In the vast majority of cases of sexual abuse, victims keep silent, either because of the intimidation and manipulation that the perpetrator exerts on them, because of the shame and guilt they feel, or simply because they feel that no one will believe them, since usually the perpetrator of sexual abuse is in a position of power and has the trust of parents and caregivers.
Therefore, it is essential to pay close attention to the behavior of children and adolescents and the changes, however small they may seem, that they experience in their interests and attitudes. Despite the silence they may keep, their body often expresses that they are suffering from this painful and traumatic experience.
Currently, sexual abuse is highly prevalent and generally, the perpetrator is someone close to the victim, as evidenced by the following statistics:
– 3.7 million children experience sexual abuse each year in the United States.
– 1 in 8 children in the world has been sexually abused.
– In 90% of sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is an immediate family member of the victim.
– Most perpetrators do not use physical violence or weapons.
– The place where sexual abuse most often occurs is the victim’s home.
– More than 30% of victims never disclose their experience of sexual abuse to anyone.
If you are concerned that someone around you may be suffering from sexual abuse, it is important to be aware of the following signs so that you can stop it.
Identify 10 warning signs of sexual abuse
Certain physical manifestations and behavioral changes may indicate that a child or adolescent may be a victim of sexual abuse. Pay attention to the following signs and if you suspect anything, talk to the child or adolescent and act to prevent the abuse from happening again.
Alterations in their mood and behavior
- Irritability, aggressive behaviors, or easy crying.
- Defensive behavior in the face of physical contact.
- Behavior, drawings, and sexual language that do not correspond to their age.
- Rejection of previously accepted people or places.
- Poor academic performance.
- Sleeping and eating disorders.
- Physical marks on their body or infections in their genitals.
- Regressions in behavior. For example, children who are already toilet trained begin to wet the bed again.
How can sexual abuse happen?
For years there has been confusion about what constitutes sexual abuse, it is quite common to think that it only happens when there is penetration and physical violence. However, it is important to deconstruct this myth: touching, oral-genital contact, and other inappropriate behaviors also constitute sexual abuse.
Keep in mind that it is also sexual abuse when the perpetrator seeks to:
– Touch the genitals of the child or adolescent.
– Engage in oral-genital contact with the child.
– Display his or her genitals in front of the child or ask the child to touch them.
– Use the child to make pornographic material.
– Forcing the victim to watch pornography.
Do not forget that sexual abuse includes all those inappropriate behaviors that seek to steal the innocence of our children and adolescents.
5 Tips for Supporting a Survivor of Sexual Abuse
The support received or denied is a determining factor in the healing process of a person who has suffered sexual abuse. It is possible that not all of us know what to do when someone tells us they have had an experience like this, so it is important that you keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Believe the story that the child or adolescent is telling.
- Do not judge or question them.
- Initiate a loving conversation with the child or adolescent to find out what happened.
- Seek professional help from a psychologist with experience in sexual abuse.
- Go to the appropriate authorities.
When a survivor of sexual abuse receives the support and accompaniment of a trusted person, they regain control and can move forward to stop being a victim.
In the #YoDigoNoMas Movement, we are aware of how important it is that sexual abuse survivors find safe and trustworthy spaces to share their stories and move forward in their healing process. We invite you to learn more about our Movement and join our cause.