Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse of children is a devastating and widespread problem in our society. Children are most often sexually victimized by someone they know; often it is someone they know well. The violation of trust inherent in such abuse can be physically and emotionally devastating and is further complicated when the perpetrator is a parent, step-parent, family member, family friend or other acquaintance.
The myth of "stranger danger"
Many parents teach their children about "stranger danger," and it is wise to give children basic safety rules about strangers. But the fact is that the vast majority of perpetrators of child sexual assault are known to the victim. It is also important to talk to children about personal body safety, good and bad secrets and what to do if anyone speaks to them or touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
Anyone aware of abuse of a child is required by New Hampshire law to report the abuse to the Division of Children, Youth and Families. You can also contact your local crisis center for information and support.
- Physical signs of sexual abuse are not common, although redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections or other such symptoms should be carefully investigated. Also, physical problems associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
- Emotional or behavioral signals are more common. These can run from “too perfect” behavior, to withdrawal and depression, to unexplained anger and rebellion.
- Sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate can be a red flag.
- Be aware that in some children there are no signs whatsoever.
- I believe you.
- It was not your fault.
- I'm not angry with you, I am angry with the person who assaulted you.
- Telling was the right thing to do.
- I'm sorry this happened to you.
- I don't know the answer, but I will try to find it for you.
- This has happened to other children and families.
- We will get through this.
- Sexual assault is against the law.
- I will do my best to protect you.
*Source: “7 Steps to Protecting Our Children” by Darkness to Light"