Even young children’s memories for certain types of events—especially ones involving their own bodies, such as those that figure in child sexual abuse—are quite accurate.
A child’s disclosure of sexual abuse is an important event in the subsequent investigation of the case, and it must be handled with sensitivity.
For younger children, the telling of the abuse may happen accidentally, slipping out in conversation with another child or adult. But for many children, the disclosure is painfully deliberate.
Children are likely to feel embarrassment about disclosing sexual abuse and may disguise their involvement by saying the abuse happened to a friend or sibling.
Finding a more private setting for following up with some observations (i.e. “Your friend must be feeling confused and upset by what is happening to her”) may allow the child to relax and give a fuller disclosure.
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse (CSA) may gain the trust of potential child victims and their caregivers by methodically “grooming” them. This process begins with identifying potential victims, gaining their trust, and breaking down their defenses. Grooming also occurs with a child’s parents/caregivers. Grooming helps the offender gain access to the victim, and sets up a relationship grounded in secrecy so that the crime is less likely to be discovered.
In the short-term (up to two years), victims may exhibit regressive behaviors.
Longer-term effects may be wide-ranging, to include anxiety-related, self-destructive behaviors.
Victims may show fear and anxiety in response to people who share characteristics of the abuser.
Survivors may feel anger at the abuser, at adults who failed to protect them, and at themselves.
Victims may experience traumatic sexualization, or the shaping of their sexuality in “developmentally inappropriate” and “interpersonally dysfunctional” ways.
Victims may feel betrayed and an inability to trust adults because someone they depended on has caused them great harm or failed to protect them.
Victims may feel powerless because the abuse has repeatedly violated their body space and acted against their will through coercion and manipulation.
Abusers may cause victims to feel stigmatized (i.e., ashamed, bad, deviant) and responsible for the molestation Victims of child sexual abuse have higher rates of revictimization (later sexual assaults) than non-victims.
Some victims may appear to be free of the above symptoms.
A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 had similar results.
Children who had an experience of rape or attempted rape in their adolescent years were 13.7 times more likely to experience rape or attempted rape in their first year of college.
A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal.
Provide positive reinforcement and regard for the child
Reassure the child he/she did the right thing by telling
Don’t investigate, just report to DCFS
Provide support and referrals for the victim and their family
It is important to talk about what to do if someone is hurting them or making them fearful at home (tell an adult at school) and what to do if someone is hurting them at school (tell an adult at home).
Try to remember specific language used by child. Write it down if and when you can.
It is important that kids understand they should never keep a secret about someone else being hurt.
It is important that kids understand that adults sometimes make bad decisions and that it is never their fault.
Recent research states that only 10% of sexually abused children ever tell anyone.
Research also states that a child’s disclosure will often be gradual and come out as “hints”.
Disclosure is often delayed. There are situations in which a child doesn’t even realize what has happened to them is wrong.
Not all children who are sexually abused will display common symptoms…..this can largely be attributed to the fact that children will go to great lengths to protect the person hurting them.