Studies show that children are more vulnerable to experiencing sexual violence than anyone else. Many times, they do not understand the gravity of the crime that they experience and choose not to share it with their parents. The US Department of Health and Human Services' Children Bureau, in its Child Maltreatment report of 2010 found out that 9.2% of victimized children were sexually assaulted. Furthermore, the Director of the Children Research Center, David Finkelhor through his studies has demonstrated that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of Child Sexual Abuse. Despite the figures, most often parents are not able to recognize that their child might be a victim of sexual abuse.
Although it might be difficult for a sexual victim (especially a child) to speak up about the struggles and trauma, they always show some behavioral changes that can help you know that your child is a victim of sexual violence. While sometimes these behavior transformations might be verbal, other times they might be silent. As a parent, you must be attentive to your children in order to understand them better.
In this article, we shall discuss some of these warning signs that should not be ignored:
Signs that your child might be going through physical abuse
While physical assaults can be independent, they are also correlated with sexual violence. Physical abuse, as the name suggests, causes bodily harm but it can have drastic consequences on the mental, emotional, and psychological health of the victim. When a child goes through physical violence, he/she might:
Suddenly start having bodily injuries which they explain as 'accidents'.
Start wearing clothes that cover almost the whole of their bodies.
Avoid going to school or college.
Stop making friends and start isolating themselves
Constantly being anxious, depressed, and having suicidal thoughts
Start to lose confidence
Have low self-esteem
Start to drink, smoke and consume drugs excessively
Gets aggressive or exceptionally silent in conversations
Signs that your child might be going through emotional abuse
Just like physical abuse, sexual violence is also related to emotional abuse. Children are easily emotionally abused. In fact, abusing a child emotionally is the first step that can result in physical and sexual violence. Perpetrators use techniques like manipulations, isolation, controlling behavior, and an over-caring attitude towards the children to primarily abuse them emotionally and later physically or sexually. Though children might not express or even know about getting emotionally exploited, you must take care of certain signs and signals and have a conversation with your young one.
Avoid going to school or college
Social isolation, avoiding social gatherings
Fighting and showing aggressive behavior at home
Being afraid of a particular relative
Overeating/loss of appetite and weight gain/loss
Feeling anxious or depressed
Low self-esteem and loss of confidence
Not giving importance to their feelings or emotions
Signs that your child might be going through sexual abuse
Teens are vulnerable to experiencing sexual violence in schools, in families, or with their peers. As per a Bureau of Justice Statistics Report, 1.6% of children between the ages of 12 and 17 were victims of sexual assault. The report also demonstrated that children who have already experienced being victims of sexual assault were 13.7 times more likely to experience it again. The effects of sexual violence are detrimental which makes it imperative for parents to pay close attention to the ways their children behave at home and school.
A few signs that might require getting in conversation with your child are:
Loss/gain of appetite
Sudden weight gain/loss
Social isolation and always acting distracted
Physical signs of a sexual assault like bruises.
Poor academic performance
Avoid going to school
Uncomfortable relationship with a relative
Suicidal and self-harming behavior
Constantly irritated and angry
Not doing the things that the child liked doing earlier
Paying least attention to hygiene, fashion, or self-care.
Using dark humor in conversations
Although every child has a different way to react to an abusive situation, these are the most common signs that should not be ignored. On coming across these signs, it is important to have an open conversation with your young one. Ask them if there is anything that might be bothering them or if they might be hiding something. It is better to be wrong, rather than not even trying. In addition, there are chances that you might get a lie as a response. However, just the way your child answers your questions might give you deep insights. Based on their responses, you can take appropriate action. Extracting information from children might not be an easy chore, but to help them it is crucial to keep an eye out without invading their privacy. You must try maintaining a relationship that assures them that their elder ones believe what they are telling or experiencing. They must not feel rejected. It is challenging for victims to share their trauma but staying silent is never an option.