Children are not responsible for sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is a crime. Children often talk about the abuse a little at a time. It is very common for survivors to repress memories of abuse. Sexual abuse is experienced by girls and boys.
Children cannot stop sexual abuse. Sexual abuse also referred to as sexual assault can be experienced by anyone. When a child experiences sexual assault, it is commonly referred to as child sexual abuse. In recent years, female and male survivors of child sexual abuse have spoken out about their experiences. Increased openness and a willingness by adult survivors to discuss sexual abuse, as well as the development of service support networks, has led to greater community understanding of this issue.
Healthcare professionals have also learned a great deal about child sexual abuse and its effects from these stories. Childhood and sexual abuse In telling their stories, many adult survivors have found common factors in their experiences, including: They were usually abused by someone they knew.
The abuse often started when they were very young. The abuse was generally not an isolated one-off incident and happened over many months or years. The abuse was often accompanied by threats and verbal or emotional abuse, and sometimes physical violence. Fear stops sexually abused children from seeking help Most women and men were too scared to report the abuse while they were children. Their reasons for being afraid included: Their abuser might have threatened to harm them and other family members if they told anyone about the abuse.
They felt there was no one they could trust to talk to. They feared they would be taken away from home. They thought they might lose their mother or father if they knew. They thought the abuse was their fault. Common misunderstandings of sexual abuse Many misunderstandings surround the sexual abuse of girls and boys. Some of these include: Children rarely lie or imagine sexual abuse. Some abusers are female. The longer the abuse goes on, the greater the long-term problems will be.
Abusers often tell this lie to their victims. If children are being sexually abused, there may be physical signs such as bleeding from the vagina or anus back passage , sexually transmitted infections STIs or poor hygiene. Talking to children about sexual abuse It can be distressing to discover or suspect a child has experienced sexual abuse.
Most people feel a range of emotions, including anger, sadness, shock, disbelief, disgust and helplessness. If the child appears to be under stress, encourage them to talk. Children will often tell little bits of information at a time to test the reactions of adults. It is important to stay calm and not convey your feelings to the child, as this may prevent the child from saying any more.
Be supportive and tell them you believe them. Reassure them that whatever has happened, it is not their fault. Reassure the child that they did the right thing in telling you. Many abusers threaten the child to prevent disclosure. Tell the child that some adults do wrong things and that the abuser is responsible for the abuse. Do everything possible to comfort and reassure the child. Explain what action you will take next.
Do not make promises that you will not be able to keep, or promise the child confidentiality. The child has enough secrets and needs someone to act on their behalf to stop the abuse. If you believe the child may be being sexually abused, report your concerns immediately to the appropriate person in your own organisation and Child Protection.
Reporting your concerns of sexual abuse Taking action to help protect a child can be scary. You do not need proof that a child is being sexually abused to report your concerns, only a reasonable belief that a child or young person is being harmed or is at risk of harm.
Remember, you may be the only person who can help stop the abuse by reporting your concerns. Recovering from sexual abuse Survivors of sexual abuse usually need professional help to recover.
Support groups can be very valuable. Where to get help Child Protection Service — to report child abuse.