Darkness to light (shocking stats every parent needs to read)

I am posting on a topic that is not only very taboo but that also stirs up strong emotion in many people, whether shock, anger, horror, guilt, fear, denial or grief. It is something that runs deep through the fabric of our culture as humans. It is an often ignored stain that invades all races, genders, socio-economic status', and religions. There are no social barriers when it comes to child sexual abuse. It is not always an "other side of the tracks" problem. It is easy to turn a blind eye to the issue because there is a generally prevailing ignorance to what it actually is. Among those who know all too well what it is...there is a prevailing shame and fear that prevent people from talking about it. As a society we would rather just not know. Because I am not overly concerned with societal taboos...I will go there.

As foster parents, learning about this topic is something that is mandatory to our training and education. We are front line adults who will at some point care for abused children. When we minister at the children's home in Mexico, we are surrounded by wounded and damaged children.

As parents we are all front line adults. Every parent needs to know what falls under the umbrella of sexual abuse and what to watch for to protect our children. We so often focus on the paranoia of "stranger danger". We teach our kids "not to talk to strangers" etc. but the real danger is often much closer to our home or community. For many years the issue didn't even hit my radar. I didn't know much about it...and didn't want to know.

Now, as a mother,my radar is always on. Anything less is a betrayal to my children's trust. I am not a hyper-vigilant-paranoid person. My kids attend summer camp, go to sleep overs at friends houses and are active in different outside the home activities but I remain alert and aware. My eyes will stay open to the dangers that might be lurking around the corner or the subtle seduction that might be luring my child. As a mother that is a part of my job.

Because I will not always be with them physically, I am vigilant in training my children not to be victims. At their age they know nothing of R rated topics but they know that their bodies belong to them....and no one else. They know they can say no. They know they can tell me anything thats bothering them without anger, judgement, or being dismissed. I try very hard not to cultivate an untrusting, suspicious or fearful spirit in my children (I don't want to scare them) but without them even really being aware of it I am cultivating in them strength.

Some ways of teaching healthy physical boundaries children is respecting their "no's". An example would be in innocent wrestling, tickling, or other playful affection that we do with our children. That is a healthy part of parenting. However, when your child is tired, feeling hurt, or uncomfortable during our play time do we allow them to respectfully say "I've had enough" ....with out more forceful play, guilt or manipulation? I have also never felt right about forcing my children to hug or show affection to people they are not comfortable giving it to. So often parents do because we are embarrassed that they won't kiss great aunt Suzie or sit on uncle Wilfred's lap. I will never force or guilt my children into showing physical affection to anyone. Not because I am suspicious of great aunt Suzie, but because I am teaching my children that their physical boundaries can be respected. They can be respectful and kind....without giving up their own physical comfort zone.

Another way is teaching them by example and our words that secrecy and lying for others is never ok. Never ask your child to cover for you. Never ask your child to "don't tell mom I bought that...or did that" (something like a surprise birthday party is totally different). It gives kids the wrong message and sets them up to be victimized. They learn that secrecy and lying to cover for someone is alright...those are the trade marks of child abuse victim. Victims are methodically taught to lie. That is part of the grooming process.

A perpetrator will spend time building trust, grooming and testing a child's boundaries. They will lure, woo, buy gifts and generally build trust from both the other adults in the childs life ,and the child. They will be whatever people expect them to be in order to fly under the radar. That may mean being an outstanding citizen, being actively involved in a church, quiet and basically unnoticeable, or a clean cut charmer. So often we think of child abuse as a violent incident with an obviously creepy character, rather than an ongoing perverse controlling relationship with a trusted adult. Both happen but the former is much much less prevalent than the latter.

We must teach our children to be assertive and able to say no to something that they are not comfortable with. A perpetrator is looking for a child that is compliant and easily manipulated. If our children have healthy ,strong physical and emotional boundaries, as well as a very trusting open relationship with us and other safe adults they are much less likely to be targeted.

We must be mama bears for our children. The stakes are SO high. Child abuse does not just create bad memories it creates extremely damaged lives. That is not acceptable for my children. No one wants this for their child but I think that not knowing or understanding the issue is where so many parents miss the chance to protect their child.

Children who are abused are at a huge risk for every kind of addictive behavior. They frequently suffer from dysfunction and lack of control in many areas of life from sexuality, to eating and financial habits. It often results in depression, suicide, loss of trust, shame, fear, guilt, unhealthy relationships, and various self destructive behaviors. Children who are victimized are at a much higher risk to re- victimize. That is NOT acceptable for my children. My child being victimized will not only potentially scar and even ruin my child....it can damage many generations beyond my child. That is not ok. Prevention is so important. If the unthinkable does happen, despite our efforts, we need to be our children's best advocates. We need to help them heal in any and every way we can. We need to protect them from future abuse. Sweeping it under the rug, choosing to turn a blind eye or even worse, calling our children liers.....has devastating and traumatic consequences.

