What is Child Sexual Abuse?
When adults engage in any type of sexual activity with children, it is sexual abuse and it is a crime. When the sexual activity is between children or adolescents, it is not always so clear. Some kinds of sexual behavior between children might be innocent explorations, however, some behaviors between children might be abusive. If force or coercion is involved or if there is a big difference in age, development, or size there is a chance it could be abusive and an adult needs to take action. To find out more about sexual behaviors between children, click HERE.
What is considered sexual activity? By law sexual abuse can include touching and non-touching activities. ANY form of child pornography is illegal and needs to be reported. Some examples of other non-touching behaviors include:
- showing pornography to a child
- deliberately exposing an adult’s genitals to a child
- photographing a child in sexual poses
- encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
- inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom
Examples of abusive touching behaviors include: touching of a child’s genital area, buttocks or breasts over or under the clothing; intercourse and or penetration, however slight, of the child’s mouth, anus, or vagina. These behaviors are committed to abuse the victim, or for sexual arousal or gratification of the offender. Coercing a child to touch him/herself, the offender or another person in a sexual manner is also abusive.
No matter what the circumstances, most often child sexual abuse is a gradual process rather than a single event. Above all, child sexual abuse is NEVER the victim’s fault.
5 Steps for Keeping Kids Safe
Child sexual abuse is a complex problem that can be overwhelming to consider. But that shouldn’t stop you from taking steps to protect children. Project Pinwheel has partnered with Darkness to Light© and their Stewards of Children™ curriculum to bring simple, proactive steps to protect children from sexual abuse. A summary of those steps are listed below. To get more detailed training, including how to react skillfully if it occurs, attend one of our free trainings. Click Free Training for dates/times. Or to schedule a personalized training, contact us.
First – Learn the Facts (we picked a few important ones below)
• 1 in 10 children will be victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
• 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser.
• Most child victims never report sexual abuse.
• Children almost never invent stories of sexual abuse. They do not have the knowledge to invent details of this type of assault.
Next – Reduce the Chance (don’t be obsessive, just careful)
• Make slow, careful choices about who you allow in your child’s life and quick ones about those you exclude.
• Since 80% or more of child sexual abuse incidents happen in isolated one-on-one situations, eliminate or reduce those conditions.
• Screen those who care for your children.
Always – Talk About It (early & often)
• Establish ongoing, open and casual communication with your children about a variety of topics.
• Include talking to them about their bodies, touching boundaries and sex in those topics.
• Always use the correct words for body parts.
• Listen between the lines – sometimes children may drop subtle hints.
Then – Spot the Signs (while these may not be direct indicators of abuse, these signs demand further investigation)
• Fear, depression, anger and rebellion, especially if new, can be a red flag.
• Sexual behavior and language that is not age appropriate.
• Nightmares, bedwetting, self-harm.
• Physical problems such as anxiety, stomach aches or headaches.
Finally – Do Something
- It is our job to protect the children in our community. We are all morally obligated to do the right thing, even if it isn’t easy.
- If you suspect abuse, remove the child from the situation and find out more.
- If a child discloses abuse, be supportive. Tell them you believe them, it is not their fault and you will make sure the abuse stops. Then, immediately report the abuse to the police or child protective services.
- Spread the word, suggest training and take a stand.
Project Pinwheel makes it easy for you to get trained on protecting kids by offering regular free Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training to our community. This Stewards of Children Training is a program that gives any adult in our community the tools to protect the safety of Boulder County’s children.
Darkness to Light is a national non-profit that was founded in 2001 in Charleston, South Carolina. The mission of Darkness to Light is to empower people to prevent child sexual abuse and to raise awareness of its prevalence and consequences by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Darkness to Light developed the Stewards of Children training program in 2004, which is an evidence-based program shown to change attitudes and behavior towards the issue of child sexual abuse. Currently this program is being offered in 50 states and 16 countries with over 5,000 trained facilitators.
Stewards of Children is a two hour training which incorporates a video, interactive workbook, and group discussion, integrating three personal empowerment skills: Making Choices, Taking Risks, and Supporting Each Other. The compelling video features personal stories of sexual abuse survivors sharing their experiences of trauma and healing, combined with the perspectives of professionals in the field of child abuse. This program could be shared with volunteers, staff, parents, and anyone who wants to protect children from child sexual abuse. If you would like to bring this training to your organization or if you are interested in becoming a Steward of Children, click HERE.
To see a short video clip, click HERE.