Child Sexual Abuse: Shine A Light And Let The Whole World See

Last month, a young man in my community was arrested on charges of child molestation.  Countless concerns were voiced following his arrest from parents, youth, and even his friends.  Time and time again I heard confusion about the charges.  “But we know him and trust him.” “He is so nice looking.” “He is such a good Christian.”  And then after the shock wore off, what normally happens with allegations of sexual abuse happened here.  Silence.  And silence makes me angry.

Why?  Because silence about child sexual abuse sends the wrong message.  It tells victims, past, present, and future, that we are willing to look away.  That we are too uncomfortable or too disturbed by what has happened to tackle the problem head on.

Not one to let anger get the best of me, I started thinking.  What if we could all just talk about the confusion?  The shock?  What if we could use this situation to talk MORE about the topic of child sexual abuse instead of less.  What if instead of sweeping it under the rug, we shined a light on it to let the whole world see?  Whose future sexual abuse could we be responsible for preventing?  Whose daughter?  Whose son?

Let’s start by looking at the facts.  Studies have shown that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they turn 18.  Take a minute and think about all of the girls and boys that that you know.  Your daughters and your sons.  Your nieces and nephews.  Children who are friends with your kids, that live in your neighborhood, that go to your child’s school.  Then imagine that 1 in 4 of those girls and 1 in 6 of those boys were being or were going to be sexually abused.  That’s an epidemic.  That’s a bigger prevalence rate than any disease out there.  And we have the power to eradicate it.  But so far we haven’t.  Because the majority of us prefer silence to talking.  The topic is just too uncomfortable.

How then can I be so confident that we can make a difference?  Just look at what we’ve been able to accomplish on behalf of children’s safety in my lifetime through talking, teaching, and training.  Car accident injuries?  We used to sit unbuckled in the front seat.  Now we start our kids off in car seats and when they are old enough we teach them how to buckle up on their own in the back seat.   Skin cancer?  We used to sunbathe in baby oil.  Now we put sunscreen on our babies and teach them to use it whenever they go out in the sun.  Flu season?  We’ve schooled our kids to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.  Bike accidents?  Helmets.   The list goes on and on.  And you know what? We can make just as big of a difference in stopping sexual abuse if we put our collective minds to it.

If you’re not with me yet, then let’s talk about the effects of being a victim of child sexual abuse.  That should make us all pause and consider just how serious this problem is.  I love what the Darkness To Light organization has to say on this.  “If child sexual abuse left physical scars instead emotional ones, people would be horrified. Sexual abuse can negatively impact every part of a victim’s life. The real tragedy is that it robs children of their potential, setting into motion a chain of events and decisions that follow the victim throughout his or her life.”

As children, victims of child sexual abuse are significantly more likely to have academic, behavioral, and emotional problems.  They are more likely to be promiscuous, act out sexually, and become a teen parent.  Plus, they have an increased likelihood of substance abuse problems and juvenile delinquency.

But then it gets worse, because the effects of child sexual abuse continue on into adulthood.  Right now there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.  That’s right, 42 million!  Adults who were victimized as children are more likely to have mental health problems, substance abuse problems, suicide attempts, obesity, eating disorders, physical health problems, and criminal involvement (either as a victim or a perpetrator).  Not every survivor suffers these effects, but the likelihood that they will increases dramatically just because they were the victims of child sexual abuse.  As a parent, I know that I would do anything in my power to keep my children from these risks.  And I know that deep down, even if you’ve been silent on the issue, you want to keep your children safe from these risks too.

But what about the perpetrator?  90% of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are individuals that are known and trusted by the victim or their family.  90%!  Over the past month I’ve talked to countless people who have had difficulty believing this statistic.  But think about it.  As parents, we wouldn’t leave our children alone with people we didn’t know or trust.   You certainly wouldn’t entertain the idea of leaving your child alone with a person who “looked like” a child molester.  That’s the thing.  People who sexually abuse children look just like people who don’t.  There is no way to know who is or who is not a perpetrator based on their appearance.

