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September 19, 2015

To Loving Parents

To loving parents from all walks of life –

What could leave us feeling hurt and helpless? I’m not trying to burden you with bad news, but it will be news you can use.  What is that one of kind hurt that could leave us feeling helpless? This hurt can strike the deepest part of our hearts and souls.  That hurt is – child sexual abuse.

Has your child ever been sexually abused by an adult or an older child? Hopefully you answered, “No!”  But, according to the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), “children with disabilities are three times more likely to be sexually abused than children without disability.”  Regardless, this article is geared toward all parents with or without special needs children. Any information you glean from here will be helpful for all children. My hope is to increase awareness and to disseminate what I recently learned at the University of Illinois Department of Disability and Human Development conference. Keep in mind, I am not an expert in this field, and there’s an awful lot more involved with helping abused children in general.  What I did learn was an eye opener!

First, to jumpstart awareness, here are some questions to ponder:
– How is child sexual abuse defined?

– What are the signs of sexual abuse?

– What can and should you do if you learn that an abuse has happened to your child?

Child sexual abuse is defined by the CAC as, “Any sexual activity between an adult and a child is considered child sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse is often about power.”

The most common thought that comes to mind is that sexual abuse is a physical act forced upon an individual without their consent, child sexual abuse also includes “non-physical contact.” Some include exposing genitals to a child, showing pornography, taking pictures of a child in sexual poses, expressing sexual language either by phone or internet, or in person, and encouraging a child to hear or watch sexual acts.

According to the CAC, “Abuse starts with ‘grooming’.”  The perpetrator manipulates the child to earn his trust by paying extra attention, presenting gifts, and playing games.  Often, physical signs of abuse are not apparent, so we do not notice that the child has been sexually abused.  Furthermore, sometimes the abused child does not tell or does not know  how to tell.  Eventually the signs of sexual abuse will appear.  This is why awareness is so important.  With awareness you can be cautious, but not scared or paranoid.  With awareness comes knowledge that can lead to proper action.

Some signs that may lend to your cautious thinking – “has my child been sexually abused?”

– Is your under age daughter pregnant?

– Does your child show signs of pain when walking or while using the toilet?

– Has your child become hesitant about being with a particular person?

– Has your child started wetting the bed?  Has your child started experiencing nightmares?

– Does your child seem to have advanced, and unusual sexual knowledge or sexual behavior?

– Does your child seem anxious, depressed, aggressive and suicidal?

Surprisingly, the abuser is often someone close to the family, like a family friend, or a family member, or a worker in your home.  According to the CAC, the abuse happens more often with people the child knows than with a stranger.  This is one of the reasons why it is difficult for the child to tell.  Other reasons may be that the child feels threatened by the abuser and/or ashamed.

If you learn that your child has been abused, keeping calm is the best immediate way to respond.  Reassure your child that you believe what you just discovered since according to the CAC, “children seldom lie about abuse.”  Proper authorities will determine the facts.  Reassure your child that he/she is not at fault or has not done anything wrong.  Report abuse by calling the hotline at

1-800-25-ABUSE   or  dial 911

Agencies like the CAC in your area will be in contact, as well as the IL Department of Child and Family Services, once the report has been filed.

For more information on child sexual abuse, visit www.ChicagoCAC.org 

 

 

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