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Is your Child a Victim of Sexual Abuse?

It is every parent’s nightmare to think that their precious innocent child could be the victim of sexual abuse but too often parents do not realise what is happening or what has happened until it is too late..........

Sexual perpetrators come in all sorts of different guises.  It could be someone who is deemed to be respectable in your family unit or community such as a teacher, local police officer, vicar, teaching assistant, spouse/partner, aunty, uncle, grandparent or neighbour.  It could even be a so-called trusted family friend.  This maybe a hard fact to swallow, but in most cases, children are abused by someone significant in their life in whom they initially placed their trust.

Here is a sample case study: (the child’s name has been changed to protect his identity)

Tom was a vulnerable 14 year old when his teacher started ‘grooming’ him as a potential victim.  Tom lacked confidence and was behind with his school work. He was also being bullied by other kids.  His teacher, who was a middle aged female, married, with children of her own, started encouraging Tom to stay after class in order to help him with the difficulties he was having with his work.  As she started to gain his trust, it started with gentle petting.  She would give him a cuddle and tell him what a good lad he was.  This initially made Tom feel uncomfortable but he thought his teacher was just a ‘mothering’ sort and said nothing.   Then one day, his teacher started to stroke his thigh as she drew her body nearer to him.  Although Tom felt very uncomfortable, he still did not say anything for fear of upsetting her.

Two weeks later, Tom was out walking by the shopping mall when his teacher drew alongside him in her vehicle and offered him a lift home.  Tom did’nt feel like he could  say no.  He got in his teacher’s car and she drove him to a quiet spot whereupon she molested him.  The teacher warned him that if he told anyone he could get into serious trouble.  The abuse continued for several months, until Tom could not take anymore.  He started to become even more withdrawn and would express temper outbursts at home.  His Mother became extremely concerned about him and his Father had tried to speak to him several times, asking him if he was o.k.  Tom always maintained he was, so his parents put it down to the fact he was becoming a moody teenager.  But as the months passed and the abuse continued, he became so anxious and stressed out, that he finally broke down and told his parents what had been happening.  They were appalled that this had gone on for so long, unnoticed by other teachers at the school.  They immediately went to see the Headteacher at their son’s school and the teacher was put placed under investigation.  The police were informed, but the case never went to court, because Tom’s parents did not want to cause him any further embarrassment.  Later, the Teacher was sacked and was never employed by a school ever again. 

As you can imagine, this had an enormous impact on Tom’s health and wellbeing.  He could no longer trust women and found it hard to form healthy relationships.  He developed an obsession with personal hygiene and cleanliness.  His parents got him into therapy and it took several months for Tom to accept that none of this was his fault.  But too often, this does not happen and the damage that is done to a child can take it’s toll on that child’s wellbeing for many years to come.

So how would you recognise the tell tale signs of a child who is being abused?  Here are some things to look out for:-

If the abuser is a family member, too often the child refuses to tell anyone about what is happening, for fear that they no-one will believe them.  Or as in the case of an abusive father, they simply feel like they are betraying the perpetrator!  Too often, when I have counselled victims of domestic and sexual abuse, the victim has said that when they told their mother that their father was interfering with them, the mother beat them or threw them out!!

Victims of past sexual abuse find it hard to form healthy relationships and trust anyone ever again, particularly those of the opposite sex.  Or, they can become sexually promiscuous because they feel they don’t deserve to be truly loved and respected.  Other problems that may arise, as the years go by, are:-

So be aware of any changes in your child’s behaviour and do not automatically assume they are being abused, simply encourage them to talk about their feelings and be patient with them.  It can make all the difference in helping a child to open up and talk about what has happened to them, so that you can seek the help and support they need.

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