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Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

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1 Understanding Child Sexual Abuse
Revised 10/10/2011

2 Video mms://www.ccsuvt.org/ccsu/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/train/Act One Training.wmv

3 Definition Vermont statute defines child sexual abuse as: Any act or acts by any person involving sexual molestation or exploitation of a child including but not limited to incest, prostitution, rape, sodomy, or any lewd and lascivious conduct involving a child. Sexual abuse also includes the aiding, abetting, counselling, hiring, or procuring of a child to perform or participate in any photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, or other presentation which, in whole or in part, depicts a sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse involving a child.

4 Forms of Child Sexual Abuse
Contact Sexual Abuse Touching the genital area or breasts, over or under clothing Oral sex Vaginal or anal penetration with part of the body or with an object Non-contact Sexual Abuse Invitation to touch another in a sexual way Voyeurism (“Peeping Tom”) Encouraging or forcing a child to masturbate or to watch others masturbate Indecent exposure (“flashing”) Involving children in the viewing or production of pornographic materials or in watching sexual activities Encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways

5 The Sexual Abuser It is impossible to describe the ‘typical sexual abuser’ Most child sexual abuse is committed by people known to the children: Family members People in the family’s circle of trust Older or bigger children Most offenders are male (although not all) Approximately 1/3 are under age 20 It is impossible to describe a typical sexual abuser. They do not look different from other people. They behave in a variety of ways and can be found in all areas of society. They sometimes hold influential positions and appear to be well-respected members of their communities. They often appear kind, concerned about, and caring towards children. What research tells us is: • Most child sexual abuse is committed by people known to the children, including: Family members such as parents, stepparents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins; People in a family’s circle of trust such as friends, neighbors, teachers, or coaches; Older or bigger children and youth. • Most offenders are male (although females also sexually abuse children). • About one third of offenders are under the age of 20.

6 Adult Offender Individuals who choose to work with children and end up sexually abusing them typically fall into two categories: Intentional abusers – Behavior is calculated and purposeful Opportunists- Those with emotional and/or psychological problems that may not initially seek to abuse children, but do so if the situation presents itself Individuals who choose to work with children and end up sexually abusing them typically fall into two categories: Those who deliberately seek access to children to satisfy their deviant sexual interests. This behavior is calculated and purposeful. Those who have emotional and/or psychological problems rather than deviant sexual interests. This may start with a friendship between the child and person that becomes distorted and results in inappropriate interactions and sexually abusive behavior. The person may not have any prior history of sexually offending, and may not seek out involvement in a child-serving organization with the intent to access victims and offend.

7 Why Offenders Target Schools
Easy access to children Position of authority over children Can gain trust of child and other adults Believe they can get away with it Believe there are no consequences Validating their sexual interest in children as beneficial Child sex offenders target children in organizations because they believe: They can gain easy access to children, particularly vulnerable children They will have a position of authority and trust over children They can gain the trust of the child and those around the child They can get away with it There are no clear consequences for inappropriate or abusive behavior They are validating their sexual interest in children as beneficial

8 Why Offenses Go Undetected
Offender is well-liked, dedicated, great with children, outstanding employee/volunteer, etc. Can’t imagine the person would commit such an offense Belief that the signs of misconduct/abuse would be obvious Offender conceals the behavior as legitimate job duties (e.g., caring for children, going on outings, spending extra time with the child, toileting, etc.) Fellow employees/volunteers unaware of their legal duty to report suspicions of abuse

9 Adolescent Offender Adolescents pose the same risk of sexually offending as adult employees/volunteers Approximately 30-50% of all child sexual abuse offenses may be committed by adolescents and young adults Adolescent offenders should also be viewed as possible victims of sexual abuse As with adult offenders, contact DCF in these cases, and possibly law enforcement In past years, adolescents who sexually abused children were usually dismissed as “kids being kids” or considered to be “just going through a phase.” Adolescents working or volunteering at our schools need to be observed as posing the same risk as adult employees/volunteers.

