Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why Children Don't Tell

Sexual abuse is a pervasive issue across the nation. One in four girls report being sexually molested before the age of eighteen, and one in six boys report the same. Therefore, the reality is that more than 25% of you who are reading this article have been sexually abused. Another reality is that only a small percentage of you disclosed this to your parents. So why don't children tell? One would think that they would run, yell and scream to their parents if someone had touched them inappropriately. However, this is generally not the case. Here's why...
Most pedophiles are known to their victims, and are very slick and manipulative in their approach. They "groom" the child into thinking that they are trustworthy, and gradually involve children in inappropriate acts. Later they often threaten to harm the child or their family members if they do disclose. Victimized children often won't tell because they are afraid that they will not be believed, or feel guilty that they may have, in some way, been responsible for the abuse. Now, all of this is compounded with the fact that more often than not, it is a parent who is committing the abuse. In this case, a child may not want to tattle.
So what can you do as a parent? Be attuned to any changes in your child's behavior because this will tell you a lot! Young children will often regress by wetting the bed, sucking their fingers, or not eating. Elementary school age kids often demonstrate excessive fear of certain people, masturbate excessively, have nightmares, or will withdraw from people. In the teen years, kids may become promiscuous, experiment with drugs, be depressed, and may also have suicidal thoughts. You should be concerned if you see any of these behaviors, and begin asking questions.
If your son or daughter tells you that they have been abused, BELIEVE THEM! It is extremely rare for a child to lie about this. Keep in mind that the way that you react to this will help determine how your child will heal. Tell them that you are proud that they had the courage to tell you, and that it was not their fault. They really do need to hear this! In addition, make sure that they receive counseling to address their trauma because it will have life long ramifications if not treated.
If you were abused, and are finding it difficult to find inner peace... just remember that you do not have to let your trauma define who you are. Despite what happened to you, it is possible to live and love without pain. Your healing process may be difficult, but happiness is attainable.

Happy Parenting,
GaƩtane F. Borders, M.A., A.B.D

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