As reported in my last blog articles, the statistics are frightening in the number of children that are sexual abused by pedophiles. I did report on these numbers as well as the dysfunctional behavioral patterns exhibited by the victims of this horrific crime. Sexually abused children may develop the following behavioral dysfunctions;
– Unusual interest in or the avoidance of all aspects of a sexual nature
– sexual acting out on other children
– Unusual disclosures focusing on their genitals
– Depression and withdrawal from friends and family
– Excessive anger, rage and oppositional behaviors
– Soiling or wetting problems
– Sleep problems and nightmares
– Seductiveness or sexually abnormal behavior
– Resistance to school and a decline in academic performance
– Excessive masturbation
Sexually abused children and their families as well need an immediate professional evaluation and treatment of the assault. A child therapist can provide the much needed treatment for this wounded child and help to minimize the effects of the abuse, recover and heal and eventually overcome the trauma. Recovering the child’s self esteem, coping with their feelings of guilt with the ultimate goal of reducing the risk that the child will develop significant dysfunctional behavior as an adult are reasons for treatment. A treatment strategy called, Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy has been used to treat the depression associated with this sexual violation and is short term therapy lasting from 12 to 16 sessions. Individual sessions with the child and with the parent is a focus with relevant joint sessions. During this therapeutic intervention, psych-education is provided about the impact of the child’s trauma as well as relaxation training and, importantly, parental skills training. Cognitive processing or changing perceptions of negative thoughts are provided and importantly the child is given the opportunity to verbalize this tragic experience. The key to successful treatment is the therapists skills and ability to tolerate discussing and understanding the child’s sexual violation. A safe, nonjudgmental environment is crucial for this therapeutic intervention to be successful. With compassion and support, well seasoned clinicians can facilitate the counseling goal of learning to cope with the grief that the child is experiencing along with anger, fear and sadness.
Family involvement and support is crucial in the treatment of sexually violated children. Treating a child in isolation is not productive and the outcome will not be successful. Parents need therapeutic support as well and, most of all, knowledge will give the parent the power to understand the impact of this sexual violation of their child and how they need to react and nurture. An emotionally damaged child usually only spends one hour a week with their therapist but then must return to the family for love, support and appropriate parenting the remainder of the week.
What can we do to prevent this vicious crime and lessen the chance of sexual abuse happening to our own little angels? I will attempt to provide some proactive strategies for review;
*Heed very close attention to your child. Learn to understand the “language of their eyes.” Pay attention and become an expert in your capacity to recognize your child’s reaction to unusual events such as when they are frightened or hiding something and when they need assistance but are fearful in asking for help.
*Do not over-react to situations because you might increase your child’s reluctance to reveal when something is frightening or shameful.
*Plan on checking in on your child’s events, lessons, sports practices, play dates at unexpected times. The rationale for this suggestion is that if there is, indeed, a predator in that environment, this person will be most conscious of your presence and will not risk getting caught doing anything inappropriate . As described in an earlier blog article, pedophiles do “groom” their prey or victims quite skillfully.
* Do tell your child, in age appropriate terms, that “If someone tries to touch your body and do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, say No! to that person and immediately tell me.” Make sure that they know that they will not get into trouble and the truth is safe with you.
*Do teach your child that respect does not mean blind obedience to adult and authority figures. Instruct them that if they are told to do something that does not feel good to immediately report this to you.
In essence, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs should be provided in all schools and community organizations and parents should promote the existence of such a prevention approach to reduce the number of victims of this horrible crime. Pediatricians and Family/Primary Physicians should also work towards the promotion of these programs for parents and children. In addition, parents should be cognizant of the behavioral symptoms outlined in this article as well as in previous blog articles on this site. If there is any suspicion of child sexual abuse, parents should seek a psychological consultation to rule out the occurrence of this incident. Knowledge is Power!
Please do let us hear your voice to this blog since I do so want to know your feelings.