10 Grooming Using a variety of techniques to gain sexual access to the child Building trust and comfort with a child and adults around the child Building an emotional connection to reduce likelihood of disclosure Slow, gradual, escalating process Process of normalizing inappropriate behavior (e.g., sexual jokes, physical contact, etc.) Children can become confused by behavior they know is wrong coming from someone they trust, like, and respect Purpose is to access and control child – usually through non-violent means, but some may use threats and/or physical force Compliance does not make the child a lesser victim An individual who sexually abuses a child often uses a variety of techniques to gain sexual access to the child. The individual first gains the trust of the child and the adults around the child. An emotional connection is purposely built to reduce the likelihood that the child will disclose the abuse. This process is known as grooming. Grooming is often a slow, gradual and escalating process of building trust and comfort with a child. The offender’s goal is to have the child see him/her as a caring adult the child can trust and whose directions they should follow. Grooming also includes the process of making inappropriate behaviour seem normal. This process of normalizing inappropriate behavior can range from the telling of sexual jokes to physical contact. Once trust has been established, the result can be a child who is very confused, one who is torn between what they know to be wrong and their feelings for the offender. Although the purpose of grooming is to non-violently access and control children, in extreme cases offenders may also attempt to physically maintain control over children. In extreme cases, some offenders may attempt to gain control over a child through the use of threats (to the child, his/her pets or family) and/or physical force. This type of violence may be used to overcome resistance, maintain compliance, and/or prevent the child from disclosing the abuse. It is of the utmost importance to realize that the reason cooperative and compliant children are victims is not because they were groomed, manipulated or brainwashed but simply because they are children.

11 Grooming Process Establishes friendship and gains trust of child and adults around the child Tests child’s boundaries (e.g., sexual jokes, games, or comments; roughhousing; backrubs, etc.) Moves from non-sexual touching to “accidental” sexual touching (e.g., during play) Confuses the child into thinking s/he is equally responsible for the contact Becomes more involved in the child’s family to build trust Makes child feel complicit to what is happening, which discourages and prevents child from telling anyone about it Makes child feel obligated to the offender Engages child in unnecessary/unwarranted physical contact/restraint Manipulates child into becoming a cooperative and compliant participant Builds an emotional bond and connection with the child so they are unlikely to report and likely to return to the offender Grooming usually begins with subtle behaviors that do not appear to be inappropriate, and that may in fact suggest that the individual is very good with children. Many victims/survivors of sexual abuse do not recognize the grooming process as it is happening, nor do they recognize that this process of manipulation is part of the overall abuse process. Many offenders will deny their intent to groom a child.

12 Additional Grooming Techniques Used with Adolescents
Identifying with the adolescent. The offender may appear to be the only one who understands the adolescent. Displaying common interests (music, games, movies, TV, Internet, etc.). Recognizing and filling the adolescent’s needs for affection, attention, flattery and/or risk-taking. Providing basic needs (food, shelter) or giving gifts or privileges to the adolescent as incentives. Allowing or encouraging the adolescent to break rules (smoking, drinking, using drugs, viewing pornography, etc.). Personal communication outside of the organization (instant messaging, , giving the adolescent his/her phone number, etc.). The grooming process can be similar for adolescents as it is for young children. However, additional grooming techniques can be used on adolescents.

13 Behaviors to Watch For Seems overly interested in a child
Frequently initiates time alone with a child Becomes fixated on a child Gives special privileges of gifts to a child Befriends a family, and potentially shows equal or more interest in building a relationship with the child than with the adults Displays favoritism toward one child Creates opportunities that cater to the child’s interests so that the child/parent will initiate/allow the child to spend time alone with the offender Creates opportunities to be around the child outside the context of their working/volunteer environment Uses overly harsh or punitive methods with the child Displays age and gender preference Pay attention to an employee/volunteer who demonstrates one or any combination of the following: These behaviors do not necessarily indicate that an employee/volunteer is offending or is trying to offend against a child. However, these behaviors could be considered inappropriate.

14 Why Children are Vulnerable
They are still developing socially and emotionally, and therefore can be easy to confuse, control and coerce Speed of development and transitions during adolescents are stressful and can cause a child to be confused and vulnerable They are taught to respect and listen to adults They do not have a developed understanding of sexuality They do not interpret or identify an adult’s intent They, like all human beings, enjoy attention, affection, kindness and gifts They, especially during adolescence, are inexperienced, curious, rebellious and easily aroused Adolescence can be a difficult and complex time of change. Adolescents experience significant physical, mental and emotional development at a speed unparalleled since infancy. These transitions are stressful and can leave adolescents confused and vulnerable. Due to this turbulence, adolescents are particularly vulnerable to techniques used to manipulate their trust.

