“Imagine a childhood disease that affects 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys before they reach 18; a disease that can cause dramatic mood swings, erratic behavior, and even severe conduct disorders among those exposed. A disease that breeds distrust of adults and undermines the possibility of experiencing normal sexual relationships; a disease that can have profound implications for an individual’s future health by increasing the risk of problems such as substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and suicidal behavior; a disease that replicates itself by causing some of its victims to expose future generations to its debilitating effects. Imagine what we, as a society would do if such a disease existed…
Such a disease does exist-it’s called child sexual abuse.”
-Excerpted from commentary by Dr. James MercyThere are many forms of child sexual abuse including but not limited to rape, fondling, sexual assault, exposure, voyeurism and the commercial exploitation of children.
• 41% of the most recent sexual assaults reported in the New Hampshire survey occurred by the victim’s 18th birthday and 83% occurred before the age of 25.
• Research and data show that children are most often sexually victimized by someone they know.
• Perpetrators frequently use “grooming” tactics to get close or connect with a child that can include giving gifts, rewards, going on special trips, etc.
• Perpetrators may use threats to keep a child from reporting the abuse that include harm to their parents, siblings, pets, etc.
Resources: NHCADSV and NSVRCThe following is a list of common signs of sexual abuse however it is important to be aware that every case is different and signs may not always be present:
• Redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area
• Urinary tract infections or other such symptoms
• Anxiety such as chronic stomach pain and/or headaches
• Withdrawal, depression, anger and rebellion
• Sexual behavior and language that is not age-appropriate
If you are concerned about your child, please click here to learn more about the options and resources available to you.• Help children understand they have the right to say no to touches that they don’t like, even if it seems harmless; it can teach them a lesson in confidence for later in life.
• Teach your child that whether they said “No” or not, they can ALWAYS talk to you about any touches that make them feel confused, hurt or scared.
• Empower children with basic safety messages to help prevent child sexual abuse. Use concrete and easy to understand Personal Body Safety Rules:
- My body belongs to me
- Touches in the private areas are ONLY to keep me clean and healthy
- Touches in the private areas are NEVER a secret
- If I feel confused, hurt or scared, I will talk to a grown up I trust
- It’s never too late to tell
- I will keep telling until I get the help that I need
• Many parents teach their children about “stranger danger,” and it is wise to give children basic safety rules about strangers. But the fact is that the vast majority of perpetrators of child sexual assault are known to the victim. Therefore it is critical to emphasize that safety rules about touching apply to everybody.
• Sexual abuse survives on secrecy. Help children negotiate the difference between fun and scary secrets. Examples of fun secrets are surprise parties and presents: they make you feel good and the best part is when you get to share them. Scary secrets are ones in which someone says you can never tell or when someone is made to feel confused, hurt or scared. Remind children that they can ALWAYS tell a scary secret!