Important Facts About Child Sexual Abuse
Children Failing to Disclose Abuse: Research consistently shows that most child victims delay disclosing sexual abuse or molestation for significant periods of time, often until they reach adulthood. Fewer than 25% of children disclose abuse immediately. Nearly 40% of confirmed child sexual abuse cases disclose abuse for the first time when the child begins treatment. Children can even deny being sexually abused when shown photographic or video evidence of the abuse. Boys are less likely to report abuse than girls due to the fear of being labeled homosexual if they report it. Studies have shown that 42% of adults have never disclosed their childhood abuse to anyone.
Difficulties in Young Children Reporting Abuse: It is particularly difficult for a parent or guardian to learn that their child is a victim of child sexual abuse when the child was very young at the time of the abuse. Young children often are too ashamed, confused, or simply unable to understand the nature and extent of the abuse in order to report it to their parents or guardians. Even when children are taught about good touch and bad touch, they often do not understand the concepts at a very young age or are unable to recognize what is a bad touch because they perpetrator may be someone the child knows or the abuse is committed in such a way that the child mistakes it as normal behavior. If you are a parent or guardian of a young child who you suspect may have been sexually abused, here are possible signs of child sexual abuse to look out for:
- Nightmares, sleep walking, trouble sleeping or other sleep disturbances
- Withdrawal, extreme shyness and other antisocial behavior
- Sexual acting out and sexual interest at early age
- Clinging to parent constantly
- Toileting (potty-training) regression
- Extreme anger and tantrums
- Fear of certain places or people
- Loss of appetite
- Other unexplained changes in behavior
Importance of counseling/therapy: If you are a victim of sexual abuse or the parent or guardian of a victim of child sexual abuse, it is extremely important to seek counseling or therapy in order to address the mental and emotional harm that inevitably results from the abuse. For victims who were abused at a very young age, it is critical that the child be treated as soon as possible, preferably before the child hits the age of puberty when sexual urges begin to develop.
If a child’s first or only sexual experience was in the form of sexual abuse, there is a substantial risk that as the child reaches puberty and beyond, he/she will not develop normally and will experience unusual urges and develop an abnormal sense of sexuality and what is appropriate conduct. Often, victims of sexual abuse who go untreated develop sexual dysfunctions because these unresolved feelings and trauma were not addressed earlier in their lives. It is therefore extremely important to seek counseling or therapy as soon as possible for the victim