15 Factors Increasing a Child’s Risk of Being Victimized:
Child is emotionally insecure or deprived of emotional connection Child has exceptional attention needs Child is in a trusting situation with an adult Child lacks knowledge about touching that constitutes abuse or lacks general knowledge or access to sexual education Child is already sexually active Child is vulnerable (cognitively, physically, and/or emotionally) and can easily be manipulated Child is experiencing sexual orientation confusion The powerlessness of children

16 Examples of Concerning Behavior (Potential Offender Behavior)
Tickling Discussing sexually explicit information while pretending to teach a child sex education Bathing a child or showering with a child Showing the child sexually explicit images or pornography Looking at or taking pictures of children in underwear, bathing suits, dancewear, etc. Making sexual comments or sharing inappropriate stories of sexual activity Using physical restraint Deliberately walking in on a child who is changing or using the washroom Asking or having a child watch the adult/youth change or use the washroom ‘Accidentally’ touching genitalia Activities that involve the removal of clothing (massage, swimming, etc.) Wrestling or roughhousing Telling a child sexually explicit jokes Teasing a child about breast or genital development The following activities could be: a) sexually arousing to adults/youth who have a sexual interest in children, and/or b) used as part of the grooming process. It is important to watch for any of the following behaviors (pay attention to the frequency, intensity and any combination of behaviors)

17 Concerning Behavior (cont’d)
When reflecting on someone’s behavior, consider the following: Does it seem weird? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Does it seem to happen all the time or too often? Has anyone else commented or noticed?

18 Healthy Relationships with Children
Examples of appropriate affection with children: Handshake, high-five Appropriate verbal praise Eye contact Holding hands while walking with young children Sitting with a child Using words to comfort a child It is always best to try to avoid physical contact with students whenever possible. However, brief hugs initiated by the student or other signs of affection (e.g., touching hand or shoulder) may be appropriate depending on the development level of the student and the circumstance behind the need for affection. It is important for us to establish a nurturing environment that supports healthy development and positive engagement. Adopting rigid policies that prevent caring relationships between employees/volunteers and children would be an unfortunate and unnecessary result when trying to enhance child protection and prevent inappropriate adult/child contacts. Although positive interactions by caring adults and grooming by an offender may look similar on the surface, they are quite different. It is important to distinguish between the two so that we can support and encourage the former and prevent the latter. In addition to these examples provided, appropriate touch may need to vary a bit for children with special needs due to possible unique cognitive, sensory and behavior issues. In these cases, employees should follow specific training received.

19 Reacting to Inappropriate Behavior
Employees are expected to monitor and enforce protocols surrounding contact with children. If a situation seems inappropriate, remember to carefully and objectively review the conduct before assuming the individual is grooming the child. Remember: Use your instinct as a guide: Would a reasonable observer feel comfortable when witnessing the behavior? Is the behavior tied to the job function? Whose needs are being met? What is guiding the interaction? Stay calm and act appropriately: Don’t overreact or underreact Determine how the child feels about the behavior Find out whether the child feels uncomfortable, scared, or confused The child may not reveal his/her true feelings for a variety of reasons Report suspected abuse to DCF regardless Do not dismiss your concern Report to CPT or your school principal Monitor behavior – Talk to the individual about your concern and keep a close eye and ear out for similar or repeated behavior Physical contact with children is a necessary and an important component of working with and caring for children. Part of the challenge, however, is making sure the contact is appropriate. As a standard of measure, physical contact should be directly related to the individual’s job description. Employees are expected to monitor and enforce protocols surrounding contact with children. If a situation seems inappropriate, remember to carefully and objectively review the conduct before assuming the individual is grooming the child. Remember: Use your instincts as a guide — Ask yourself whether or not a reasonable observer would feel comfortable when witnessing the behavior. Consider the context — is the behavior tied to the job function or does it fall outside those guidelines? Ask yourself: “Whose needs are being met? What is guiding the interaction?” For example, a teacher who rubs a grade one student’s back to console him after falling and hurting himself on the playground is appropriate. A teacher who rubs a grade eight student’s back while he is completing an exam in the classroom is out of context and inappropriate. Do not overreact or underreact — Children look to the adult’s response in these situations. It is important to stay calm and act appropriately. Determine how the child feels about the behavior — Find out whether the child feels uncomfortable, scared, or confused. Keep in mind that the child may not reveal his/her true feelings for a variety of reasons (to avoid causing trouble, to protect the individual, etc.) because the child cares about the adult. Note: Report suspected abuse to the VT DCF regardless. Do not dismiss your concern — A child may not see any issues or reasons for concern. This does not mean that your concerns are misguided. Note: Even behavior the child enjoys and welcomes can be part of the grooming process, be inappropriate or abusive. Report the behavior to your school’s children protection team or the school principal. Monitor behavior — Talk to the individual about your concerns and keep a close eye and hear out for similar or repeated behavior.