Sex offenders are, however, more likely to be men.  Although the percentages vary, of those offenders that are brought into the legal system, fewer than 5% are female.  But otherwise, perpetrators of child sexual abuse come from all walks of life and look and act just like everyone else.  The fact that someone is a Christian, or any other religious orientation for that matter, does not make them any more or less likely to be a sex offender.

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse most often abuse children in situations where they are one-on-one with the victim.  More than 80% of child sexual abuse occurs when the child is alone with the perpetrator.  Adult perpetrators often try to establish a trusting relationship with children and their families just so that they can have access to the child.  They often slowly introduce inappropriate comments and touches in a way that makes the child unaware that abuse is actually occurring until it is already happening.  But juveniles can be perpetrators of sexual abuse too.  Studies have shown that 34% of perpetrators are juveniles.  Adolescent sex offenders are less likely to re-offend if provided with appropriate treatment, compared to adult offenders.

Now that you know some of the facts about sexual abuse, how do you feel?  Do you feel like you want to stay silent?  Or do you feel like you want to start talking to prevent children from being the victims of child sexual abuse?  I hope like me you chose the latter.

Starting now, talk about this epidemic with your friends, with your family, and within your community.  Post about it on Facebook.  Twitter.  Pinterest.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t be embarrassed.  Talk to your church leaders, day care directors, and school administrators.  Ask what they are doing to protect children from child sexual abuse.  Shine a light on this issue.  Talk to your children, uncomfortable as that might be (For tips on this check out my post Let’s Talk About Sexual Abuse).  By talking about it openly, we can shift the inaccurate perception that child sexual abuse is something that should be kept secret or swept under the rug.  More importantly, by talking about it we can help prevent it.

We should be able to get to a point where talking about the prevention of child sexual abuse is as natural as telling our children to put on their helmet before going on a bike ride or asking them if they’re wearing sunscreen before heading off to the pool.  We’re not there yet, but together one day we can be.

If you suspect abuse or have questions, call the National Child Abuse Hotline, ChildHelp, at 1-800-4-A-CHILD for guidance 24 hours a day.


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About Dr. Polly Dunn

Child clinical psychologist, wife, and mom of four blogging about her 'Perfectly Imperfect' parenting solutions.

Comments

  1. Virginia Schoen says:

    In the pasted couple of months I have been in and out of the court system with my Granddaughter That has been Sexual Abused by her Father . With Tennessee Child Services A LCSW Dr. A Speech Teacher ,Child Advocacy Center and a Forensic Psychiatrist ALL Testified on the witness Stand that she had been SEXUAL Abused . Because she had not been RAPED there was Nothing we could do . She was giving back to the Father 2 days a week with wife #5 watching over them .She was there when this happen so why does the JUDGE trust HER? If she had been a DOG she would have got more Media Attention and something would have been done about this…. My Daughter and my Granddaughter was Not heard NO Voice .The Judge heard no Voice as she sat there and cried for HELP. A animal would have been treated better than this….. What is going on in the court rooms?????????

    • Hi virginia,

      I’m going though the same thing with my three ki ds. Three different times the theparpist called in the kids were bring sexually molested by their father. Their father is a fire commissioner, the police never fully investigated each case was closed. The theparpist who is a licensed theparpist for the county sexual abuse department for 20 years called someone who would listen. He was finallyarrested but the Assistant DA is not fighting for justice to prevail. This is a nightmare. I can see why kids don’t come forward, they are not believed.

    • Dear Polly,

      I am here in New Jersey and sadly we are experiencing something similar. My husband shared child pornography with my children and I even have tamper proof evidence from computer supported reports. No one cares that my son and husband have accessed child pornography. My son has even offered to provide free child care services in the community and the Judge is still allowing unsupervised visitation with the minor daughters. Mother’s and children need help across the world concerning these acts.

