Any abuse is tragic and can have life-altering implications. It is the child sexual abuse though, that may be the most tragic of them all. Interfering in the sexual, physical and psychological development of a minor is disturbingly sinister and shockingly common.
Child sexual abuse is something we don’t think too much about unless we are directly involved or affected. There are a lot of reasons for that. Most children never confide or disclose that they are, in fact, subject to sexual abuse. It’s often suppressed by either shame or manipulation by their abuser. Nonetheless, we have to learn to openly speak about this issue, however uncomfortable it may be, to raise awareness and educate kids to recognize and stand up to abuse.
The numbers are stacked against us. In the US alone, 20% of girls and up to 10% of boys report they have been subjected to a situation that meets the definition of sexual abuse in some form. The aftermath of these experiences is always tragic. Former victims often are more likely to turn to drug abuse, experience depression or PTSD and some may even continue the abusive cycle by abusing kids of their own.
While the latter one is a fact often engrained in the public consciousness, it has to be mentioned that having been abused does not mean a person goes on to become an offender themselves. Those are usually very few special cases, nonetheless, those can often be traced back to abuse incidents in their childhood.
Child Sexual Abuse: A Family Matter
When it comes to prevention, parents usually take one of two routes. They either don’t talk about it at all because they deem it highly unlikely their kid will become a victim, or they teach the concept of not trusting strangers. While the flaws of the first one are relatively obvious, the second one is a valid, although not complete, approach.
Statistics have continuously shown that children are most likely to fall victim to either a family member or a close friend rather than an unknown person. In the US, 3 out of 4 victims know their abuser beforehand. The reason for that is fairly obvious. A trusted and respected person will find it easier to intrude and groom a kid up to a point where physical abuse is possible. Especially younger children get pulled into a parallel reality easily, a reality dictated by their abuser.
Unable to Tell Right from Wrong
But how is it possible for children to get sexually abused within the family without anyone noticing? Mostly because they’re kids and, therefore, the odds are stacked against them. Children lack experience and the ability to see the bigger picture. Their family life, including their abuse, is their reality and the only one they know. Sexual abusers will use that to their advantage, saying that it is a natural, exciting and normal thing to experience.
As offenders are often people children respect and admire, it may even invoke the feeling of being special. Getting special attention, not grasping the extent of the horrors they have to endure for it. They often enough agree to keep abuse their “special secret” and even if not, most of them feel ashamed because this sort of behavior can never feel right for a child.
Girls that suffer abuse are more likely to speak out than boys, although both are as likely to suffer. The still present homophobic stigma in society actually induces an additional layer of shame, making it psychologically harder for boys to step forward.
Are Pedophiles to Blame?
Nothing in this world is black and white, the least of which is child sexual abuse and why people chose to hurt innocent children with their perversions. We’ve grown used just to label them pedophiles, as that‘s the definition of a pedophile, correct?
It‘s not that easy. The vast majority of people sexually abusing children are most likely not a person that would be diagnosed as a Pedophile. Most abusers aren‘t primarily turned on by children and may not even seek out to abuse them. The first abuse is mostly circumstantial. Children are easy targets to groom and, unfortunately, don‘t usually step up or tell on them. Child sexual abuse, in our day and age, is often the perfect crime.
That’s the most unpleasant truth we have to face. It’s incredibly easy to commit child sexual abuse, scarring an innocent person for life and getting away with it due to the climate and society we live in. Children like to make up things and are easy to intimidate. They are also painfully unaware of what contacts with adults are allowed and which are wrong. This is mostly because parents are scared to expose their kids to sexuality. Which, in teh end, means effectively risking them not being able to tell right from wrong.
But even if kids were to step forward, there is seldom enough evidence to convict a sexual predator. It’s a rare occurrence that there are actual remains of a crime to be found. Most A from maybe the child’s statement and scarred mind. This evaluates to a situation where the word of a grown man would stand against an innocent child. It’s easy and painful to guess who usually wins that fight.
Is There a Solution for Child Sexual Abuse?
The only solution is awareness, and even that won’t get rid of child sexual abuse. It may make it more detectable and thus not an ongoing plight of an innocent child. Child sexual abuse is usually not a one-off thing. If an offender is successful once, chances are it will repeat endlessly, multiplying the damage done and maybe even spanning several victims.
We have to raise awareness in our children, not only of potentially dangerous strangers but of any inappropriate contact that could happen between an adult and a minor. It’s horrible enough to think it may happen once, but that’s nothing against the prospect of continuous rape. We also have to open up about stigmas surrounding sexual orientation and gender roles in general, so that boys and girls can be equally brave to step forward and name their abuser.
Most importantly, we have to stop thinking that we are immune to the horrors of this world. No one is. The sooner we realize that the sooner we can take proper precautions that help keep our children save.
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