20 Teaching Boundaries Defining a child’s role and teaching appropriate boundaries reduces the child’s risk of sexual exploitation and the likelihood that s/he will be groomed. Although children naturally test boundaries, it is important to consistently re-establish them and set limits on their behavior. Maintaining appropriate boundaries with children will build their security and help them learn how to create healthy relationships and set personal boundaries. Respecting a child’s personal boundaries (including physical, emotional and sexual boundaries) teaches him/her how s/he should expect to be treated by others.

21 Crossing Boundaries Physical Boundaries Emotional Boundaries
Insisting a child hug or kiss others Assaulting a child: beating, hitting, shaking, pushing, choking, biting, burning or kicking Bumping, pushing, restraining, pinching, or squeezing a child Using invasion of personal space (proximity and posture) to intimidate a child Shaming, guilting, demeaning, threatening, ignoring, intimidating, using sarcasm or putting down a child Reversing appropriate roles (sharing worries, problems, and/or sexual feelings with a child) Socially isolating a child or not allowing him/her to have any privacy Making unreasonable demands of a child With increased physical contact, it becomes less clear for children about what kind of touch is okay and what kind of touch isn’t and so that boundary slowly gets blurred.

22 Crossing Boundaries (cont’d)
Sexual Boundaries Sexual abuse Sexual Jokes Showing sexually explicit material Engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child Sharing sexually explicit information Invitation to touch a child or adult in a sexual way

23 Helping Children Set Boundaries
Model appropriate boundaries for children and reestablish them if they are crossed. Teach children to respect personal space and privacy. Establish privacy for using bathrooms and changing. Establish and reinforce the child’s role. Set limits and discourage children from listening to and engaging in adult conversations.

24 Potential Signs a Child is Being Abused
Displaying sexual knowledge and behavior that is beyond his/her normal developmental stage Talking or writing about sexual acts (or drawing sexual acts) that s/he should have no knowledge or experience of Verbalizing what sexual contact looks like, sounds like, or feels like Repeatedly acting out sexually and not responding to limits placed on his/her behavior (e.g. continues to fondle other children or adults after boundaries have been explained) Sexualized behavior resulting in complaints from other children Over the age of four, not having a good grasp of boundaries (e.g. tries to French kiss adults)

25 Potential Signs a Child is Being Abused (cont’d)
Sleep disturbances Drastic change in overall emotions and/or mood swings Unexplained fear or refusal to go certain places Resisting being alone with a particular person whose company s/he has previously enjoyed School problems such as plummeting grades, suddenly acting out or becoming withdrawn/secretive Insisting on spending time with a particular person Excessive crying or depression Excessive worrying Becoming clingy Extremely aggressive or displaying risk-taking behavior Lack of emotion (blank expression) or not reacting as s/he previously did Avoidant behaviors such as running away or drug/alcohol use Suddenly seeking excessive amounts of time with younger children While not necessarily an indication of sexual abuse or inappropriate conduct by employees/volunteers, any abrupt change in a child’s behavior is typically a sign of stressors in the child’s life that should be investigated. Be aware of any of the following: Do not immediately conclude that behavioral changes are caused by sexual abuse, as this is only one of many possibilities. Any changes in a child’s behavior should be explored, regardless of whether you believe there has been sexual abuse. Such changes indicate that the child is likely distressed in some capacity. Consult with the family about any behavioral changes that have been observed.

26 Potential Signs a Child is Being Abused (cont’d)
Self-harming behavior such as scratching to the point of bleeding, or pulling out hair Eating disorders Regressive behavior Acting out in an angry manner Injuries from an unknown origin An increase in self-abusive behavior An increase in self-stimulating behavior Aggression toward a specific individual Emotional outbursts when near a particular person Withdrawal from daily activities or people While not necessarily an indication of sexual abuse, an abrupt change in a child’s behavior is typically a sign of stressors in the child’s life that should be investigated.