  2. I’m shocked, Polly! Three days ago you posted this well-researched and accurate call for our society to not be so silent about child sexual abuse. There is only one comment before mine, and it’s a heart-breaker. Sigh…
    Where’s the passion to attack this problem? You, Polly, have spoken clearly about the problem and about how it can be solved. I share your hope and realistic view of what we can accomplish.
    I’m shocked and sorry that there are not hundreds of comments on your post.
    I spoke up about pedophiles and child sexual abuse by writing a novel, Vagilantes, which was published this year. Sometimes it is easier for us to hear the truth through stories. I hope this book, like you post, will move this mountain of shame toward more solutions.
    Thank you for your voice.

  3. Virginia Schoen says:

    WE are not trying to take our Granddaughter away from the Father Either thou she has has been Sexual Abused by him we would just like to have visits at the Exchange Club here in Nashville Tn. I think that would take a lot of stess off of my Daughter knowing she is safe until she is older. The visits to his home we do not feel this is a good idea at the moment.. My daughter had No Voice in the Court room it is o.k. to Sexual Abuse Children Just don’t Rape them where you will get caught… That is my opinion!!!!!!!

  4. GREAT post. This is absolutely something that needs to be spoken about openly, not whispered about behind closed doors. I just wanted to let you know that I found your post when it was shared on Facebook, & I, in turn, will be sharing it, too. Praying more people acknowledge this horrific truth & the devastating fallout.

  5. There’s nothing much the cops can do until they actually do something really serious and then they only get a few years and are released on parole in a few months because of good behaviour. Of course they’re good, there’s no kids to molest in jail!

    I call for harsher penalties for child sex offenders! If I had my way they’d all be branded with a P on their foreheads for paedophile, then we’d all know who they are regardless of whether they “look” like paedophiles or not. Government won’t release whereabouts of paedophiles to public to keep them safe. Well how about our children? I think their safety is more important.

    • I agree with you .And ( P) Branded on there forheads would be Great.. WE need help and No one is listening. To us or our children . They think my daughter coached my Granddaughter into this. If I new what I do at the moment I think we should have never turned this in to Child Services Because .The courts did not listen to them or the Drs. on the witness stand saying We believe she has been Sexual Abused. WE have been to Hell and back because of this ,And No one Cares.. Just gives her right back to the Dad. If they had only did visits at the Exchange Club here in Nashville TN. would have been fine with us at least she would be SAFE.. Court has been the worse than we could have ever done. Because she had not been Raped… We could not prove anything… We are going to take her to a COURT ordered Psychiatrist at a price Tage of $5000.00 to be halfed with Dad and my daughter…. Oh Dear God where did they come up with such a price Tage…Money is not a problem for them it is just a number… I pray this pays off I would pay $10,000.00 if I new it would Keep My Granddaughter Safe…

      • Update paid our 1/2 2500.00 to see the court ordered Psychiatrist. Our Grandaughter would not talk to him. Number One he is a man . And he does not work with Kids who has Autism. She has never had a male work with her not even a male teacher. That was the first time she had ever met him. And No she was not going to talk to him. When ask could we make another appointment with him where she could get to know him he said NO it was a ONE time thing… So that means if the EX. pays his 2500.00 that that was over 5000.00 a hour to talk to him ONE Time. what is going on with our COURTS ?? It is all for the Abuser and by the time they get thur with you —– You feel like it is you for Reporting this whole thing to Child Services . Either thou they are on our side the court is for the Dad… To HECK with my Granddaughter that was molested by her father…

        • Guess What Father never paid his 2500.00 and now he gets to go to Dr.on my money.And make up all kinds of LIES on my Daughter She is only trying to protect our Granddaughter from being Molested again by her Father.. This is not fair at all.. We should have Never turned this in to Child Sevices, It has done NO good at all .It is just like My daughter is the one that Harmed her.Not the Father it is O.K. what he did to HER. This is just a mess . How does people like him Not get Charged for what he has done to Her?
          Child services did appear in court and testifed that she has been Sexual Abused By her Father.. Judge did not listen to a thing that was said… All this for Nothing NO HELP at all for out Granddaughter . He put her back in the home 2 days a week. With wife #5 looking after them…Untill court appointed PSYCHIATRIST makes a decision with only 1 visit with my Granddaughter if she was SEXUAL Abused are Not…..

