Sexual abuse is very frequent globally, and children below the age of 5 are the most vulnerable. The risk factor with smaller children is identifying the signs of sexual abuse as they are too small to understand what happened.
A study by WHO indicates that 1 in every 3 women have been subjected to either physical or sexual abuse globally. In one-third of the countries, 5% of young women reported experiences of sexual violence during their childhood.
Non-consensual physical abuse and the mental harassment of victims by sharing obscene images also count as sexual abuse.
The trauma has a long-lasting effect on the mental health of the person. If you observe such signs on anyone, the chances are that they are experiencing sexual abuse.
Sexual assault, whether done on a woman or a small child, destroys both. While adults might cope better with this, children are alien to what has happened to them, which can lead to post-traumatic stress. So, parents should always keep an eye out to identify sexual abuse in a child.
Warning Signs Of Sexual Abuse
Physical Signs Of Sexual Abuse
- Bruises in genitals, face, neck, chest, thighs, back of legs.
- Big red marks of rope or belt anywhere on the body.
- Burn marks
- Bleeding or blood in underwear.
- Urinary infection (a sexually transmitted infection is different from a normal bacterial infection).
- Persistent or recurring pain during urination.
- Diarrhea problems
- Difficulty in walking
Behavioral Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Extreme aggression or pronounced passivity.
- Loss of appetite.
- Avoiding touch or flinching away too often.
- Not talking about unexplained injuries.
- Not talking as usual.
- Sexual behavior while playing.
- Avoiding bathing, changing clothes
- Talking aggressively while playing.
- Cruelty towards animals or younger siblings.
- Frequent bedwetting.
- Crying in sleep.
Emotional Signs Of Sexual Abuse
- Low confidence
- Loss of interest in playing and going out.
- Dependent on adults for menial activities.
The above are signs that a child is sexually abused, although some could be the normal behavior of a developing child. Therefore, these indicators should be considered within the context of child behavior.
Always keep an eye out for unusual behavior. Kids can’t tell exactly what happened, so any unusual behavior should be treated with suspicion and not ignored. Pay attention to signs of sexual abuse to identify if your child is sexually abused.
Identify the Perpetrator
Today, it can be difficult to identify perpetrators as sexual predators could be hiding in plain sight. Most often, they are around us, as it could be someone you grew up with, someone who the family trusts. They could be the babysitter, the teacher, or a frequently visiting relative. When it comes to sexual abusers, the very uncertainty of the situation calls for measures to protect children.
One has to keep their eye open, save their child from abusers. Look out for the signs of sexual abuse. Your knowledge could prevent people who sexually abuse children.
Signs Of An Adult Sexual Offender
There are several red flags you can notice in a person that could confirm if they are a sexual abuser.
- Making an unusual relationship with your child.
- Taking the child out more often.
- Fulfilling their every demand.
- Playing with your child in your absence.
- Engaging in adult conversations with children.
- Sexualizing normal behavior and complementing your child about their sexual development.
- Persuading your child to keep secrets.
- Making excuses to be alone with your child.
- Offering to dress them up.
- Persistent on playing with your child.
Listen to your child if he/she is trying to talk about someone making him uncomfortable. If you suspect child sexual abuse, then look for signs of sexual abuse and take the necessary steps. It can be very challenging to call them out but protecting your child is of the utmost importance.
- Talk to someone who can help.
- Ask your child not to meet and get near the person,
- Face the perpetrator, inform others so that they can be careful. This could also help others come up.
- If he doesn’t understand, report him.
Who Are At Risk
While both girls and boys are at equal risk of sexual abuse, children affected by certain circumstances tend to be easier prey. In several situations, they are more vulnerable, and these are explored below.
- Children who are neglected by their parents or caretakers.
- Child in a daycare or with a babysitter. Doing full research is of utmost importance before employing a nanny or choosing a daycare.
- Emotionally shunned children who never talk to their parents about their feelings.
- Children who grow up in the absence of any physical activity or family outings.
- Divorce or separation of parents can make children more vulnerable as they often seek more emotional attachment and attention.
- Children and adults who spend too much time online in unsafe spaces are likely to be trapped in abusive situations.
- Those with disabilities are also at a greater risk.
- Homeless children are always taken advantage of through promises of food, shelter, and security.
The best action we can take is to spend time with children and give them adequate attention. If there are any signs of sexual abuse, take necessary action and keep that adult away from your child.
Sexual violence, sexual assault, and rape are common among adults as well. Many cases of sexual abuse in women go unreported due to the fear of society and people.
Types Of Sexual Abuse In Adults
Sexual assault is a common term for all kinds of sex-related crimes. Some of the common sex crimes in an adult are-
Groping And Touching
Females are the constant victims of groping and inappropriate touching in public places, and almost every woman experiences this. The suddenness of the incident freezes the person, taking away the control and confidence to call out the perpetrator.
No-Contact Sexual Abuse
The common legal definition defines skin-to-skin contact in rape or assault as a crime. However, some crimes don’t involve contact and still produce psychological impact equivalent to sexual abuse. Sending obscene pictures, sharing her edited nude pictures, revenge porn, indecent remarks on a girl’s body or clothes, and cat-calling are all incidences of sexual abuse.
A forcible sexual activity on a person without his/her consent is termed rape. There are many rape cases reported while the victim is drugged, unconscious, or underage. Forcible sex, even in a long-term relationship or marriage, is considered rape.
Many believe that men never face sexual abuse, but this is not true.
Men do face assault and have been the victims of rape. The belief system is due to society projecting men as strong and unbreakable, due to which men who face this may never report. Also, they don’t get as much peer support as a woman, which can discourage them.
This apathy from society makes them reluctant to believe they were the victim. Society can barely digest when charges are pressed against a woman, making it difficult for male victims to prove their cases. The irony here is women as victims are also blamed for their character, which triggers the assault.
It is of utmost necessity for us to avoid victim-shaming and look at problems with a non-judgemental, unbiased view to help bring the perpetrator to justice. Abuse is abuse, be it done to a child, a woman, or a man. One should always support the victim and help them get justice.
Reasons Of Under-Reporting
- Most girls fear that there could be retaliation, and the police can not protect them.
- Victim-shaming is one of the primary reasons why sexual assault crimes go unreported.
- Some fear people in influential positions.
- Often, there is resistance from relatives in reporting the crime.
- Some people believe that proceeding legally or bringing the matter to public or police attention could be a blot on their name.
How To Approach And Support Victims
It is very obvious that the person could be in trauma and is not ready to talk, but if you have already identified the signs of sexual abuse, then give them support and time to recover.
- Provide your love and support to help them overcome the trauma
- Make them see that you believe in them, and it’s not their fault.
- Don’t persuade if they don’t want to talk. Give them time to get over the trauma.
- Rape or assault takes away control from the victim and makes them feel like an object. Help them regain control and self-confidence.
- Never ask the victim to move on or let it go because the trauma caused by such incidents is irreparable. It has to be walked through. Be there for them.
- Do not force them to show the signs of sexual abuse, identify the perpetrators, or report to the police. Respect their decision. Give them time to regain courage and confidence to do it themselves.
- The carer should also seek help from professionals to be a real help to the victim.
In the end, sexual crime being done on a child, or a woman, or a man, causes the same damage to their life. Once you identify the signs of sexual abuse, show empathy and provide support to help them get back to normal life.