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Recognizing Sexual Abuse in Children
And What to Do About it
Excerpts from a presentation to Guidance Counselors
August 28, 2001, Nassau, Bahamas
Complied & Presented By Barrington H. Brennen

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is making someone do sexual things against their will, physically attacking the sexual parts of a personís body, or treating someone like a sex object.

Sexual abuse is any misuse of a child for sexual pleasure or gratification. It has the potential to interfere with a childís normal, healthy development, both emotionally and physically.

Sexual abuse is a violation perpetrated by a person who holds, or is perceived to hold, power of someone who is vulnerable. They abuse may have physical, verbal and emotional components. It includes sexual violations as rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, incest, sexual molestation. The person experiences sexual activity that is neither wanted nor agreed to.

 

Types of Sexual Abuse

Verbal Sexual Abuse Consists of remarks including threats, innuendoes, comments about a personís body, solicitation, harassment, coarse jesting, inappropriate sexual talking and sexual name calling. Any verbal expression with intent to arouse or stimulate.

Visual Sexual Abuse Includes voyeurism, exhibitionism, viewing of pornographic material, of genitals, or of any sexual activity such as masturbation or intercourse.

Physical Sexual Abuse Any inappropriate form of touching from hugging to rape. Rubbing, holding, and kissing for the purpose of sexual gratification are examples.

Incest Imposition of sexual inappropriate acts, or acts with sexual overtones, by or any use of a minor child to meet the sexual or sexual/emotional needs of one or more persons who derive authority through ongoing emotional bonding with that child.

Which type of sexual abuse is more prevalent in the Bahamas?

 

Three Broad Categories of Sexual Abuse

Non-touching    Touching     Exploitation


 

What Do I Look For?

Younger Children: Compulsive masturbation, Bed-wetting, soiling, excessive curiosity about sex, altered sleep patterns, learning problems, separation anxiety, overly compulsive behavior, developing fears and phobias, sexual acting out with peers, becoming nonverbal, developing tension symptoms - stomach aches, skin disorders, becoming seductive.

Early Teens: Stealing, running away, starting fires, excessive bathing, being withdrawn and passive, girls pulling up skirts, sexual inference in school artwork, teaching other how to masturbate, becoming aggressive toward peers, succumbing to periods of deep depression. Falling grades, alcohol or drug abuse.

Older Teenagers: Suicide attempts, early marriage, running away, pregnancy, substances abuse, getting in trouble with the law.

Physical Indicators: Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia, complains of pain or itching in genitalia, difficulty in sitting or walking; torn, stained or blooding underclothing; sexually transmitted diseases; pregnancy, especially in early adolescence.

 

The Counselorís Attitude

  • Educate yourself
  • Be alert - hyper vigilant
  • Listen and believe
  • Be professionally confidential
  • Act quickly - do not forget, ignore, or minimize
  • Use professional resources available - Agencies, videos, books, etc.

 

What to Do If You Suspect Sexual Abuse

Health providers, teachers, school counselors can identify individuals who have been victims of sexual abuse by including questions about abuse in health assessments.

If you suspect sexual abuse:

Provide an opportunity for the child to speak privately with you.

Say in a calm, matter-of-fact manner something like:

"Is there something you want to tell me?"

"Are you having a problem and need help?"

"When something feels bad inside, it's okay to talk about it.í

If the student says "I have something to tell you but you have to promise me not to tell anyone," your response could be:

"___________, since I care about you, I can only promise to help you. I may have to ask someone else to help us."

Listen carefully; do not pressure or prompt the child by asking questions. Allow him/her to speak at his/her own pace.

If the child chooses not to communicate after you have waited a sufficient amount of time, you can say something like,

"_______________, I want you to be okay. If you ever want to talk about anything, just let me know. Or, you may write me a note if you like."

Do not express anger, shock, or disgust if a child tells you about being molested because he or she may mistakenly interpret your emotions as directed toward him/her.

Since a child rarely lies about sexual abuse, take the situation seriously.

Show acceptance support and caring, but do not touch the sexual abuse victim unless you first ask permission

Commend the child for telling you about the abuse and offer reassurance that he or she did the right thing.

Help the child know that it was not his/her fault. Say "Iím sorry it happened, but remember, t was not your fault. . . ."

Reflect the feelings and information you hear, making sure your facial expressions match what the child is saying. Here are examples:

"It was scary to have a bigger person threaten to hurt you or your family."

"It was confusing to have someone you care about tell you to do something that did not feel right."

"You tried to tell your mom, but she got mad and didnít believe you, so you didnít think anyone else would believe you either."

Be truthful when responding to any question. However, do not make promises you cannot keep. For example you could say: "I am not sure what will happen, but I will be here for you at school."

Follow the school procedure based on our legal system standard for reporting abuse. Tell the child the next step you will take. You can say: "I will call a person whose job it is to keep abused children safe. The person will come to listen to you. Then you will be asked some questions. You must answer them truthfully. Can you do that?"

 

If the child says "Yes," reinforce the decision by saying, "Good, That is exactly what you need to do to keep yourself safe."

If you sense that the child is unsure, you could say, "___________, you have been hurt and if you donít tell about what happened, this person may hurt others. Do you think you can tell the truth when you answer the questions?

As soon as possible report the conversation to the appropriate authority.

Keep the meeting with the child confidential; do not mention it to anyone who is not professionally involved

Treat the child normally at school, showing the same respect and caring you show every student. Help the child meet his/her basic psychological needs to feel accepted, safe, secure, and sense of belonging. Validate the student by noticing and commenting on her/his positive attributes.

Make sure there is follow through and that the child receives support and assistance.

Complied by Barrington Brennen

 
 
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Permission is granted place links to these articles on social media like Google+, FaceBook, etc..    Permission is also granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your  personal use, friends,  seminar, or meeting handout.  You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary.    Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form.   Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist.  P.O. Box CB-13019,  Nassau, The Bahamas.   
 
 question@soencouragement.org or barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  Phone contact is 242-327 1980.   
 
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