      • Virginia schoen says:

        The price of the Psychiatrist Went to 7600.00 a one time visit with our Grandaughter One more court date Dec. 4th 2012 The Judge will decided if the Dad has Sexual Abuse Our Grandaughter. I hope he will soon be caught for wht he has done to her. I believe it does not matter what the Dad has done the Judge Does not here Our cries for Help to Protect her He is only worried about the ABUSER Not the Victim. 3rd Circuit Court In Nashville Tn. Dec. 3rd 2012 .Please remember us in your prayers. Virginia Schoen

  6. Tamara Dillon says:

    I am not shocked by the stats- I know them well!!! I was a victim for many years and I am not ashamed that I was a victim. I do talk often, maybe to often, to my sons 4.5 and 1.5 years old about their privates and the appropriate names of their parts suck as penis, testicles, and rectum. I think this helps when talking and being open about no one touching or seeing their private parts. I work hard and pray that I never put my boys in the way of being sexually victimized!

  7. hi there,

    there is one thing that I would like to point out and that is when you talk to your child, make sure you don’t make comments like “I will kill someone who touches you” or I will throw this person in jail”. Because most of the time, the predators are “nice” people or just someone the child knows. They think in their minds that If they tell mom or dad about what this person is doing to them, their parents will kill them. Kids have the tendency of feeling guilty or sorry and these predators are really crafty, and they normally say that “don’t tell your mom, or don’t tell your dad about this or they can harm me”. Just make sure you tell them just they need to speak up and let their parents know. that’s it. That’s how I talked to my kids and they seemed to understand the point. Just my opinion. Thanks! Great post!

    • This is a great post so true this man seems like he is the Greatest man in the world He is as smooth as Butter. Even Admitted to the courts that he KILLED people and destroyed there bones with Acid where he would not get Caught, When ask in court why he told my Daughter this he said it was to impress her. Not only Sexual abuse to my Grand daughter but admitting that to the courts should sent A RED LIGHT.. Today A court order came down that my granddaughter has to go to another Psychiatrist that the Courts picks at the price TAG OF 5000.00 that has to be halved with the Ex… WE have to pay it because my daughter is a single Mom and barley makes ends meet . We have to do everything we can to save her… WE will just be happy if she can visit at The Exchange Club knowing she will be safe there is what we need…. WE are so worried about the visits to his home. My Daughter and Granddaughter was not heard in the court room There voices were Silent.. If they had been a dog it would have been all over the news.. and people would have been protesting. But nothing just put her right back into a Dangerous Home. We pray someone will here our cries for HELP,

    • THanks for your help we never talk bad about him around her…We always make sure she is not around when we do talk . Thanks so much

  8. Brilliant article. Well written and just so much spot on truth. It is simple really isn’t it? We need to start talking more… I have done a lot of soul searching on this issue and it really is going to be that simple idea of TALKING and perhaps even shouting it from the rooftops which will hopefully make people more aware. The victims are super aware of anyone going anywhere near our kids but for those unaffected it would be the last thing on their minds… and they would feel awful for suspecting or god forbid ACCUSING anyone of abuse. I ask those people how would you feel when your adult child comes and tells you that they have been suffering silently with an awful secret? How awful would you feel then?

