Any sexual act or sexual threat imposed on a child is child sexual abuse. Adults, adolescents or other children who sexually abuse children take advantage of the child's trust, innocence and vulnerability. Child sexual abuse is a serious crime, and is committed against both boys and girls.
Child sexual abuse includes a wide range of behaviours and acts. Some examples are:
The abuser is most often either a member of the child's family, or well known to the child and their family.
Finding out that your child has been sexually assaulted/abused can be overwhelming. Remember that they will need all the support and reassurance you can give them. It is important to show them that:
Most parents are profoundly shocked when they discover that their child has been sexually abused, especially if the abuser is their partner or someone else in the family. They may feel guilty because parents are supposed to protect their children. They may feel intense anger, which can result in violence. A parent may even know that their child is being sexually assaulted, but not know what do about it. Either way, just as the child is not to blame, neither is the parent. The abuser is the only person responsible for the abuse.
To talk to our trained staff call our helpline on 0800 622 6986 OR email us
Sometimes children cannot openly express their feelings, and they react in a number of ways-for example, they may have tantrums, be fearful of strangers or the dark, wet the bed, or not want to go to school.
Children and young people may experience a lot of anger, and may take it out on parents or caregivers, perhaps because they find it difficult to direct anger at the offender. It's easier and safer to direct it at people they think are not going to hurt them or walk away from them. Through aftercare support services, the young person can learn that feelings of anger are normal, and that there are constructive ways of expressing anger.
Older children and adolescents may also experience depression and thoughts of suicide or turn to self harm as a form of escape from thier feelings. They may also engage in risk-taking behaviour or substance abuse, or isolate themselves from their family and friends.
Children who have been abused may act out inappropriate sexual behaviour that they have learnt from the abuse. They may request stimulation from adults or children, or act out sexualised play with dolls. There are programs that look at this behaviour in young children. Contact SAVI and we can help you with them.
Older children can become promiscuos or can avoid and become fearful of human contact. Either extreme can prevent the formation/nurturing of normal relationships if help is not saught. Again there are many programs and techniques to help both acknowledge and addressing of these behaviours. PLEASE DO NOT FORCE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OR ADDRESSING OF THE ISSUE, this may make the child feel guilty and exaggerate the behaviour further. Contact SAVI or another appropriate aftercare service for help.
UDERSTNDING CHILDRENS REACTIONS
It is vitally important to accept your child's reaction to the assault. Pretending it didn't happen or that it doesn't really matter can reinforce their feelings of guilt and powerlessness. Encouraging children and young people to develop their own confidence and feelings of self-worth can help them overcome their experience.
While you make it clear that the fault lies with the abuser, remember that often it is someone the child knows-a relative, neighbour, or friend of the family. It is normal to feel angry, but angry remarks about what should happen to the abuser (ie. going to jail or worse) might make your child feel guilty about having told. The best way to respond is to place the blame and responsibility with the offender in a realistic way: 'what Uncle John did was wrong. No one ever has the right to do that to you.'
YOUR CHILD NEEDS YOU
More than anything else, your child needs support, comfort and love; now and in the future. Children and young people cope best when their family and environment are calm, caring and accepting. Even if your child is a teenager and cliams not to need you they probably mean they don't want to discuss it with you but they still need your love, understanding and support more than ever.
DECIDING WHAT TO DO
The decisions to be made after the sexual assault of a child or young person are difficult ones. There are no right answers. The most important thing is to support your child emotionally. Talking to a sexual assault counsellor can help you to sort out your own feelings-for example, anger, guilt, or grief-and determine what to do next. SAVI can help you decide
HELP IS AVALIABLE
If your child has been harmed and you need help coping SAVI can help whether just to listen, help you with coping strategies for behaviour patterns, or more practically, help support and guide you and your child through the reporting, medical, legal and/or therapy processes that may follow.
Our free helpline is 08006226986 but you can also send us an email by clicking here email SAVI or through our contact us page. Either way we will get back to you as soon as we can and do our best to give you all the support you need. If you cannot phone our 0800 and wish us to call you please remember to put a contact number in your message
GETTING MEDICAL HELP
Your child may need medical care and attention. This may be obtained from Accident and Emergency at you local hospital if it has just happened. Or your GP if it has not just occured but you have just found out. Although if you report the incident to the police they will cary out a detailed medical examination as soon as possible after reporting. The SANDYFORD clinic in Glasgow offers a medical/forensic service for victims over 13 years thier deatils are on our useful links page. IF you wish support/advice through any of these SAVI can help
If you believe that a child or young person may have been sexually abused or is at risk of harm, contact either the police or the social work department. The department will assess the situation on the information you give them. If you go to the police, a hospital, a medical service or a sexual assault service, and the child is under 16 years they will have to contact other appropriate agencies due to legal reporting requirements.
Protective interventions and support services may be required. Only specially trained and experienced workers are involved in interviewing children and young people about sexual abuse.
Whether the child is yours or someone you know or are related to there are a number of ways to assist and support any child who tells you that they have been sexually assaulted.
If the assault is recent (such as in the last few days) it is important to make sure that the child is safe from further assaults and immediate danger. If your home is not safe try to go somewhere safe such as a police station, hospital or to a friend's house.
Trying to get details and facts is not necessary. There are peole specially trained to do this. What the child needs to hear is that you believe them, that you are willing to listen to them and that you are willing to assist them as much as possible.
Let them know that you are willing to listen and to support them in whatever decisions they make. Let them know that you care and that you are there for them. Any person who has been sexually assaulted often feels a mixture of emotions including powerlessness and indecisiveness. It is important that supporters do not push someone who has been sexually assaulted to do what they think is best or necessary. Instead support and encourage the person to make decisions for themselves. It is the person's choice if they speak to the police, if they attend hospital for a medical or forensic examination or if they speak to a counselor. However if the person is under 16 especially if you are in a position of authority such as a teacher then I'm sure you know that you have a duty of care if the person is under 16 years to report.
DON'T BLAME THEM
There are many myths surrounding sexual assault and why it occurs. Many of these myths place the blame on the victim and remove it from the offender. It may be difficult to believe and support a person who has been sexually assaulted, especially if you know the offender personally. It is important to remember that children rarely lie about sexual violence. Recent research in America has indicated that around 0.5% of children who have reported such incidents have lied. It takes a lot of courage and trust for someone to disclose sexual violence to another person and it is important that you listen and respect them.
Often supporters feel a sense of guilt, self blame and even anger when someone close to them has been assaulted, it is common for supporters to think that if they had just done "so and so" then they could have prevented the assault from happening. With parents who are survivors themsleves they can feel they have something internally wrong with them that they passed on. This is not the case, neither they nor the child are at fault.
It is common for people to feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to support someone. Information about sexual assault, its impact and options available afterwards are widely available to both yourself and the victim from a number of sources. Check our links page or contact us
LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
It can be difficult and emotionally draining supporting a person who has been sexually assaulted. Often people who are close to a victim may find that they are feeling a range of emotions and a sense of helplessness. It is important that supporters also have a supporter, someone that you can talk to. SAVI IS HERE TO HELP YOU TOO call our helpline on 0800 622 6986 OR email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message through our contact us page.
Either way we will get back to you as soon as we can and do our best to give you all the support the need.