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Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is any sexual contact between a child and another person, from fondling to rape, with or without force. It is a heinous crime for which there is no defence nor should there be any societal or judicial tolerance.

There cannot be any more pressing concern then the complete and total eradication of child sexual abuse. In my humble opinion, this can only be effectively achieved by two initiatives: (1) the instilling of a pervasive societal attitude of zero tolerance; and (2) the identification of each and every child molester out there.

As a lawyer, I urge victims to step forward and give a full statement of their abuse to the local police. This is really the only way to tag each child molester.

As the Quebec poster poignantly suggests (pictured), and at the very least, "sexual abuse kills childhood".

The police will only press charges if they feel they can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt and, hopefully, they will have victim services in place to prepare and assist you in the ordeal of a court hearing, if the aggressor does not plead guilty.

In addition, a local lawyer should be approached to consider a civil suit against the aggressor (look for a competent, compassionate and mature lawyer - these are difficult cases).

Child Sexual Abuse poster - QuebecAgain, care should be taken by the lawyer to ensure that the victim is not re-victimized by the court process. Confidentiality and fast-track litigation strategies are critical to the successful criminal and civil action.

The victim may well be called to testify if the claim is denied by the aggressor but, ultimately, she or he could benefit from a public and formal declaration of culpability and liability which should assist her or him in putting the events behind them and understanding and coming face to face with the truth: that you were not responsible; that the aggressor always bears full responsibility for the incident(s). And, we'll have tagged another child sexual abuse offender.

Introduction

Child sexual abuse is any sexual contact between a child and another person from fondling to rape, with or without force.

It is a heinous crime for which there is no excuse nor should there be any tolerance. It has a direct and potentially permanent impact on the victim's self-esteem.

Few victims enter adulthood without symptoms of the crime perpetrated against them as children. Unfortunately, they have difficulty understanding or accepting that:

It is always the offender that is 100% responsible for child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse is NEVER, not in whole or in part, the victim's fault. Informed consent is not possible at that age.

The sad fact is that one girl in four is sexually abused before the age of 18!

For boys, the odds are 1-in-8.

The average age of child sexual abuse: eleven, although some psychopaths have been known to strike upon children much younger.

Luckily, society is taking a much more aggressive stance in resolving this epidemic.

Child abuse literature is now readily available and the courts no longer punish offenders lightly.

High profile criminal trials involving community leaders has brought the issue to the forefront of the agendas of criminal law-makers.

But the battle continues, the war against child sexual abuse goes on and each and every one of us must accept responsibility for eradicating and insisting on a no-tolerance attitude. Every member has a part to play in preventing child abuse. Even if your children are not at risk, you should keep a keen eye on events in your neighbourhood. If you have reason to suspect child sexual abuse, do not hesitate to contact the police. You may be the only chance that child has.

Some things to look for are bruising or swelling of the genitals, protestations over being left alone with an acquaintance, academic or social difficulties at school, withdrawal, nightmares or bed wetting or sudden shifts in temperament.

Some Facts

  • Children are easily manipulated or bribed by an adult. Therefore, force is rarely required by the perpetrator of child sexual assault except where the assault comes from a stranger. Surprisingly, most cases of child sexual assault comes from a person known to the victim. A recent Canadian study found that 85% of the offenders are known to the victim such as a family member, babysitter, neighbor, family friend, uncle or cousin.
  • Don't expect a child to mention that they are being victimized by a paedophile (a person who prefers sexual activity with a child) even though they want to. Paedophiles instruct their victims not to tell or insist that what they are doing is normal but a secret. Be vigilant for the symptoms listed above.
  • Some child sexual abusers are other children (about one in six). Abusers can be homosexual or heterosexual.
  • Children almost never invent stories of sexual abuse. Children don't play games with something as serious as this nor do they have the knowledge to invent details of this type of assault.
  • Most offenders are male and they come from all backgrounds: from the poor to the wealthy. It could be a professional or a homeless person. There is no typical socio-economic or intelligence profile for a paedophile.
  • Most child abuse occurs in either the victim or the offender's home. It typically starts with touching and may evolve to intercourse. In many cases, the abuse grows over a period of time as the offender exercises greater control over the victim.

Equip The Child

Without spooking them to nightmares, children have to know about the dangers of sexual abuse. This will not only give them knowledge to protect themselves but it will also make them more open to divulge abuse should it occur. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

  • Teach your children the names of their body parts and that their body is private and not supposed to be touched without their permission.
  • Give them your unconditional permission to say "no" even to a family member.
  • Tell them to tell you if they are asked by anybody to be touched, to tell you about it immediately.
  • Some secrets are fun; others, especially between a child and an adult should be shared with a parent.
  • Make it clear that you are available, open and on their side if an adult ever touches them in such a way that makes them feel uncomfortable and that you will protect them.

  • I would also like to acknowledge the Aangan program of the Rozan Organization of Islamabad, Pakistan, for kindly referencing this article in their publication The Bitter Truth: An Analysis of 200 Letters From Victims and Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse.

Published: Friday, October 20, 2006
Last updated: Saturday, June 01, 2013
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