    • Don’t be so sure about that.When my son was 3 he started doing sexual things .I asked him who had showed him to do those things and he told me it was his paternal grandfather I had my suspicions before but these confirmed it to me .I stopped letting him stay over his house but my husband visit him and would take him with him.He dint believe what my son had said .Later the same year my son got herpes in his mouth and was admitted to Miami children hospital where he stayed for two weeks because he couldn’t eat .These caused me a lot of problems with my sons father wish I met in high school We had been together for 24yrs.At the end my father in law the GUILTY ONE the one that was a faithful church goer the one that was my parents best friend and the one that someone told me that he was not capable of doing that because he had retired from PUBLIXS SUPER MARKET….The POLYGRAPHER was the one that told me that . I took my son to take a polygraph which he did not want to give him after he took my 300.00 dollars It seem to me that he thought that if you retired from the above market place that you would receive the angel of God award.We ended getting divorced my ex wanted complete custody of my son his father payed for his lawyer. I had to sell one home we had 2 with out permission to pay for the first 2 lawyers that ones they had a large sum of retainer money dint give a sh… about me or my baby .My ex claimed that I was crazy that’s the reason that I should be kept from seeing my son again .His witnesses to these were his guilty father .MY MOTHER…….she thought I was imagining thing even though …..SHE WAS A VICTIM AS A CHILD And …..MY DAUGHTER HER FATHER HAD TRIED TO RAPE HER AT 15YR OLD. She had a different father.SHE was 30yrs when she went to court and at 15 she was old enough to know what was happening.Justice is not blind like the logo of the lady blind folded in the court room. Justice can see .The one that was blind was me thinking That there was Justice in these world .You see the court took my son away for one year .They wanted to make shore that I was not crazy .During these time I had to go to all these programs that were good but but i did not need but. Justice said these programs would make me a better mother .Justice also wanted to make my son better so during these year they gave custody of my son to the GUILTY PATERNAL GRANDFATHER.these person had also been accused my his 10 yr old step granddaughter .I would see my son ones a week and at leaving time he would wrap his hands around my neck and his therapist would unwrap finger by finger while he was screaming and I could hear him all the way down the elevator.At these time Justice could see that it was making me crazy I was crying all the time and they could see that my son was also crying and becoming violent he would turn the tables and throw the toy at leaving time from the i hour visitation ones a week.JUSTICE could also see that I was a VICTIM of domestic violence And my ex had a long record of violence against other people and drug abuse.And justice also could see that I had no record of anything only one driving ticket. Justice could also see my ex father in laws record of sexual abuse of a child.when Department of Children and family did the assessment of his home they wrote on it that in that home there was record of sex abuse allegations by a minor which happened before the birth of my son and i dint know about.There was domestic violence and drug abuse by my ex brother. in law JUSTICE COULD SEE…that my son was better of with me .But they turned and looked the other way like most people do when you talk to them about these.
      I was looking at my sons school work of the year when he was living with his paternal grandfather and with pictures letters and words he would say the things that these Guilty person was doing to him.Then I looked at what he writes now and he is still going through the same thing .The worst thing is that I cant take him to therapy if the therapy knows they will tell the same people that took my son and put him in the situation above he is ten now.I cant go to therapy for the same reason. that’s how I came to these website I’m all alone trying to help my son and me.As for my mother and my daughter THEY WERE BOTH VICTIMS and they knew more about me then anybody.They along with my dad betrayed me after a year in court and all the evidence they still say i’m lying and are friends with the GUILTY ONE.They hurt me more that anybody i don’t communicate with them I took them the school note book the other days and they told me that was again looking for trouble .Trouble always finds me while I look for JUSTICE that I never fined.Sorry for not spelling correctly but I’M at work and writing at the same time .The point to these is that I think that on these situation we have to help our kids on our on because if you point a finger at some one they point it back on you and DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY forgets them and is all over you In their business card should be written ..IF YOU DARE TAKE A CHANCE ON ME.I met a lot of people and the truth is that no agency or law cares about our kids they pretend to but they really don’t .When these situation comes around in our kids private live we are the the therapies we are the law and we are the judge because we not only really see but we know .We have to be spies we have to we talk and we give them permission and if we suspect somebody we have to interview them when they come home and before leaving we have to talk strait to them and tell them how to act in different situations what to say to the suspect and the difference between wrong and rite and if its a loved one tell them about the future and show them stories of people that never told and wish they had .I told and wish I had not .these I don’t tell him .By the way after all these if I dint know GOD the way I know him I would be in a mental hospital.I never wanted JUSTICE all I wanted was for my son to be safe and now all I want is for him to get therapy by a professional so that he can put these behind and so that I can stop thinking about how he feels all the time.I should be thinking of what park are we going? not of how can I get him help with out DCF involvement. THANK YOU AND BE CAREFUL DON’T TRUST ANYONE

