Look at his eyes. In 1955 there was no understanding or discussion of sex-abuse. The therapists at the time – neo-Freudians – treated incest as a fantasy, regardless of the facts.
Neatly tucked into drive theory and Oedipal complex, the child was believed to lust after the opposite sex parent and would outgrow it. From this came the distorted belief that children wanted “it” and if they had any pleasure at all from “it”, well, there you have it!
I wanted my mother to protect me from my father raping me and failing to do so, I was left to my own devices. I dissociated, developed tics, rage, and went to extremes to protect myself from the world. I lit fires and felt relief playing with matches. I carried knives and wanted a gun. We are talking ten-year-old here. I had repressed all memories and made up reasons why I behaved as I did.
Adolescence found me in trouble at school and nearly failing. I took to gambling, carried a choke chain to protect myself, drew tattoos on my arms with ink pens, smoked and barricaded my door at night. The onset of migraines began and my violent outbursts continued.
After graduating college with a bachelor’s degree, I was unable to keep jobs, had a failed marriage, turned to alcohol, experienced deep rage, debilitating migraines, anxiety attacks, terror when alone, and having spent everything I had on therapists to no avail, I went to graduate school and became a therapist.
There is more to my story by far, and my real therapy and real recovery came when I went to prison for seven-years and completed the five-year Sex Offender Treatment Program.
I know the signs and symptoms of abuse and put these here to help parents identify them.
Your child has unexplainable crying spells and angry outbursts. She has returned to bedwetting. She is hurting your cat and sets fires. She vomits on the way to day-care and locks herself in her bedroom. These are major signs of sex abuse. Although other traumatic events can cause these, they are top indicators of molest. Your child may not tell you.
A child will remain silent because he believes the abuse is his fault and fears punishment for having done bad things or telling. He may fear no one will believe him, and once told, there will be no one to protect him from the pedophile.
The child forms a secret, locks it away inside to fester, pretends it is not happening, and lives her life in dread. Changes in her personality and behavior are often cries for help.
When a child displays knowledge too advanced for her age, such as sexual talk, sexual drawings, and demonstrating sex on dolls and puppets, or has night terrors, refuses to be touched or avoids a particular person – even a parent – she is showing major signs of sex abuse.
The physical symptoms of sexual abuse are bloody underwear, covering or protecting the genitals, genital bruising, overly concerned with the genitals, vomiting, stomach-aches, physical complaints without basis, body twitching, headaches, fatigue, difficulty in going to the bathroom, complaints of painful excretion, frequent accidents, and sudden weight changes.
The adolescent is always an exception. Moodiness and sexual pre-occupation are par for their developmental course. Teen’s sexual interest and behavior are neither abnormal nor precocious. Consider their extent and in combination with other behaviors.
Anorexia, bulimia and overeating are red flags and high on the list for signaling sex abuse. Teens, particularly girls, pile on the pounds as a way of becoming unattractive to the offender and putting a wall of protection around herself. Eating disorders can result in death and may indicate other problems.
Be alert for cutting and self-mutilation along with delinquent behaviors and rages. Talk with your child and get professional help.
Over-dressing in layers of clothes (long sleeve shirts and sweaters in summer) are ways of hiding her body to protect herself from being touched. “You can’t get through my clothes.”
Look for running away from home, abuse of drugs and alcohol and problems in school. Suicide threats or attempts are an emergency requiring immediate attention of professionals.
If you see any of these, talk with your child and get a professional evaluation from someone licensed and specially trained in both children and sex abuse.
Whatever the problem and cause, the stakes are too high to ignore them.
More information on this subject is in my book, The Parent’s Guide to Protecting Children from Pedophiles.
Originally appeared at Yahoo! Contributor Network.