Child sexual abuse is exposing children to sexual activity. Forms of child sexual abuse are forcing a child into activities such as fondling, intercourse, oral sex and pornography. Reports of child sexual abuse are common, with 80,000 reports per year, as of 2008, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The number of times child sexual abuse actually occurs is much greater than what reports show because many children are afraid to tell.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that child sexual abuse became recognized as a problem. Medical journals discussed children having sexually transmitted diseases, but not how children caught such diseases, according to The New York Times. Society was reluctant to deal with this problem. After more than 30 years of examination, child sexual abuse has become a serious issue.
Child sexual abuse can be devastating to a child. Adults should be able to determine whether sexual abuse is happening to a child, stop the abuse and get professional help for the child. Sexual abuse can take place within the family by a parent, relative, sibling or stepparent. It can also happen outside the home by a friend, neighbor, teacher, child-care provider or a stranger. Children cannot prepare psychologically for sexual stimulation, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Prolonged sexual abuse usually leads to low self-esteem in children. Children may feel worthless and develop a distorted view of sex. Some children withdraw from all adults. Some children who are victims of sexual abuse become suicidal. Sexually abused children often have a difficult time relating to other children except in sexual ways. They may become sexual abusers themselves or could become promiscuous at a young age.
You can look for signs that might indicate whether your child is or has been a victim of sexual abuse. She may have an unusual interest in things having to do with sex or may want to avoid them. She may have sleeping problems or nightmares. She may seem depressed and withdraw from people. She may act seductively. She might complain that something is wrong in her genital area. She may act secretively. She may be aggressive. She may draw images of sexual molestation. She may engage in suicidal behavior.
What to Do
You can prevent your child from or lessen the chances of his being a victim of sexual abuse by talking to him. Tell your child to say “no” to anyone who tries to touch his body and to tell you right away. If you suspect your child is being or has been the victim of sexual abuse, get immediate professional evaluation, recommends the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. A health care provider can look for physical signs and conduct tests for sexually transmitted diseases. A psychiatrist can help children regain self-esteem and to overcome the trauma.
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