Our challenge as a community of caregivers, teachers and parents is to prepare children for any eventuality of sexual exploitation without scaring them to death.
It is our job to teach them that is OK to say NO! and to have the power to speak up when they feel uncomfortable.
We have to counterbalance their natural deference to authority by providing them with a strong sense of what other people should and should not be permitted to do to them under any circumstances. They must know that they will be supported in their efforts to act and speak out against being victimized.
Emotional Signs of Sexual Abuse
- An unusually quiet and fearful disposition, especially when in the company of one person. For instance if your daughter leaves the room whenever Grandpa comes or sits through dinner when he is present, with her eyes downcast or seems more anxious when she hears he is coming to visit, be suspicious.
- The child may exhibit a series of stress symptoms; fear of a particular place or person, fear of the dark, stomachs, or headaches.
- An outgoing child may become shy or vice versa. A child who has up till now usually been obedient, but now is rebelling, may be asking for help in setting boundaries.
- Sleep disturbances, nightmares, bedwetting, fear of sleeping alone, needing a nightlight.
- Lots of new fears, needing much more reassurance than in the past.
- A return to a younger, more babyish behavior.
- Withdrawal—usually into a fantasy world, exhibiting infantile behavior; may even appear retarded.
- Irritability, excessive crying, visibly emotional.
- Easily intimidated by older children, fear of male adults; often manifested in cowering, crying, being easily startled.
- Low self esteem.
- An offender may become extremely protective of the child and jealous of the child’s social life for fear of losing the child’s allegiance to others.
If, for whatever reason, they are not being protected within their own homes, they need to know that there are other supportive avenues of help available. In that regard, school personnel and other adults who have contact with children must be alert to the visual signs and halting messages of children in trouble.
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