27 Reacting to Signs of Possible Abuse
How you react to signs of possible sexual abuse will depend on the context of the situation. Signs observed in isolation may not always be cause for concern, but the severity of that behavior should be considered when deciding whether to report your concerns to DCF. Consider Age – How old is the child? Is the behavior age appropriate? Severity – How severe is the behavior? Frequency – How often does the behavior occur? Impact – How is it affecting the child? How is it affecting other children? For example, if a four-year-old pokes a peer’s private parts while going to the bathroom, boundaries may simply need to be taught. However, if a four-year-old reenacts sexual intercourse with dolls, it will require reporting to the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF).

28 Reacting to Signs of Possible Abuse (cont’d)
Document the concerning behavior (including who was notified and when). If the behavior is enough cause for suspicion of child abuse, report to your school’s CPT and DCF. If the behavior is a cause for concern, but not at a level to cause suspicion of child abuse, address the behavior with the child. Reestablish boundaries and behavioral expectations in a supportive, caring manner. Continue to observe the child’s behavior, noting any escalation or changes. If the child’s behavior does not change, continue to document it and work with the family and/or other professionals (e.g. counselors) to address the behavior. Contact the parents to share your concerns and observations. Continue to work together with the family to support the child. If the parents are resistant to working with you and the child’s behavior continues to escalate, contact the DCF and report to your school’s CPT.

29 Disclosure of Abuse Disclosure is not always obvious, and can be missed by adults A child may disclose to another safe adult before telling his/her parent Disclosure is a process rather than a one-time event – The process may span hours, days, weeks or years Disclosure may be though hints and signs vs full disclosure A child may retract or deny the abuse after an initial disclosure A child may not fully disclose since s/he may not be aware that the behavior was wrong The disclosure may seem vague, inconsistent, or seem unbelievable A child may seem hesitant, confused, uncertain, or agitated during disclosure It is your job to report, not to investigate One of the reasons personal safety is taught to children is to promote disclosure of current or past abuse. Most personal safety programs instruct children to tell a safe adult if anyone touches them inappropriately. However, disclosure is not always obvious, and can be missed by adults. It is important to know how to recognize the signs of a disclosure of sexual abuse. In some cases, a child will disclose to a teacher or another safe adult before speaking to his/her parent, especially if the offender is someone the parent knows or trusts. Disclosure is often a process rather than a one-time event. While full disclosure happens occasionally, information is typically provided bit by bit or through hints and signs. This process may span hours, weeks, months, or even years. If the process is interrupted, discouraged, or shut down, the sexual abuse may not be fully revealed until adulthood — if at all. Accidental spontaneous disclosures can also occur.

30 An Adolescent Who Discloses May…
Try to protect the offender, as s/he believes the offender to be a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’. Describe the victimization in more socially acceptable ways due to guilt and shame. S/he may omit details about their role in seeking out the offender or embellish physical force [Lanning, 2001]. Feel guilty and blame him/herself for participating in the victimization by not saying ‘No’. Deny the abuse, fearing the potential outcome of the disclosure — s/he does not want life to change. Feel embarrassed and ashamed, and believe that society (family, peers, community) will judge or abandon him/her. Protect the offender. The adolescent may not understand that s/he is a victim (especially if s/he has been groomed by the offender). React in a negative manner if the offender gives attention to another adolescent. An adolescent may be prompted to disclose for different reasons than younger children. In some cases, an adolescent may distort the abuse by believing s/he is in a romantic relationship with the offender. Rather than considering the situation abusive, the adolescent may disclose the abuse in reaction to the offender’s ending of the ‘relationship,’ or out of jealously [Lanning, 2001]. Adolescents who distort their victimization may also present the facts differently and be resistant to adult intervention.

31 Why a Child May Not Tell Feels s/he will not be believed
Has been manipulated and groomed by the offender and feels like a participant in the abuse Has been threatened with violence, or his/her family, friends, or pets have been threatened Is being blackmailed Does not want to lose perceived benefits (gifts, status or playing time on a sports team, academic recognition, etc.) Believes that s/he is receiving love and acceptance from the offender Fears judgment Does not think s/he has a safe adult to tell Feels shame and embarrassment Fears his/her life will change dramatically (loss or breakup of family) Believes s/he is not a victim Has not been believed when disclosing previously Fears perceived stigma of homosexuality Believes that society will not understand Feels s/he waited too long to disclose the abuse Likes the offender Rather than focusing on why children often do not tell, imagine how difficult sharing something like [sexual abuse] might be.

