I couldn’t imagine my child enduring abuse. How is it possible for an abuser to convince my child to participate?
Abusers devise a thorough plan to manipulate the child and his/her family. By manipulating the child and his/her family, the abuser grooms the child and the family to gain trust. The abuser now uses his/her relationship with the family to take advantage of one-on-one time with the child. Once the victim has been groomed, it becomes difficult for a child to escape abuse or feel comfortable telling someone about the abuse. The grooming has created a sense of loyalty from the child to the abuser; in approximately 95% of abuse cases, the child knew and trusted their abuser.
What does it mean when a perpetrator “grooms” a child or family?
Grooming is when a perpetrator builds a relationship with a child and builds trust. Grooming makes it difficult to escape the abuse and keeps the child from telling, as he/she likes the person and feels loyalty to him/her. It makes the child feel that it is his/her fault. At times, power and authority is used as a tool.
It is important to recognize when grooming may be occurring; once a child is groomed, they internalize the abuse as their own fault, making the possibility of them telling someone minimal. Some signs of grooming to look for:
- Buying the child gifts/giving the child money
- Finding excuses for one-on-one time with the child
- Treating the child as more special than other children
- Viewing child when nude or exposing child to nudity/pornography
- Excessive appropriate touching/inappropriate touching
- Talking about sexual activity with a child
What is involved regarding sexual abuse between an abuser and a child?
Perpetrators downplay the defenses of children by explaining they were merely playing a “game.” Abuse usually begins with touching and kissing and progresses to more severe sexual activity. The perpetrator often creates names for the child’s and his/her own genitals to lessen the child’s alarm at what is happening.
I believe my child tells me everything. Wouldn’t he/she tell me if he/she was being abused?
Abusers manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to disclose the abuse, due to the fact that the abuser has told them many reasons why the child shouldn’t tell.
Some reasons why a child would not tell include:
- The abuser is a trusted friend/family member; the child thinks no one will believe him/her
- The child feels ashamed or embarrassed
- The abuser has threatened the child or the child’s family
- The abuser blames the child; the child feels responsible and doesn’t want to get in trouble
- The abuser bribes the child
- The child likes his/her abuser and doesn’t want the abuser to get in trouble
If my child doesn’t tell me about abuse, how else can I find out if abuse has occurred?
Some signs to look for in a child suffering from abuse are:
- Child acts out sexually or behaviorally
- Child develops venereal disease and infections
- Child has frequent fears, anxieties, nightmares
- Child has poor self-esteem or depression
- Adolescents may run away, commit crimes, or abuse drugs and/or alcohol
- Adolescents become withdrawn and depressed
- Adolescents are self-injurious or suicidal
It is important to note that many times children and adolescents display no symptoms (over 1/3 of confirmed cases). For this reason, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your children about abuse. Talk to your children about “welcome” and “unwelcome” touches. Empower them to say “no” and what to do in uncomfortable situations. They should know to tell you or another trusted adult if someone has made them uncomfortable. If you can’t see the symptoms of abuse, giving your child the opportunity for open dialogue can make all the difference in preventing and treating sexual abuse.
My child has been sexually abused. What will this abuse do to their mental health?
Common mental health issues that plague children include:
- Depression – Victims are 3-5 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- Damaged goods syndrome – “No one will want me now because I’ve been abused.”
- Distorted body image – eating disorders
- Low self-esteem and poor social skills
- Poor development and immaturity
- Anger and hostility
- Inability to trust
Do we as parents need to be concerned about the validity of our child’s allegation of sexual abuse?
Children rarely lie about abuse. Only 2%-8% of allegations are false; therefore, the overwhelming majority of true allegations beg you as a parent to believe your child. Additionally, questions of a child’s credibility arise when court cases involving divorce and child custody are involved. We urge you to always believe your child and follow through with the next step of reporting.
We didn’t think therapy was necessary when we were referred, but now we think it would help. Is it too late?
It’s never too late to start receiving services. Please call our main line at 214-818-2600 to schedule an intake.
Does DCAC provide on-call services?
Yes. DCAC provides on-call services for families in crisis. Please call 214-818-2600.
My child received therapy previously but would benefit from returning. Is this an option?
Many children are able to graduate successfully from therapy but may need to come back as they enter into a new developmental stage. This is normal and expected. Please feel free to call our main line to talk to a therapist about whether or not your child should return to therapy.
Does my child have to attend therapy?
Counseling is not necessary in all cases of abuse, but it can be very helpful for many children. Although sometimes parents feel they would like their child to just forget about what happened and move on, this may actually increase the stress on a child. When the situation is handled in a direct and sensitive way, the negative effects on the child can be reduced. With consistent attendance, most children are able to successfully complete therapy over the course of a few months.