We are visiting for a few days with Lacresha Hayes, author of The Rape of Innocence. Lacresha recounts how childhood sexual abuse took her childhood and how she came to overcome the pain to grow and become a minister who helps others in the same situation.
This is an isolated case, correct? It doesn't happen often, does it? When it does happen, it's some shifty-looking stranger who just happened by, correct? Wrong! A child is sexually abused every four seconds. One of every 3 girls and one of every 4 boys is sexually abused by age 18. Ninety percent of sexually abused children know and trust the perpetrator. The little old man with the sweet smile next door could be a child molestor. The daycare worker, minister or local police officer could all be hiding a horrid secret. Child sex abusers come in every age, size, race and social class.
So, if there is no way to tell a child molestor by the way he or she looks (Yes, women can be child molestors too!) what can a person look for that might be a clue? There is no one particular profile, but a majority of child molestors have the following characteristics:
- Usually an adult male.
- Often appear to be hard-working, family men.
- Tend to be better educated and more religious than the average person.
- Find ways to be alone with children; for instance, teachers or coaches who are in a position to give individual attention to students.
- Tends to be well liked by parents and children; often one of the most popular teachers in school.
- Actively seeks children who are quiet, needy, or have problems at home.
- Often photographs the victim.
- Often collects child pornography.
- Usually accomplishes molestation by gradual seduction, not coercion.
- Lavishes attention on children they don't abuse to build a sense of trust by parents and other students.
Unfortunately, we can't always protect our children no matter how hard we try. To keep them totally safe, we'd have to lock them away from society and that in itself would be abuse--a child needs to interact with people to learn, grow and develop into the wonderful being they are meant to be.
There are some signs you can watch for that might alert you to the fact that something is drastically wrong in your child's life. While these can be symptoms of something other than sexual abuse, they do indicate a need to find out what is wrong:
- Changes in behavior, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, and excessive crying
- Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances
- Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters
- A sudden acting out of feelings or aggressive or rebellious behavior
- Regression to infantile behavior; clinging
- School or behavioral problems
- Changes in toilet-training habits
- A fear of certain places, people, or activities
- Bruises, rashes, cuts, limping, multiple or poorly explained injuries
- Pain, itching, bleeding, fluid, or rawness in the private areas
Parents can help keep their children safe by teaching children that their bodies belong to them alone and nobody has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. If someone violates that wish, children need to know they can come to you. Let them know that even if they are told things like people will think they are bad or that someone will hurt them or their family, that they must still come to you because these things are not true.
Most of all--if your child comes to you and tells you someone touched them inappropriately, BELIEVE THEM! It is very rare that a child will make up a story of this nature. If trust has been violated, your child needs you to hold onto and believe them.