  9. chrissy says:

    hi there i totally agree with everything said, i currently live in ireland and we are the same here, theres paedophiles everywhere, we have a hostel that houses them within 5mins walking distance and straight facing a movie house which children are always there, i could never imagine any childs horror of having to endure abuse, there needs to be more done about this not just talking, we have tried petitions, stand offs, parades, everything we could think off to get them removed but they are still there, sniggerring out the windows at our efforts, its disgusting, the government puts them in residential areas where they are out of their areas but in the midst of so many families and children, thats like putting temptation in their eyes, we have some of the worst sex offenders and paedophiles in that hostel and nothing is being done about it, like all those children with no voice we try to be their voice but it falls on deaf ears, something needs to be done and as a mother of four i would do anything to keep my children safe xx

  10. Having watched someone go through the court system ,dealt with his betrayal of my trust,watched him gt therapy ,have him understand what he has done and more importantly why he did it and now living in a halfway house.He has put saftey measures in place for himself so it doesnt happen again. That said he was also a victim of child sexual abuse and I do wonder what the stats on the perpetrators (particularly men who handle things in silence and never get the help) also being victims themselves.

    • It’s true, many abusees become the abuser.

    • You’re right that some people who were abused do go on to become perpetrators themselves. But the vast majority of sexually abused children do not grow up to be adult offenders. Thanks so much for your comment!

      • To be clear I was referring to physical abuse as well as sexual abuse.

        • Yes, many victims of physical and sexual abuse to grow up to be adult offenders, but most thankfully do not. What’s also alarming is that people who have been victims of abuse are much more likely to be re-victimized. Thanks again for your comment!

          • Just found the reported statistic for offenders reporting being victims of child sexual abuse. Approximately 40% of sex offenders report being sexually abused as children. Very sad situation indeed!

  11. Hi Polly, thanks for speaking up about this. It’s something I’m very passionate about. My ex-husband is currently under criminal investigation for child pornography. No one, even me, could believe it when it was uncovered. I lived with him for ten years. I didn’t know. I now have a restraining order on behalf of the children and have spent two years in court fighting him while the investigation has sat at the local level, going nowhere.

    Anyway, I’ve always been a bit annoyed by all the ‘stranger danger’ talk they do at school. Kids need to know that it’s not always strangers who may hurt them. They need to no what is appropriate touch and was is not, even from a parent or grandparent. It’s sad, sobering, infuriating. But it’s an important issue we need to talk about.

    • that there should be no human faces on feocboak, but all profile pictures must be cartoon characters. (To remember your childhood).Some people say that it is pointless, as it cannot actually do anything,but in my opinion it does do something; it shows moral and emotional support for those supporting the fight against child abuse. It shows that we as a society believe that child abuse is wrong, and it reminds us of our own childhoods. Whether these were bad or good childhoods, it can help us see that child abuse is wrong. (Those with bad childhoods may want to make sure that history is not repeated for other people, and those with good chidhoods will want to make sure that other children have the same kind of childhood). So please change your profile picture to show your support and beliefs!References : (( ME ))

  12. This is an amazing post! I agree that people need to talk about this! I try to be open about this topic. My father was very active in our church and was well known and loved by all. He is a child molester and because of his position in the church he was able to molest some boys. He also molested almost all of his children. When it came out almost NOBODY believed it was true because everyone thought he was so wonderful. It truly is the last person you’d expect it to be sometimes.
    I just want to add that it’s important as parents to believe your children. It’s so important to validate them and help them in any way you can without putting too much pressure on them.
    Thank you for writing this. People need to stop being afraid to talk about it.

  13. Former Victim says:

    I was a victim of child sexual abuse along with my sister and half sister by my stepfather. My stepfather also molested my friend when she spent the night. The first time it was my friend and I and she told her parents we went to court and all he received was probation The second time was four years later he was abusing my sisters and he slipped and touched me again. I told my mom who said “I’m too scared tell someone else”. I did it was his misfourtune but our fourtune that it happened on a military base he recieved 10 years. The interesting thing is my step father called my grandmothers boyfriend a child abuser turns out the saying “it takes one to know one” is true. He molested both my sisters he knew better with me. Years later my brother was molested after he was kidnapped by a stranger. Our family just seemed to attrack them. I’m really grateful for my friend that told her parents what my stepfather did if she hadn’t my life would have been worse.

