Child type of maltreatment, violation, and exploitation that refers

Child sexual abuse is a very
serious and devastating problem that is happening at high rates in the United
States, more so than we would like to think. Child sexual abuse is occurring
within homes and families with the high possibility of it going unnoticed or
not addressed. Most of the time, the perpetrator is a family member such as a
parent, uncle, or a grandparent. Child sexual abuse is defined as a type of
maltreatment, violation, and exploitation that refers to the involvement of the
child in sexual activity to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit
to the perpetrator. It includes contact for sexual purposes, molestation,
statutory rape, prostitution, pornography, exposure, incest, or other sexually
exploitative activities.” (American Society for the Positive Care of Children,
2017).  There are two main categories of
child sexual abuse: contact and non-contact. Contact sexual abuse refers to any
physical touching of the child’s sexual areas. Examples of this could include
forcing the child to receive or give oral sex or touching/fondling the child’s
genitals. Non-contact refers to any sexual acts that are not physical. Examples
of this includes forcing a child to watch sexual acts or forcing a child to
look at sexual parts of the body. Non-contact abuse can occur through sexually
explicit videos, DVDs, magazines, or photographs. Further, the perpetrator may
ask or make sexual intrusive comments or questions. This type of abuse can
happen in person or online (Barriere, 2017).

            As one can imagine, child sexual abuse can have immediate
and long-term effects that can follow a child into adulthood. The most common,
immediate affects of child sexual abuse is depression, anxiety, anger, and
avoidance. Depression, in one report, was the most common symptom reported due
to child sexual abuse. Child victims are four times more likely to be diagnosed
with major depression, at some point, than non-abused children. Anxiety is also
a common, disruptive condition that many victims face. Children who have been
abused are more likely to meet the criteria for generalized anxiety disorder,
phobias, panic disorder, and OCD. Survivors are five times more likely to be
diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than people who have not be sexually abused.

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The anxiety that a child faces often interferes with the ability for them to
form meaningful relationships. Anger is another effect that sexual abuse can
have on a child. Anger is often expressed in behavioral problems, through
fighting or bullying. This often leads the child to unpopularity or to become
socially isolated. Avoidant behavior is furthermore common in victims of child
sexual abuse. The child may use avoidance as a means to cope, along with
substance abuse, tension-reducing activities, and suicidal ideation. Often
times, these behaviors lead to lower self-esteem and greater feelings of guilt
and anger. More long-term effects of child sexual abuse include post-traumatic
stress disorder, substance abuse and addiction, indiscriminate sex, and eating
disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common long-term effect
that can occur if the victim does not receive help when they should. PTSD,
often times for survivors, takes place in flashbacks- or re-experiencing of the
event through nightmares or intrusive thoughts. The use of alcohol or drugs may
be used by victims of this kind of abuse in order to self-medicate. Children
who were sexually abused are 10 times more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs as
an adolescent or adult. Additionally, it has been recorded by clinicians that
many adolescents and adults engage in frequent, episodes of sexual activity,
often with several different partners. This might be due for a need for
closeness and intimacy or to provide as a distraction. This is in partly due to
the fact that sexual activity can be a coping mechanism that can control pain
for a short amount of time. The relationship between child sexual abuse and
eating disorders is a fairly new study however, it has been found that there is
likely to be a link between the two. The eating disorder may provide self-soothing, a
distraction, or a filling of perceived emptiness (Briere and Elliott, 1994). Unmistakably, there are
numerous repercussions that sexual abuse can have on a child. The list
mentioned above are only a few to the very exhaustive list that could
potentially be a result. Child sexual abuse, without doubt, has detrimental, severe
effects on the survivor of sexual abuse if it is not dealt with.

            Indications of child sexual abuse can take place in many
ways. Some physical indications are redness, rashes, and/or bleeding in the
genital, oral, or anal area, bruising, difficulty walking or sitting, STIs or
yeast infections, frequent sore throats, psychosomatic symptoms such as
stomachache or headache, or complaints of itching or pain near the genital
area. Behavioral indications of sexual abuse can include sexualized behavior
that is not appropriate for the age of the child, signs of an eating disorder,
or self-mutilation (Barriere, 2017).

            The world might be a little bit easier if society was
able to distinguish between what an abuser looks like and what they don’t look
like. However, it is not that easy. In reality, there is not one, set in stone
archetype of what a child abuser looks like. But, there are some
characteristics that could be helpful. Most offenders are between the ages of
20-50, half are married, and many have their own children. Often times, the
offender was also a victim of child sexual abuse themselves. It is estimated
that about 40% of the offenders abuse children that they know. Moreover, the
offender has most likely been attracted to young children all of his life. It
is also important to note that the vast majority of people who abuse are not
violent. They do not prefer violence, but feel the need to have power. Lastly,
there are a number of offenders who grew up never learning about sex or sex was
not allowed to be openly discussed in their households (Hodson and Skeen, 1987).

