Is Your Child SAD? (Sexually Abused Dependent)
Sexual abuse of a child is any inappropriate exposing of a child to any sexual purpose by anyone who has influence on the child, without concern for the child’s well-being. A young child needs to be aware of the difference between good and bad touching. Hugs and kisses are fine if they want them, but they should be told they don’t have to do everything an adult or another child tells them to do if they are trying to get them to do something that makes them feel “funny” or strange. They need to be told they can say “no” to any touching or behavior that makes them feel uncomfortable; and should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible if something like this happens. Unfortunately most children don’t tell, because they are not taught to tell.
A child should never be forced or coerced against their will into sexual activities by anyone. When they say no, then their no should be respected. If they are abused or assaulted in any way, the abuser has committed a crime and should be turned over to the proper authorities (police). The first step in recovery is for the victim to understand that the abuser betrayed her (or him) and to tell the secret to a trusted adult. When the parents of victims, or the victims themselves keep the secret, it makes it possible for the abuser to repeat the crime against them or others. In order to stop the abusive behavior, victims and their parents must be willing to speak out and reveal the identity of the abuser to someone they trust in authority.
Children also need to understand that sexual abuse or assault is not always carried out by a stranger or by an adult. Sometimes family members, close friends of the family, step parents, babysitters, and other children close to the same age, can be sexually abusive. Sometimes it’s those we should be able to trust the most who are abusive. Whether they are at home or at a spend-the-night, they should always be properly supervised to ensure safety. They should be told to never go into a room alone with someone, or secretly go away from those who are responsible for them.
Sexual abuse is a violation of trust, especially when the abuser is known to the victim. Sometimes when children are sexually abused by someone they know, the abuse may happen more than once. Other times the abuse may occur only once, such as a sexual assault (rape). Sometimes it may happen to young girls while going out with someone (date rape). If they are being abused, they need to know that they must tell someone they trust. A child can go to a parent, teacher, doctor, pastor, youth director, Sunday School teacher, or any other adult that they trust. A child should know as well that even though they can usually trust these people, sometimes even these adults, may be abusers. Just because someone is in a position of authority does not mean he or she can not be an abuser. If that is the case, then they need to find someone else who will listen and believe what they are telling them.
Abused children often do not trust anyone, which stops them from telling anyone about the abuse, sometimes for several years. The secret nature of childhood sexual abuse or a violent sexual assault is often the very thing that helps the abuse or assaults to continue. When anything is done in secret, children sometimes believe it is something they may get in trouble for themselves, and so they instinctively keep the secret. They often experience guilt and shame where there should be none, believing it was something that they did, too. The victim almost always feels that “I’m different”; “Something’s wrong with me”; or that the abuse is somehow “my fault.” If a child becomes a victim, please understand that the abuse may continue and they will likely never completely heal if they continue to keep the abuse a secret.
Because sexually abused children sometimes feel they can’t tell any one, they often “forget” the abuse, withdrawing from a conscious awareness of it. The abuse may be vaguely remembered by the victim, but certain experiences may trigger very unpleasant feelings and snapshot memories of the abusive situation. Sexual abuse is not something a child can face alone and be completely healthy mentally. Even if they have good parental, community, and spiritual resources, if they keep the abuse to themselves, then they may still have difficulty relating to others in a healthy way.
Telling the secret is the most important part of a victim’s healing process. The Bible tells us that “the truth will set us free.” Once the victim shares her story with someone she trusts, then that person can see to it that she gets help and that the sexual abuser is not in a position to hurt that victim or others.
Responses to an account of childhood sexual abuse will vary depending on who the abuser is and who the victim tells. The hoped-for response is one of understanding and support, but victims need to understand that this does not always occur. The shock sometimes causes people to respond in inappropriate ways. Some people simply may not believe their story if it is someone close to them. Even if they believe the abuse happened, some may tell the child to “keep the secret” if it is someone in, or close to, the family. Some responses will make light of the abuse as child’s play or sexual exploration if the abuser is not of adult age. Children who are exposed to pornography or sexual abuse themselves, often repeat the behaviors they see with other children. Another response is to blame the victim for being unacceptably dressed or behaving inappropriately. Victims should understand that it is not any fault of their own. If they are a victim and someone tells them not to tell anyone or tries to place blame on them, then they need to keep going to someone else until somebody listens. Even if it has been several years, they should seek help in dealing with any issues they may still be facing. A child should never stay in the abusive situation or remain in close contact with the abuser. Victims can find healing; but this usually happens only after several years in safe conditions.
Many victims display an outwardly happy-go-lucky character, while others display clear signals of distress. Those who know a victim should not assume that they are “over it”, just because the victim appears to be moving on with her life. Most victims feel sexual guilt, though they are not responsible for the actions of the abuser. With sexuality being an important part of the whole person, abuse or assault affects one’s total self-concept. The victim often develops upsetting emotions, beliefs, and conduct. The effects of sexual abuse or assault include low self-esteem, unexplained fear of certain people and places, anger, delinquent acting out, depression, suicidal behaviors, promiscuous sexual behavior, sexual disorders, substance or alcohol abuse, eating disorders, and difficulty in close relationships. These may accompany feelings of mistrust, indifference, and/or hatred. If your child is a victim and they are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek help for them immediately.
If your child is a sexually abused dependent of an abusive parent, step parent, or other relative, then you need to immediately seek help for them. You can contact any rape crisis center listed in the local telephone directory, or tell someone you trust to help you get your child out of the abusive situation. You may also email Go Fish Ministries, at email@example.com to talk to Sis. Kimberly Hartfield.
©2009 Rev. Kimberly Hartfield, B.S., M.S. - Christian Counselor