Take a quick read through these statistics. They are shocking but so important to dispel some of the myths and assumptions we make about child sexual abuse. I thank God that I was spared this trauma in my own childhood. I was one of the lucky ones. However, because I have dear friends and a few close family members that were victims of abuse, I have seen first hand the damage it causes in individual lives and families...often for generations. My own life has not been untouched by the ripple effects of that sin. The ripple effects are always far reaching.

There is a short video documentary here that is a must see. It is not at all graphic considering the topic. It gives a few peoples stories, how they felt, what the situations where and how they finally brought their secret hurt into the light and found help. It really gives a very eye opening overview of how it can happen to anyone and touch any family. It gives very good insight to us as parents on how we can protect our own children and be advocates for those who have been abused.

These were copied directly from www.darkness2light.org

"The statistics are shocking

  • 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. (96)
  • 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. (96)
  • 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the internet. (30, 87)
  • Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under. (76)
  • An estimated 39 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse exist in America today.(1)
Even within the walls of their own homes, children are at risk for sexual abuse
  • 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member. (2, 44, 76)
  • Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.
  • Approximately 40% are abused by older or larger children whom they know. (1, 44)
  • Therefore, only 10% are abused by strangers.
Sexual abuse can occur at all ages, probably younger than you think
  • The median age for reported abuse is 9 years old. (64)
  • More than 20% of children are sexually abused before the age of 8. (76)
  • Nearly 50% of all victims of forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, and forcible fondling are children under 12. (74, 76)
Most children don't tell even if they have been asked
  • Evidence that a child has been sexually abused is not always obvious, and many children do not report that they have been abused.
  • Over 30% of victims never disclose the experience to ANYONE.
  • Young victims may not recognize their victimization as sexual abuse.
  • Almost 80% initially deny abuse or are tentative in disclosing. Of those who do disclose, approximately 75% disclose accidentally. Additionally, of those who do disclose, more than 20% eventually recant even though the abuse occurred.
  • Fabricated sexual abuse reports constitute only 1% to 4% of all reported cases. Of these reports, 75% are falsely reported by adults and 25% are reported by children. Children only fabricate ½% of the time.

The answers to stopping this plague are responsibility and courage.

By learning the facts. Could you spot an abuser?

By minimizing opportunity. Abusers groom their victims and their families before they act.

By talking about it. Kids don't know they can say no.

By staying alert. Learn how to spot signs of abuse.

By making a plan. Believe the child. Very few reported incidents are false.

By acting on suspicions. Trust your intuition. Ask questions.

By getting involved. This is a huge human challenge that can be impacted by collective power if you know what to do.

Sadly, child abuse is a generational curse. But it can be stopped if we shine a light on the problem and expose it. Abusers depend on our innocence. They hide in plain sight.

Consequences of child sexual abuse begin affecting children and families immediately. They also affect society in innumerable and negative ways. These effects can continue throughout the life of the survivor so the impact on society for just one survivor continues over multiple decades. Try to imagine the impact of 39 million survivors.

  • The way a victim's family responds to abuse plays an important role in how the incident affects the victim.
  • Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who "tell" and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems often lasting into adulthood."

When a child's most basic physical boundary, his own skin, is violated and vandalized....the child learns bounderylessness. Instead of seeing them self as an individual with a sense of control and choice in their life. They see themselves as helpless, dependent, pawns under the manipulation of others. This translates into so many areas of life as they grow. They become stunted adults.
They have trouble distinguishing where they end and others begin, psychologically, emotionally and physically...often leading to problems with control, co-dependency, passivity, being manipulative, lack of self responsibility, not understanding delayed gratification or having healthy internal boundaries and limits. This sets them up for a lifetime of unhealthy social interaction. Unless intensive help and healing is pursued. This sets up future generations to feel the effects. As you can see this is so much more than just some bad childhood memories. However, it isn't a death sentence. I have witnessed victims of abuse not only survive but thrive. It takes a lot of gut wrenching honesty, therapy and work though. I would also suggest that it takes the healing hand of God.

Sexual boundarylessness is prevalent in so many ways in our society even among seemingly upstanding citizens. Whether its promiscuity, "sexual addiction", addiction to pornography, visits to prostitutes, affairs, child molestation, incest or rape. It is the sign of a broken person.

Often this broken person has a secret life that even those closest to them know nothing about. There are so many examples in the media and in people around us.
How are broken souls created.....generally by other broken souls.

As parents we can stop that cycle.


bridget said...

Sexual abuse is not something that happens to someone else,somewhere else,every sexual abuse victim is someones daughter or son and every parent, friend and family member should be aware and alert. Hard topic to talk about but one too important to not talk about. Glad to see you start the conversation.

Coby said...

Those ARE shocking statistics. One thing my parents always did was tell me that I could tell them ANYTHING - if someone ever did something that was inappropriate to me - and they promised to believe me. So, when I was 5 and at daycare and a male teacher DID do something inappropriate to me, I wasn't afraid to tell my parents, and I really believe that helped minimize the damage done. It never came to be an issue in my life, just a little bump in the road. Oh, and the guy went to jail. ;-)

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