            As a
parent, teacher, or simply someone who cares about children, it is important to
have the knowledge about what to do if a child decides to disclose information
to you that they have been sexually abused. As one can imagine, having this
conversation is hard and uncomfortable, especially for children who may be
confused, scared, or embarrassed about the situation. However, there are tips
that you can take in order to ensure that you’re being supportive to the child.

One thing is to reassure the child that it is right to tell someone they trust
if they have been sexually abused. The child needs to be reassured that it is
not their fault and the adult is not angry with them because they are not the
cause of distress. Secondly, always listen and support the child. It is
important that the authorities investigate, not the adult who is supposed to be
supportive. Quizzing or repeatedly asking the details may seem to the child
that you don’t believe them. Thirdly, don’t be afraid of saying the “wrong”
thing. As long as you are doing your best to be supportive that is the primary
goal. If the child is disclosing something like this to you, that means that
they trust you. Fourthly, don’t make promises that you can’t keep. Often,
children will fear repercussions or consequences such as, getting in trouble. A
lot of the time the child will ask the adult to not tell anyone, however this
is not a promise an adult should make. It is important to tell authorities.

Instead, promise the child that you will do everything in your power to keep
them safe. Fifthly, try to maintain a calm appearance. Although this can be
difficult and overwhelming, not doing so could scare the child. If you are
having a hard time controlling your emotions be sure to tell the child you are
sad because adults are supposed to care for children, not hurt them. Sixthly,
give the child your undivided attention and let the child take their time when
talking to you. If the area around you is noisy, let the child know that you
would like to move to an area where you can hear him or her properly. However,
be sure to ask the child for permission. Some areas might trigger memories of
the abuse. Additionally, depending on the child, they may not want to talk
about it for a long time while others might want to talk about it for a longer
period of time. Either way, it is imperative that the child doesn’t feel rushed
or panicked. Seventhly, let the child use his or her own words. This can help
reduce discomfort in the child and it is also important in case there are legal
proceedings in the future that the child is using their own words. Eighthly,
let the child know what your next steps are at the end of the conversation. Try
not speaking about organizations or authorities that the child may not
understand without explaining it first. Explain to the child that in order for
them to be safe, you need to tell another adult. It is important to keep the
child involved in what you’re doing because they may already feel a big loss of
control, and this can add to that. Ninthly, accept that the child is only going
to tell you what they’re comfortable with and recognize their strength and
bravery in talking about something that is so difficult and personal. It is
important the child feels in control and pressing for information could make
the child feel that they’re not in control. Also, it is important to
acknowledge the child’s bravery. Lastly, do not confront the perpetrator. This
could create a potential risk for the child’s safety. Confronting an alleged
perpetrator should be left to police or the correct authorities (Healey, 2015).

            With a
topic that can be so difficult and overwhelming, it is crucial that we are able
to distinguish between facts and myths. One myth is that child sexual abuse is
a rare occurrence. This is not the case, one out of three girls and one out of
five boys will be sexually abused before they are 18. Another myth is that child
sexual abuse is mostly committed by strangers. The fact is that ninety percent
of child victims know their sex offender. Child abusers are easy to identify is
also a common myth. This is not true, child sex offenders come from every walk
of life. Lastly, a common myth is that children often make up stories about
sexual relationships with adults. This is not true simply due to the fact that
children don’t know enough about sex to be able to describe sexual behaviors
that have not occurred.

            The damage
that can occur physically, emotionally, and psychologically can have
detrimental effects on a child’s well-being. That is why it is paramount that
as adults we do everything in our power to try to prevent or lessen child
sexual abuse. The first is to give children the correct terminology for the
sexual parts of their bodies. Secondly, help children identify the different
types of touching: good, bad, or confusing. Good touches are normal, loving
interactions. A confusing touch might be incessant tickling by an adult after
the child has said “stop.” A bad touch is touches on sexual parts of the body
without the child’s permission. Teach children that their bodies are their own
and they have control over them. Teach children that abuse is not their fault
and teach them how someone might try to manipulate them. Encourage open
communication. Believe the child if they tell you something has happened to
them and investigate further. Foster appropriate attitudes in responsible
adults. Encourage the child to keep telling if they tell an adult and the adult
does nothing. Lastly, know your resources and know that they are available if
you need them.

            Child
sexual abuse is an awful and difficult thing to handle. However, as a society,
we can not pretend like it doesn’t exist. Learning about child sexual abuse and
ways to lessen or prevent it, is a step that we should all take. Children
should be allowed to be children and not have their lives disrupted with
something like sexual abuse.