats and Manipulation by the Abuser
Commonly, child sexual abuse survivors are subjected to manipulation and threats by the perpetrators to keep the abuse from coming to light. In cases where the abuser knows the victim or the victim's family, the victim may be reluctant to speak out about the abuse to their parents or siblings for fear that the abuser will carry out their threats, that their parents will not believe them, or that the abuse is their fault.
Organizations and Concealment of Abuse
Unfortunately, many cases of abuse are carried out within organizations where most people would never expect sex wrongdoings. In recent years, for example, the Catholic Church has been exposed for concealing clergy members that sexually abused children. A significant number of religious organizations and other organizations, including Boy Scouts and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, have been identified in sexual abuse claims.
Survivors of sexual abuse involving organizations that work relentlessly to cover up sexual misconduct are often discouraged from speaking out. Many organizations unfairly do everything in their power to suppress and censor victims from exposing sex scandals and the truth.
Survivors Have the Right to Seek Justice
Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a significantly higher risk of developing depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, drug addictions, and many other mental health problems in later life. We believe that you deserve to be heard, and we are committed to helping you do that.
Are You a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse? We Believe You and We Want to Hear Your Story
One of the first steps in the healing process of childhood sexual abuse is speaking up against your perpetrator. Holding perpetrators accountable for the heinous actions they committed can enable you to gain closure and move on with your life. Furthermore, your perpetrator should have to pay for what they did to you, including your past and future medical expenses, therapy, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Our team understands that survivors endure a significant amount of trauma, both physical and psychological. Whether you, a loved one, or a child has suffered child sexual abuse, we believe you, and we are here to assist you through this challenging time. Call us at (888) 306-4228 for a free confidential consultation.