It’s not something we often bring up in day to day conversation. It’s also not something we really want to think about…
But it’s so important for every single parent to be aware of the signs of child sexual assault.
Why? Because it’s happening ALL around us. And it’s time we help break the silence on the awfulness that often goes on behind closed doors.
Scroll through your social media feed. At least 1 in 5 of your mummy friends, family members, co-workers, college buddies and casual acquaintances were sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday.
It’s sickening to think about right? It’s even more sickening to think that this type of assault could happen to our own kids.
Every 90 minutes an Australian child under 18 is sexually assaulted in some way
You may have already heard that, in the majority (90%) of instances of sexual abuse, the person knows the perpetrator. In 55% of cases, the perpetrator is a relative.
But did you know that, of the 5.7 million children living in Australia, 8% of boys and 20% of girls have been sexually assaulted? Or that fewer than 28% of victims of child sexual assault disclose to authorities?
This is awful, right? But what can we do?
We need to be aware that child sex abuse is happening, often in our own neighbourhoods. We need to know the possible signs of child sexual abuse. And we need to understand what we can do if you do suspect a child is being sexually assaulted.
Signs of child sexual abuse:
- Fear of being hurt during nappy change or dressing
- Loss of concentration, problems with friends and schoolwork
- Development of eating disorders
- Fear of being alone with a particular person
- Self harming
- Sexual themes in artwork, stories, play
- Over attention to adults of a particular sex
- Showing a knowledge of sexual behaviour beyond their years
- Bedwetting or soiling after being toilet trained
- Vague symptoms of illness such as headaches or tummy aches
- Vaginal, penile or anal soreness, discharge or bleeding
- Acting out behaviours such as aggression, destructive behaviours and truanting behaviour
- Acting in behaviours such as withdrawal from friends and depression
Common indicators in offenders:
- Showing particular interest in a child
- Isolating a child from other children and encouraging secrets in children
- Engaging in inappropriate/unwanted close physical contact with a child
- Exhibiting suspicious behaviour and showing more interested in children than adults
- Describing children with sexual words, making reference to children’s bodies
- Seeming unclear about what is appropriate with children and what is not
- Showing an interest in sexual fantasies involving children or/and child pornography
Of course, some of these indicators are a lot more obvious than others. And many may be the cause of another problem, not just sexual abuse. But knowing what to look for can help you identify if something could be wrong.
Protecting our kids
In addition to knowing the signs, all parents need to be open with their kids about sexual assault. Again, this isn’t exactly the easiest conversation to have but it’s got to be done. Let them know what is inappropriate, use proper terms for all private parts, be firm but friendly, and be available to address any questions or concerns they may have.
We also need to support movements against child sexual abuse, such as White Balloon Day. It’s coming up on 7 September 2018, as part of National Child Protection Week (2 to 8 September 2018).
Have a look at Bravehearts Personal Safety Parents’ Guide, available free from Bravehearts’ website. It provides support and guidance for parents on how to tackle this terrible problem.
For more information on child sexual abuse, please read our story on how to protect your kids from sexual assault.