  14. I am just reading this now. What a beautifully written piece. THANK YOU for writing this..It is such an important issue and the silence is so frustrating to me.

  15. Thank you all for your heartfelt comments. Together I do believe we can make a difference by talking openly about this difficult topic.

  16. Sharon Czarnecki says:

    Hi Polly, Thank you for your heartfelt call for action and educating ourselves and our children about a horrible danger. I have been very frustrated with so many people telling their kids and mine to never trust strangers. Anyone I’ve ever known who was abused as a child was abused by relatives, family friends, neighbors’ sons etc. People need to be very aware of this and be concerned about entirely different situations i.e. if your girl is playing at a friend’s house, does the friend have a big brother and what is he like? if your sister is babysitting your child, she may trust her boyfriend (who may be ok) and his friends and family (who may not be) and leave your kid alone with them. It is downright dangerous for folks to think their kids are protected from sexual abuse because they’ve taught them not to speak to strangers when the problem is so much closer at hand. Honestly, I have had trouble speaking with my daughter a lot about this issue because I hate to have to tell her not to trust her “loved ones” completely but, as these horrendous cases make clear, I need to do so. And I will. Thank you!

  17. So how do these cases actually get prosecuted? What is the evidence? I work in the mental health field and do observe lots of child abuse situations, but one hit me closer to home when my boyfriend’s daughter said he was abusing her. This is a girl whom I cannot believe because she has been a liar about everything for 4 years that she has lived with me and she has accused another different family member two years ago. She is an attention seeker and makes up stories to get attention. She is not at all ashamed of having “been abused” she openly tells almost strangers about it, which does not seem right to me. How can I even begin to believe her? My own daughter, who is an honors student, varsity soccer player, and very confident teen, is the same age and she has no concerns being around this same man. This has just torn the entire family a part. So my question is how do we really know, especially when the girl making the accusations is a compulsive liar? In this case I am 99% sure that this did not happen and there is absolutely no evidence. This whole situation makes me feel so terrible because it makes it that much more difficult for children who really are abused.

    • Suspicions of child sexual abuse are reported to law enforcement or child protective services. In many states, if you learn of or suspect abuse you are required by law to report it (whether or not you believe the allegations). As a mental health professional, you are required by law in all 50 states to report suspicions of abuse. Once the abuse has been reported, the allegations are investigated by trained professionals. Interviews are conducted with the child and the accused by trained forensic interviewers and a physical evaluation may also be done to collect evidence. According to recent studies, child protective services agencies investigate about 55% of the child sexual abuse incidents reported to them. The rest are “screened out” for lack of adequate information or for other reasons.

      It is estimated that only 4-8% of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated. Whether or not you believe her, you should always report abuse to the appropriate authorities and allow them to investigate whether or not there is adequate evidence to prosecute. I would also seek the guidance of a therapist who can work with you about these conflicting feelings regarding her accusations. Finally, contact the Childhelp hotline where you can talk to a counselor about what’s going on and their advice for your specific situation (1-800-422-4453).

  18. It’s difficult to find advice on the web for what to do if your BABY/toddler has been sexually abused. Could anyone point me to such?

    My son’s nanny abused him when he was 12 months to 15 months old. I don’t know exactly what happened – but my son started saying sexual words (words I had never said, he has only been with me and the nanny), pointing at my genitals, trying to put his hand down my pants, pointing at his own genitals in a specific manner, crying and pointing at his genitals etc. He also started kicking me and crying at nights. Needless to say, I fired the nanny. (Though it took me a while to understand to even suspect anything.)

    My questions are:

    1) Do I let the next nanny know and give her instructions (e.g. be neutral, calm and reassuring if my son does zyx)

    2) What exactly should my reaction be when he e.g. points at my genitals and says “p*ssy” (I’m assuming to be neutral and try to give him something else to think about)

    3) What kind of therapy or equivalent can he go to later to overcome any remnants of this incident?

