Sexual abuse of children is a heinous crime. Victims of child sexual abuse are often left with long-lasting trauma that affects them both physically and mentally. What many people do not realize is that around 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. According to RAINN, around 34% of child sexual abusers are family members, while about 59% are other family acquaintances. While it does occur, strangers are rarely the perpetrators of child sexual abuse.
As a parent or guardian, you need to be careful of which adults you allow in your child’s life. There are various signs you should be aware of that could indicate possible sexual abuse attempts.
Invades personal space of the others
Does an adult in your child’s life do the following? If they do, you may have alarm bells going off:
- Make others uncomfortable by ignoring social, emotional, or physical boundaries?
- Refuse to let a child set limits of their own?
- Regularly tease or use belittling language to keep a child from setting their limits?
- Insist on hugging, touching, kissing, holding, tickling, or wrestling with a child even if the child does not want this attention?
- Frequently walk in on the child when they are in the bathroom?
Relationships with a child
Does an adult in your child’s life do any of the following?
- Turn to the child for emotional or physical comfort?
- Share personal and private information that is normally shared with adults?
- Have private or secret interactions with the child, such as gaming, alcohol, drugs, or sexual material sharing?
- Spend an excessive amount of time texting or calling the child?
- Insist on spending alone time with the child?
- Always there to help babysit or take the child on special outings?
- Buys gifts for the child or give them money for no reason?
Sexual conversations of behaviors
The following are inappropriate and are signs an adult may be grooming a child:
- Frequently pointing out sexual images or telling dirty jokes with the child present.
- Exposing a child to pornography.
- Is interested in the sexuality of the child (their sexual orientation, whether they masturbate, how their body is developing, and whether they are having sex).
It is your job to be aware and protect
As a parent or guardian in your child’s life, you need to be aware of which adults have access to them and how any time is spent between them and other adults. You cannot be with your children every moment of their day. That is why we depend on other adults in our child’s life to care for and protect them, such as school teachers, youth sports coaches, clergy members, and other mentors. However, as we mentioned above, perpetrators of child sexual abuse are usually known by the child and the child’s family.
Be aware of any of the above signs, as they could be grooming behaviors designed to slowly move your child to a sexual relationship. You should also be aware that these behaviors could be displayed by other adults in your own family. Each year, child protective services throughout the U.S. report that many perpetrators of child sexual abuse are parents, other relatives, or siblings. Perpetrators of child sexual abuse can be men or women.
Finally, make sure your child knows that they can tell you anything and they will not be blamed. Have open conversations with your child about appropriate adult behavior, including areas of their body that are off-limits to everyone.