32 Hints of Disclosure “What do you think of __________?”
“__________ does not pay attention to me anymore.” “I don’t want to go to __________ (organization’s name) anymore.” “I don’t like __________ anymore.” “Please don’t go! Please don’t leave me with __________ .” (The child desperately tries to avoid being left alone with a certain individual.) “I don’t like it when you’re gone… I feel uncomfortable when you aren’t here…” “ __________ hits my Mom.” “__________ likes boys better than girls.” “__________ is not nice.” “I don’t feel good when I’m with __________ .” “I’m bad…” “You will be mad at me…” “ __________ gets mad a lot.” “ __________ did things to me.” “ __________ does bad stuff to me that I don’t like.” “ __________ plays games with me that I don’t like.” “ __________ hurt my cat.” Hints of disclosure should be considered in the child’s ‘big picture’ context. An isolated statement, separate from any other concerns about the child, may not be an issue. For example: A 12-year-old girl approaches her teacher and says that she does not like it when she has to work alone with her educational assistant. This comment alone is not cause for concern. Now consider the bigger picture: The 12-year-old girl is experiencing academic difficulty, peer isolation, has attended three different elementary schools, and is very withdrawn. She has shared that her mom hired the educational assistant to tutor her and that she hates it when her mom goes to work, leaving her at home with the tutor. In isolation, each variable is not cause for enough concern to warrant a report to the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF). However, when considered together, there is a need to report these observations.

33 Always the Victim It is important to understand and BELIEVE that a child CAN be a victim even is s/he: Did not say no Did not fight Did not tell Initiated the contact Actively cooperated Accepted gifts or money Enjoyed the sexual activity When a child appears to have cooperating sex with an adult, the adult is ALWAYS the offender, and the child is ALWAYS the victim. While it is upsetting to hear a child disclose, the child’s needs must come first. Appropriate reactions to a child’s disclosure of sexual abuse are critical, as they affect the severity of his/her overall trauma [Finkelhor, 1984]. • Research shows that a child who feels supported, nurtured, and safe when disclosing abuse has the most successful chance of recovery and future adjustment. • A child who has been abused needs to understand that what happened was not her/his fault, and that s/he is not alone.

34 Tips for Handling Disclosures
Listen actively – show the child you believe them Control your reaction – be aware of your body language Do not correct language – if a child feels bad or stupid, s/he may stop disclosing Never communicate blame or imply guilt – be non-judgmental Praise the child for telling – assure the child s/he is not at fault Protect the child and other children from overexposure – respect the child’s need for privacy and confidentiality – only disclose to those with a need to know (e.g., DCF, CPT, Principal) Show affection, support and understanding Take quick action to stop the abuse, but avoid making promises about matters that are out of your control Make a report to DCF – Call LISTEN What a child needs when disclosing is for you to listen. S/he fears an adult’s reaction as well as not being believed. It takes incredible courage to share such an experience. Listen attentively. Control your reaction Do not over — or underreact. Be aware of your facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice as the child will be sensitive to your reaction. A child can pick up on differences between what an adult is saying and how s/he is acting. If body language and verbal language do not match, the child will feel confused. Do not correct language A child who has been sexually abused often uses slang or distasteful words for genitals and sexual acts. You should not try to educate a child about correct terms during a disclosure. Doing so could make the child feel bad, stupid or dirty, and might prevent the child from continuing to disclose. NEVER COMMUNICATE BLAME Never imply guilt such as “I told you so,” or “This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t…” when the child discloses sexual abuse. Be non-judgmental, both verbally and non-verbally (gestures, facial expressions). A child who has been abused needs to understand that what happened was not her/his fault, and that s/he is not alone. Praise the child for telling It takes tremendous courage to disclose sexual abuse and a child will often assume responsibility for the abuse. Assure the child that it is not her/his fault, and that s/he did the right thing by disclosing. Protect the child and other children from overexposure Respect the child’s need for privacy and confidentiality, and make sure that no other children are around to hear the child’s disclosure. Only adults who will be directly involved in taking action should be present. Show affection Adults can be apprehensive to show affection to a child after hearing that s/he has been sexually abused. Research indicates that a child who discloses abuse needs appropriate affection, support, and understanding. Be supportive The primary focus should be on the welfare of the adolescent. Maintain a close, supportive relationship with the adolescent by being available and attuned to how s/he is doing. Accommodate any appointments s/he must attend as a result of disclosure, and support any goals of the investigation and therapy. AVOID MAKING PROMISES Promise the child that you will take quick steps to stop the abuse. Avoid making promises about matters over which you have no control (e.g. “I will make sure the offender goes to jail.”). Report to THE VERMONT DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES (DCF) If you suspect a child is being, or has been, abused sexually, contact the Vermont Department for Children and Families to report it. Call — 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. See Chapter 7 for more information on reporting.

