Which Child is Being Sexually Abused?

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About Jayneen Sanders

Jayneen (Jay) Sanders is an experienced primary school teacher, editor and publisher. She is also an accomplished children’s book author, writing over 60 titles for Engage Literacy. Jay is a strong advocate for sexual abuse prevention education and is the author of the children’s picture book on this topic: Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter: @JayneenSanders.


  1. I know you said ‘It could be any of them’ but the examples you used of the children who could be the victims are the sort of children that people expect to be victims. I just wanted to take the opportunity to say that sometimes the most vulnerable children are the ones who are loud, aggressive and not easy to like, and they often get misjudged and dismissed because of behaviour which is not their fault.

    • I couldn’t agree more! You are right, I should have included the loud child who often is in trouble. As I said I just don’t know who it is… it could be any of them sadly.

      • shauna marie says:

        Or the rich girl who has a “nice family.” Or the average girl who loves math. Or the boy who is always helping other students. It doesn’t have to be any child that stands out, or that is necessarily quiet or loud. The fact is we can’t tell from the outside. The family that looks unmade and wild may be great to their kids, the nice family everyone likes might be the predator. It’s sad and I trust nearly no one with any of my kids, ever.

    • shauna marie says:

      My thoughts exactly!

  2. Thank you for this. Especially the “2 boys” part. So many poeple automatically think “little girls” when we talk about sexual abuse.

    Children involved in programs outside the home should completely be educated on this. (Ideally children staying at home should be educated as well as there parents. It’s much more statistically likely that a family member is the perpetrator. There are respectful ways (put together by doctors, experts and psychologists) to present this information. It is sensitive to the needs of children and parents and is done throughout smaller communities and some private schools already. Time for our public system to step up.

  3. I can understand your concern and agree that there is a need for ‘body safety’ education. The occurrence of child abuse is a lot wider than reported and figures could doubtlessly be increased substantially so it is not surprising that there is a conflict of interests with regard to preventing child abuse, something few people want to face. We often read statistics for abused children but rarely for adult abusers, may I politely suggest that you look around the staff room for the abusers and consider carefully the signs that someone is abusive in nature. In my experience all so often lip service is paid to abuse victims whilst at the same time shaming and unwittingly supporting abusers, children should not need to ‘come forward’ or ‘tell their secrets’ adults should not place that responsibility on them or damn them to ‘damaged lives’. As adults we need to address the often abusive nature of own interaction so we create an environment where boundaries are clear, no more hands on shoulders and leaning over closely to look at a child’s work, less power and more empowering, no more ‘little girls and boys’, little suggest vulnerable, not a positive empowering message. For as long as you think of ‘your’, ‘frightened’, ‘little’, ‘soul destroyed’, ‘damaged’, ‘burdened’, ‘terrified’ pupils you are contributing to their lack of self esteem and denying them the chance to rise above the abuse that will undoubtedly continue to be a threat if not an actuality. Never underestimate the power of language.
    As a further note to Amy’s observation that there are no stereotypes and child abuse should not be stereotyped either. It is a common misconception that children are aware that they are abused or that they are abused against their will, most child abuse happens between two people who love one another, it is a complicated situation that should be handled with more sensitivity and less drama.

    • Hi jen

      You write :
      ✺” most child abuse happens between two people who
      love one another”✺

      I challenge that view jen.
      I don’t think those adults know what LOVE is.

    • Thanks Jen for your considered and well articulated response. I agree with almost every thing you express but possibly from different angles. I am a teacher and a parent so I tend to take this issue from that starting point. I’d like to examine the flip side of a couple of your points as they are highly pertinent.

      You point that we should “look around the staff room for the abusers” is very valid. We should look long and hard at any person who gravitates towards carers and pastimes that give them access to our children. It is a sad thing for the vast majority who’s motivations are beyond reproach but we need to be vigilant. In general, we need to control access to our children. We need to control their environments to optimise the chances that bad things won’t happen. I think of this as primary safety. We put everything in place to avoid the likelihood of bad outcomes. Ok we can try to do this but just as we can’t identify abused children with stereotypes we also can’t identify sexual abusers by stereotypes either. They can be anyone. Literally anyone. I don’t think that there is a practical way.

      Body safety is largely a form of secondary safety. I totally and absolutely agree that kids should never have the responsibility of coming forward to ‘tell their secrets’ but given we are addressing primary safety and we know that is not infalible we need to empower children. This is were we are again in totally agreement. Body safety is not about reporting after the fact. It is all about empowerment. In essence the Body safety message is: your body is your body, no one has the right to touch it (especially the private zones), if someone tries, say no, move away as fast as possible and tell trusted adults and keep telling until you are believed. The definition of touching includes any form of unwanted touch including unwanted hugs and kisses from anyone and pushing and punching from other children.

      Your point that it is a common misconception that children are aware that they are being sexually abused is probably true. Ie the misconception part. It is certainly true that most and probably next to all children don’t know that it is wrong. Again this is what Body safety teaches. No one should be touching you where the bathers cover ever. Of course with provisos for doctors when Mum or Dad etc are present. Kids don’t instinctively know that or if they do they don’t act on it. Again Body safety teaches kids to trust their ‘Early Warning Signs’ and remove themselves from the situation. Many peoples’ reaction to the above is often that we should not have to put this onus on kids. Of course we shouldn’t in a perfect world but we don’t live in one.

      The only point you make which I feel uncomfortable with is that ‘most child abuse happens between two people who love one another’. If we are still talking about child sexual abuse I would need a definition of the word ‘love’. Certainly kids are most often abused by someone they know and trust. 95% of abuse falls into this category. In there we have a relatives, neighbours, sporting coaches, clergy etc. We also have a lot of siblings. We should not forget that a very high percentage of abuse is perpetrated by older children. From what I have read from victims and perpetrators love is largely absent. Often the reverse.

      Adult abusers must groom the victim so that they have leverage over them so they won’t tell. The child may have positive feelings for the abuser in such cases but I doubt they are reciprocated. Then again I really dont understand what is in an abusers head. It is beyond my comprehension.

  4. shauna marie says:

    I e-mailed this to our local public school school. Thank you.

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