    It’s hard to gage exactly how to react, what to say and what to do. I was molested as a child/teen myself and didn’t get any kind of support myself. I’d like to do all the right things to help my son overcome this and to prevent anything from happening in the future – while still giving him a positive feeling/idea/confidence about himself. I.e. I don’t want to scare him or make him feel worse by saying the wrong things.

    It’s hard to understand what to say to such a little person who doesn’t even know how to talk (except for a couple of words). I’d like to have the tools and the wisdom to say and do all the right things. Where are the resources for me?

    • To get the specific help that you need for yourself and your son, I strongly encourage you to seek the help of a therapist who can help answer your questions. You’re right, most of the content on the internet is focused on older children, not infants and toddlers. That’s why it’s even more important for you to get individualized guidance from a counselor. Furthermore, it’s critically important that you report your suspicions about your child’s nanny to the police or child protective services so that they can investigate these allegations. For more information on how to report abuse and how to find a counselor in your area, contact the Childhelp hotline for free and confidential advice on what to do (1-800-422-4453).

  19. Karina Salazar says:

    Hey Polly, my name is Karina and I’m a Junior at Northern Nash High School. I found this very interesting and I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind if I used a few things you said in my capstone project? I’m doing my project on “child abuse” and I’d love to use you as one of my sources.

  20. LC mother of two says:

    I am searching online for any information that would be helpful. My son (3) told me that his great Uncle touched him inappropriately. Child Services became involved and arranged for a Child Advocacy Assessment. Again, my son shared that it was his great Uncle. He is too young to know that it was wrong and still loves the perpetrator. The great Uncle is my husband’s Uncle who was also instrumental in raising him when he was very young.
    My husband believes that his Uncle has been falsely accused and that I am the accuser because I involved Children’s Services and the local Police Department. I am told that it is incredibly hard to get cases like mine to ever go to trial because a child’s statement is not enough evidence. If there are no physical signs present, it’s even harder.
    My daughter yells at her brother when he talks about it and tells him to stop lying. She denies that anything happened, but she has displayed unusually high levels of sexual behavior for her age (5). The Police don’t want a statement from her because if she continues to lie and cover it up, it goes as defense for the Uncle.
    My marriage is close to ending as a result of the fights between my husband and I. He doesn’t believe it, I do. I just want to protect my children and prevent this man from doing it again to his own grandchildren. I keep praying and praying to God. It seems to be my only comfort, but I am growing impatient. Does anyone have advice for me?

    • First of all, you should be commended for doing the right thing. Telling the authorities when your child reported being touched inappropriately took a great deal of bravery on your part! Now, I would recommend talking to a therapist or counselor in your community who can support you and provide you with advice on how to proceed during this difficult time. Your counselor can be an advocate for YOU as you continue to advocate for your children. They would also be able to provide you with specific guidance about your situation and advice related to the strain this has put on your marriage. The Childhelp hotline is also available to you for free and confidential advice on what to do (1-800-422-4453) by phone. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, and we wish you all the best as you continue this difficult journey.

  21. Help! My 3 yr old granddaughter disclosed to me and her mommy (my daughter) that she had been playing with her daddy’s butt. My daughter took her to her dr. and no physical evidence was found and she didn’t talk to the nurses. CPS was notified and they did a forensic interview with her where she again disclosed nothing. Her parents are still together. I asked her if daddy said anything about her telling me and she said yes. The way I gather it my daughter’s boyfriend (the child’s father) admitted it to my daughter and my daughter told my granddaughter “You don’t play with daddy’s butt. You don’t kiss him like that.” I know my daughter loves this child. But how do I stand back and let them be one big “happy” family? What do I do? What CAN I do? I think they have told her not to talk but thank God she still feels safe to talk to me.

    • Please consider talking to a therapist or counselor in your community who can support you and provide you with advice on how to proceed during this difficult time. Your counselor can be an advocate for YOU as you continue to advocate for your granddaughter. The Childhelp hotline is also available to you for free and confidential advice on what to do (1-800-422-4453) by phone. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us, and we wish you all the best as you continue this difficult journey.

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