35 Increasing Likelihood Disclosures are Recognized
Train personnel to understand the problem. Increase your overall awareness about sexual abuse. Increase the child’s awareness about personal safety using developmentally appropriate educational material. Nurture a consistent, positive relationship with the child. Listen to and appreciate the child’s feelings, hopes, and fears, and make sure the child knows you are available to listen and help. Notice and respond to changes in the child’s typical behavior. Increase the child’s awareness of boundaries.

36 Post-Disclosure Support
Confidentiality - Make sure that the disclosure and information about the abuse is limited to those who need to know, and that those people are not openly discussing what happened. It is important to let children know that other adults must be told about what has happened. This is required, even when they plead with you not to tell. Information - Keep the child informed of the process and what’s going to happen next. This will help make them feel more in control of the process. Connection - Let the child know you care by communicating openly and frequently. Be available and check in with the child regularly to see how s/he is doing. Structure - Keep activities and routines the same. Structure and familiarity will offer security to the child. Boundaries - Re-establish boundaries if the child acts out. Redefining appropriate behavior with limits will provide security.

37 Post-Disclosure Support (cont’d)
The post-disclosure period is often stressful and requires support based on the adolescent’s reaction and mental state Make sure the adolescent always has access to a safe adult to discuss any concerns s/he might have about her/his feelings, the offender, or any other issues Accommodate appointments related to the disclosure, and support any goals of the investigation and therapy If an adolescent is not believed, s/he may become alienated and confused. Since consequences for the offender may not be immediate (as a result of logistics and/or criminal proceedings), the adolescent may be left with feelings of fear, shame, self-blame, self- harm, injustice, and/or confusion [Wolfe, 2001]

38 Vermont Statute (13 V.S.A 72 §3252)
The legal age of consent in Vermont is 16 years old, with the following exceptions: The persons are married to each other and the sexual act is consensual. The older person is under 19 years old, the child is at least 15 years old, and the sexual act is consensual (without force, threat, or coercion). An adolescent (under the age of 18) cannot consent to sexual activity with someone in a position of trust and authority.

39 Trauma Initial response to the child’s disclosure
The degree of trauma suffered by the victim can vary based on any of the following: Initial response to the child’s disclosure Quality of the child’s support system Point at which the abuse was disclosed The child’s personality Level of confidentiality maintained Type of abuse Relationship of the offender to the child Length of time and extent of the abuse If the child was groomed by the offender Length of time since the abuse took place [Kendall-Tackett (undated); Hindman, 1999]

40 Possible Reactions to Abuse
Reduced confidence and trust in authority figures Loss of trust Shame and humiliation Fear and avoidance of any reminders of abuse Further trauma stemming from the disruption to family and personal relationships Self-destructive behavior resulting from emotional impact Assumed responsibility for abuse Depression or anxiety Trauma-related symptoms specifically associated with the organization in which the abuse occurred. If the abuse occurred in school, symptoms might include disinterest in learning, frequent absences, etc.

