According to RAINN, every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Every 9 minutes, that victim is a child. Meanwhile, only 25 of every 1,000 perpetrators end up in prison.
According to the CDC, many children wait years to report or never report sexual abuse. Consequently, the above statistics are grossly underestimated. Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse. Someone who is known and trusted by the child or child’s family members perpetrate 91% of the abuse.
Our Responsibilities as Mothers
Mothers are responsible for providing a safe, stable, and nurturing home environment. We must take any steps and all precautions to reduce susceptibility to child sexual abuse, the most heinous crime imaginable.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Young Children
While any one of the below may not be cause for concern, the more warning signs displayed, the greater the likelihood of abuse. Are they quieter, distant, or super clingy? Do they cry for no obvious reason? Do they ask, “Do people have to keep secrets?” Unprompted aggression, anger, and inappropriate sexual gestures are all red flags. Do they have nightmares? Are they disinterested in playing or do they avoid certain places or people? Is there a significant drop in self-esteem, self-confidence, or academic performance?
Physically, obvious signs include bruising, swelling or redness in the genital area, pain when walking, sitting, or using the toilet. If it burns when they use the toilet, this could be a sign of a sexually transmitted disease.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Teenagers
In addition to signs of sexual abuse exhibited by young children, teenagers demonstrate other red flags, such as confusion about sexual identity or difficulties developing or maintaining relationships. Be on-watch: predators often buy teenagers new clothing, shoes, bags, jewelry, or electronics. Other signs include secrecy with online communication, spending more and more time alone, avoiding activities they previously enjoyed, risky sexual behaviors, alcohol and drug abuse, dangerous driving, and all forms of self-harm.
As children transition through adolescence, they’ll inevitably go through many changes. With a close mother-child bond, mom is better equipped to help children navigate these normal changes and also more likely to notice potential warning signs of sexual abuse.
Consequences of Sexual Abuse
The horrors of sexual abuse violate everything that is good. As author of this post, I have not directly experienced the evils of sexual abuse and am ill-equipped to elaborate on their immediate consequences. My sense is that they are too dark for this platform. As uncomfortable as it is to write on this topic, it is crucially important to create awareness.
Abused children, still in their all-important formative years, are often on high alert, their heads on a swivel to avoid trouble. Confused physiological and neurological connections are firing and misfiring, sending hormones into hysteria. This torturous environment sets in motion a domino effect of many devastating short-term and long-term consequences. Worries of not being believed or rejected for speaking up can be just as, if not more, traumatizing than the abuse itself.
Even once the abuse stops, victims suffer a myriad of emotional issues centered around the erosion of trust. This post-traumatic stress often manifests as an all-encompassing rigidity of negative self-belief. Certain objects or thoughts commonly trigger disturbing memories. Victims often struggle with feelings of shame and inadequacy, false narratives perpetrated by the vile crimes against their body. Research collected by The Truth Project indicates that 88% of victims experience mental health problems and 40% struggle with relationships – either avoiding sexual intimacy or engaging in excessive promiscuity. One in five victims attempt suicide.
Holding onto anger for years, victims often resent parent(s) who affected vulnerability to abuse—commonly a negligent mother who accommodated an abusive boyfriend. A massive part of emotional pain can be the knowledge that our supposedly loving parent either knowingly permitted or unknowingly enabled the abuse.
Surviving Sexual Abuse
Thankfully, not every survivor’s story ends badly. Full recovery is possible. By any means necessary, for the well-being of themselves and their families, survivors must resolve to break the chains of bondage caused by the evil forces of sexual abuse. Obviously and absolutely, children carry zero responsibility for any atrocity they have endured.
Every survivor’s journey is different. Some survivors shut down certain mental compartments, slamming mental doors and never looking back. Many survivors seek professional counseling to unpack, process, cope, and work towards healing. No matter the approach, it’s important to repair internal signals. If these systems remain broken, victims can incorrectly perceive that they are somehow damaged goods. Victims of a broken world, survivors should not see themselves as broken, but as conquerors who have overcome the darkest parts of humanity to rise above.
When abused children have at least one trusted adult in their lives, they can sometimes shelf their hyper-vigilant state of mind, relax, and just be a child. When they feel a connection to their community, children can develop hope and leave terror behind, rising above the trauma to set their own destiny. With resilience and self-confidence, there are no children (and very few adults) whose spirits are crushed beyond repair.
In this author’s opinion, sexual abuse is the most horrific crime known to humankind. Despite the heart-wrenching pain, survivors must find a way to eventually shed any semblance of a victim-mindset, overcome with a survivor-mindset to live life, defeat evil, and protect their right to thrive.
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.” —Mark 9:42 KJV
Life, Reinvented brings both inspiration and practical tools to survivors of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse and their friends and family. This book is a complete guide to healing.
This widely esteemed, highly respected resource helps survivors of sexual abuse heal from the past, improve relationships, and discover the joys of sexual intimacy.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.