Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Effects of Abuse
stories of interest
for preventing child sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse of the youngest children can begin without people recognizing
it because it can be a small act in the midst of everyday life.
It can start as a skating-rink employee putting a child in his lap or
a relative taking a child off for a while.
Such acts can be innocent and helpful. A grandfather taking a child off
to learn fishing can be a grand adventure that leaves nothing but pleasant
On the other hand, another person may take advantage of a child and use
time alone for un-innocent purposes. And puberty brings on a whole different
set of circumstances and emotional impulses, giving rise to an increase
in young men having sex with underage teenage girls.
"The single age with the highest proportion of sexual assault victims
reported to law enforcement was age 14," according to a federal Department
of Justice report.
The sexual relationships can be consensual: both parties agree. But males
having sex with underage girls is illegal regardless of whether they agree,
according to the State Attorneys Office in Vero Beach.
One way of differentiating between the good and the bad is acting on suspicions
and communicating, officials say. Both adults and children need to be
aware that things can go wrong, right in front of their eyes. So experts
advise people to be watchful of whether one step leads to another. Dont
deny the possibility that abuse can happen anywhere: at home, at church
and among friends. Just because people have titles such priest
doesnt mean they act properly all the time, according to
groups that deal with sexual abuse of children.
And sexual abuse can be one act in a persons life. Not all sexual
abuse is done by stereotypic repeat offenders. Only a minority of child
sexual abuse is done by unsavory adult strangers. Most perpetrators are
known by the family or the child. And adolescents are perpetrators in
at least 20 percent of the reported cases, according to the American Academy
The following are some suggestions for preventing abuse.
Let children express affection on their own terms. Do not insist that
children hug or kiss people.
Get to know the people at places where children gather in a community.
Pay attention when an adult seems to use social occasions to overly focus
on befriending a child, on taking a child away for special time that seems
out of the ordinary.
Make unannounced visits to a childs nursery, babysitter, day care
center or school. Make sure there are no places off limits to parents.
Check whether a childs school includes sex-abuse prevention training.
Dont allow a child to go alone on vacation, drive around or spend
the night with someone other than those proven to be trustworthy.
Dont automatically assume that a person is trustworthy because of
their position, title or working in a place where children gather.
Be open when children ask questions about sex. Make the answers age appropriate,
but always be willing to communicate.
* Say no when something feels uncomfortable, very strange or alarming.
* Dont go along with doing something just because an adult
including a relative or family friend says do it. This doesnt
mean refuse to do household chores that other people usually do.
* Your private parts are your own. Dont let someone violate your
* A stranger who offers "cool" gifts and enticing items may
be trying to lead you to a private place, including a car, where bad things
could happen to you.
* Just because a person is an adult doesnt mean they have the right
to do things that make you feel queasy or alarmed.
* Be alarmed if someone asks you to not tell anyone about something strange
the person did to you.
* It is OK to be concerned if someone tries to lead you off alone to
a private place that makes you feel uneasy.
* It isnt worth keeping a friendship if it means doing things that
make you feel bad.
Source: National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. and American Academy
Myths about sexual abuse:
Most sexual abuse is perpetrated by a pedophile, a stranger lurking
in the neighborhood.
Sexual abuse is blown up in the media.
Boys are rarely sexually abused.
Incest is infrequent.
Sexual abuse primarily happens in the lower class.
Females are never abusers.
Sexual abuse has a minor impact on children.
Sexual abusers are usually sent to jail.
Source: Juanita Baker, director of the Family Learning Program, Melbourne,
Florida. The state-funded program counsels sexually abused children and
their families. Ms. Baker complied the myths from scientific research
reports published around the nation.
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