41 Possible Reactions to Abuse (cont’d)
Use of coping strategies to manage the emotional pain: Engage in antisocial or criminal behavior (violence, vandalism, theft, arson) Self-harm (such as cutting) Excessively people-pleasing Under-function or overachieve Show extreme passivity Cling to others Self-medicate (with drugs, alcohol, food) Avoid dealing with problems Distance self from others Use denial Become promiscuous

42 Children with Disabilities
Abuse is more prevalent with children with disabilities Eager to ‘fit in’ and be accepted Don’t understand what is happening, or that the behavior is illegal May not have a way to communicate what is happening Don’t know they have the right to say ‘no’ Children with disabilities are less likely to report and if they do, are more likely to being ignored, disbelieved or misunderstood The inherent dependence and vulnerability of children with disabilities increases their risk of being sexually abused (e.g., dependent on others for toileting, undressing or bathing; often cared for outside of home or one-on-one; etc.) Many children with disabilities to not have the full capacity to set their own personal boundaries

43 Teaching Personal Safety To Children with Disabilities
Sensitize the child to boundaries Teach acceptable vs unacceptable touching Communicate that it is okay to say “No” and to tell an adult if something makes the child feel bad, uncomfortable or is wrong Teach the concept of public versus private behaviors Provide many opportunities to rehears safety skills through role-play and community-based experiences Make a list of safe adults the child can go to for assistance Integrate short and simple daily personal safety lessons (e.g., concrete questions and brief answers)

44 Why Adults Often Fail to Act
Negative attitudes and beliefs Indifference Fear of retaliation Dismissing your gut feeling Denial Not believing the child victim Placing the responsibility on the child to use the words “someone touched my private parts” Do not want to be responsible for wrecking a family Believe a person only has to report what can be proven of observed Do not know who to report it Are not encouraged to report Negative attitudes and beliefs: “It really isn’t a big problem in our society” Indifference: “It’s not by problem. Let someone else handle it.” Fear of retaliation: “They know our family and where we live. What if they do something to us?” Dismissing your gut feeling: “I must be reading too much into this.” Denial: “He wouldn’t do something like that. He’s a really nice guy.” Not believing the child victim: “That child is always up to something.” Placing the responsibility on the child to use the words “someone touched my private parts”: “If a child experiences sexual abuse, s/he will tell someone immediately.” Do not want to be responsible for wrecking a family: “I don’t want the child to be pulled out of his/her home and put into foster care.” Believe a person only has to report what can be proven of observed: “I didn’t witness the abuse and I don’t have any concrete evidence, so I can’t report it.” Do not know who to report it: “If a child disclosed sexual abuse, I have no idea who to report it to.” Are not encouraged to report: “My employer doesn’t really encourage that sort of reporting here.

45 True of False? Most offenders are Strangers.
False - Adults/youth who sexually abuse a child usually know the child in some capacity All offenders were sexually abused as children. False – Although individuals who were abused as children are more likely to abuse children as adults, not all sex offenders were sexually abused as children, and not all individuals who were sexually abused as children become sex offenders. If a child is sexually abused s/he will tell someone immediately. False – Disclosure may not occur immediately after the abuse and may not happen all at once. Children often do not disclose abuse until they are adults.

46 True or False? All offenders are male, unlikeable, and look creepy and weird. False – Offenders to not fit a particular description. Many offenders are seen as nice people who are liked by kids and adults alike. Offenders may test a child’s boundaries in front of others – ‘accidently’ touching them in private areas while rubbing their backs, tickling, wrestling, etc. True - This is often used as part of the grooming process to confuse and desensitize children to inappropriate touching Adults/youth who sexually abuse children can also be in age- appropriate sexual relationships. True

47 True or False? Sexual offenses against children are the crimes least likely to be reported to authorities. True Some sex offenders hold distorted perceptions of their relationships and physical contact with children, and do not see their offending as forced or coercive. True - They may believe that a child is sexually interested in them and that sexual contact is harmless because the child seemingly initiates, wants, and enjoys such contact. A sexually victimized child would never freely return to a non-family offender. False – The offender typically established an emotional bond and friendship with the child that keeps child coming back

48 True or False? Some sex offenders engage in inappropriate behavior that is sexually motivated but may not be considered criminal (e.g., adult may create opportunities where children must change in front of him/her.) True Some sex offenders initiate personal contact with the child outside the school (e.g., befriend the family, offer the child a job, etc.) True – This can be part of the grooming process and how the offender builds trust with the child and adults around him/her. Only offenses that include touching impact the victim. False – Sexual abuse that does not include contact can still have a psychological and emotional impact on victims.

49 Information Source The information contained in this presentation came from the Step-By-Step training materials provided by Commit To Kids ™, Section II: Educate, Chapter 2: Understanding Child Sexual Abuse.


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