Which Child is Being Sexually Abused?

Class

An impassioned call for all parents and educators to teach body safety.

I am currently back teaching, working daily with 24+ active kids ranging from 5 to 12 years. I am loving every moment of their raucous enthusiasm and their overall joy of learning, but as I instruct, laugh at their bubbly chatter and generally call for order, at the back of my mind something more sinister has been nagging at me.

Finally, after a few weeks of being in and out of various classrooms, I faced up to what I know to be true. Of a classroom I may enter of 24, six year olds — 3 of the girls and 2 of the boys, are being, have been, or will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. These are the statistics; this I know to be true.

I now look around a sea of happy, excited faces, and wonder which ones “they” are. Which of the little ones in front of me, crowded around my feet in a sharing circle, go to bed night after night terrified, so terrified by their secret that they cannot and may never tell anyone. Children frightened beyond anything I could ever write in this blog, because if they do tell (as they have been told many times by their perpetrator) their mother will be killed, their dog or favourite pet slaughtered and/or they will go to jail and never see their family again — and of course it will all be their fault. These are just some of the threats these children (as young as 2) have to endure. We also know that young children believe in fairies, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny; uneducated in body safety, they are going to believe every word their perpetrator tells them. They cannot and will not tell their crippling secret for fear of the reprisal. The bravery and awareness it would take for a young child to disclose sexual abuse — taking into consideration the kind of threats they are issued — is beyond my comprehension.

Again, I look around the classroom and wonder is it the shy little girl who doesn’t mutter a word. Or could it be the nervous little boy who tries so hard to be good? Or the disheveled clever little girl who daily has dark circles under her eyes. I don’t know. I can’t tell. It could be any of them.

What I do know is this: it is an utter disgrace that schools and parents do not actively teach body safety to children from as young as three. How dare our fear and our denial surrounding the sexual abuse of children make some kids carry a burden so heavy that they may never recover. In fact, as the enter into teenage-hood and adulthood they may well take their own life. Children who have been sexually abused will never experience the life they should have lived. They will grow up damaged and doing all they can to become survivors of the horrific crimes perpetrated against them

Yet, as I see it, adults worldwide are totally at fault. We have let our children down. By burying our heads in the sand, we have forced children to carry these terrible burdens — life-and-soul destroying burdens. We can and MUST do more. I, for one, will not sit around and watch any more kids go into this world uneducated in body safety. And I am calling upon our schools and parents worldwide to educate all kids so they know, right from the first inappropriate touch, that it is wrong, and to tell someone and keep on telling until they are believed. Our duty of care to children is to educate and to believe. It can be as simple as that. All children have a right to a safe childhood. They have a right to a ‘childhood’, full stop. Their innocence should never be taken away merely because we failed to educate. Please join me by spreading the word to parents and schools to educate kids in body safety. Our children are relying on us to do so.

–Photo: MatthewPaulson/Flickr

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About Jayneen Sanders

Jayneen Sanders is a teacher, author, mother of three teenage daughters and an active advocate for sexual abuse prevention education both in the home and in schools. She regularly blogs on Body Safety education.

For more information on this topic, blogs and Jay’s children’s book on safe and unsafe touch: 'Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept' go to www.somesecrets.info

Now available on Amazon in 7 seven languages. http://www.amazon.com/Jayneen-Sanders/e/B00BDCGZ1W/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter: @JayneenSanders.

Comments

  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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