Child sexual abuse is a hidden, but significant problem in every community in America --- and this is true for Windham County as well.
Did you know...
Experts estimate that, nationally, 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18, for boys the estimate is 1 in 6 - though we have no statistics for Windham County there’s no reason to think our numbers are any different.
Most children will not tell anyone they have been abused--fewer than 1 in 10 will tell.
Child sexual abuse is prevalent in all socio-economic groups, all racial and religious communities—it knows no boundaries.
Research shows that there is a much greater incidence of psychological and physical problems for adults who were sexually abused as children, especially when the individual keeps the secret, isn’t believed, or gets no mental health treatment.
Most children are abused by someone they know and trust—an estimated 34% are abused by family members, 59% are abused by friends or acquaintances of the child or family—leaving only about 7% of offenders in the “stranger” category.
And it’s not just teenagers--the median age for sexual abuse is 9 years old .
Myth #1: Child sexual abuse occurs only among strangers. If children stay away from strangers, they will not be sexually abused. Fact: National statistics indicate that in approximately 88 percent of the cases, the offender is known to the victim. He/she is usually a relative, family member, family friend, baby-sitter or older friend of the child.
Myth #2: Children provoke sexual abuse by their seductive behavior. Fact: Seductive behavior is not the cause. Responsibility for the act lies with the offender. Sexual abuse sexually exploits a child not developmentally capable of understanding or resisting and/or who may be psychologically or socially dependent on the offender.
Myth #3: The majority of child sexual abuse victims tell someone about the abuse. Fact: According to a study by Dr. David Finkelhor, close to 2/3 of all child victims may not tell their parents or anyone else because they fear being blamed, punished or not believed.
Myth#4: Men and women sexually abuse children equally. Fact: Men are offenders 94 percent of the time in cases of child sexual abuse. Men sexually abuse both male and female children. Seventy-five percent of male offenders are married or have consenting sexual relationships. Only about 4 percent of same-sex abuse involves homosexual perpetrators; 96 percent of the perpetrators are heterosexual.
Myth #5: If the children did not want it, they could say, "Stop!" Fact: Children generally do not question the behavior of adults, having been taught to obey them. They are coerced by bribes, threats and use of a position of authority.
Myth #6: All sexual abuse victims are girls. Fact: Studies on child sexual abuse indicate one in three females under the age of 18 and one in four males under the age of 18 are child sexual abuse victims.
Myth #7: Family sexual abuse is an isolated, one-time incident. Fact: Studies indicate that most child sexual abuse continues for at least two years before it is reported. And in most cases, it doesn't stop until it's reported.
Myth #8: In family sexual abuse, the "non-offending" parent always knows. Fact: While some "non-offending" parents know and even support the offender's actions, many, because of their lack of awareness, may suspect something is wrong, but are unclear as to what it is or what to do.
Myth #9: Family sexual abuse only happens in low-income families. Fact: Family sexual abuse crosses all classes of society. There is no race, social, or economic class that is immune to family sexual abuse. Incest is estimated to occur in 14 percent of all families. Up to 25 percent of American children are incest victims.
Myth #10: Non-violent sexual behavior between a child and adult is not damaging to the child. Fact: Nearly all victims will experience confusion, shame, guilt, anger, and a poor self-image. Child sexual abuse can result in long-term relationship problems and be perpetuated from generation to generation. Dr. Nicholas Groth, who has worked extensively with sexual offenders, reports that 60 percent of convicted sexual offenders have reported histories of child sexual abuse victimization.
Information provided by Red Flag Green Flag Resources, Rape and Crisis Abuse Center of Fargo/Moorhead.
How an abuser "grooms" a victim
Few sexual abuse assaults against children are spontaneous acts. In fact, preparation occurs gradually over a period of time. In an effort to gain a child's trust (and that of any immediate adults) many molesters will groom a child in preparation for the inappropriate contact. The most common stages of grooming are:
Engagement - Trust is established early, initially through appropriate and ingratiating behavior towards both the child and close adults.
Sexual Interaction - Once trust is established, an erosion of boundaries begins. If the child does not vigorously resist the advances or appear overly upset or report the violations the touching progresses to more invasive forms of contact over time.
Secrecy Established - If the child does not express alarm, the perpetrator is reassured that he/she can proceed. The child continues to be manipulated into maintaining secrecy.
Offenders often tell a child that touching of this kind is good and pure and indicates just how special their relationship is. Offenders also work to convince the child that they are their advocate and understand and support them more than anyone else in their life.
Finally, it is not uncommon for a child to be given alcohol or drugs to decrease his or her boundaries. This introduction serves to further manipulate the child into silence as the molester suggests that the child will be in trouble if he or she "tells." This process of grooming a child is documented, classic, sex offender behavior.
Child molesters most often select their victims carefully, typically targeting a child who is in need of attention, perhaps living in a single parent home and/or experiencing difficulty at school or in social settings. In short, the molester targets the child who might need the attention of an adult and be more willing to keep a secret in exchange for that valued attention.
When a question of abuse is raised, responsible adults often report that they have felt uneasy while witnessing interactions between a certain adult and child. They say they've witnessed "odd" or inappropriate behavior that left them feeling concerned. But they didn't take action because, "this was a really nice person who seemed to genuinely care for children."
Protecting children can occur in a variety of ways. A subtle conversation with a child can go a long way in protecting him or her against abuse. Adults can ensure that a questionable individual is not given access to children. In fact, offenders will often back off if they sense adults are being watchful. Then, if concerns remain, making a hotline call is always an appropriate action.