One cold evening, I sat on my friend’s bed and listened, as she narrated the horrifying tale of child molestation and sexual abuse in a home that is supposed to be a safe place. I shuddered as the memory of the sexual abuse of a young girl living in my neighbourhood flashed through my mind.
A girl, barely 10 years old, was abused and deflowered. The level of moral decay in our society has grown worrisome. Every parent or guardian must be vigilant and aware of these dangers. No gender is excluded. Sexual predators will do everything to get what they want, hence, we should not relent in preventing and stopping it.
A child who has been molested may be too frightened to speak out. Oftentimes, he or she may have been threatened by the abuser. They may be told that they will be killed if they tell anyone. Sometimes, the thought of parents not believing them and punishing them may make the child keep it a secret.
While a sexually abused child may find it difficult to speak up, he or she will show some signs. It is important to note these signs.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children
- Difficulty sleeping and having nightmares.
- Sudden withdrawal or clinginess.
- Acting out sexual behaviours on toys.
- Bursts of anger and tantrums.
- Personality change.
- Fear of certain people and places.
- Bedwetting, especially when the child had previously outgrown such behaviour.
- Bruises and soreness around the child’s private parts.
- Presence of gift items that cannot be accounted for.
- Genitals, anus, and mouth discharge, bleeding, and discolouration.
- Consistent pain during urination and reoccurring bowel movements.
A good number of sexual predators are relatives and friends. Some of these predators live in the same house as the child. Little wonder why the child finds it difficult to speak up.
What To Do When You Suspect an Abuse
Be Gentle and Prompt
As an adult, you need to understand what the child may be going through. Your first response should be care and concern. Your prompt response to the situation can save the child from more danger. Contact the police and children’s social care immediately.
Showing children that you believe them can make them trust you completely and let you in on all the details of the abuse. While it may be difficult to believe that someone you trust can sexually abuse a child, it is unlikely that a child will make up such a story against an older person.
Although the child’s account may change or claim the abuse didn’t happen, it does not discredit the fact that the abuse happened.
Be Calm and Supportive
Stay calm throughout the process. Do not show anger or distraught. If you do, the child may withdraw, thinking that he or she will be punished. This is dangerous as it may lead the child back to the molester. Show that you understand what the child is going through and support him or her with encouraging words.
Face the Problem Squarely
The adult who tried to molest the child should be held responsible. No matter how close the adult is to you, he or she should be made to pay for the crime. The child should be protected at all costs and the adult handed over to the appropriate authorities.
The child may be feeling insecure in the home. It is important to reestablish safety. Protect the child and assure him or her of safety by using reassuring words. Put in place safety measures to prevent reoccurrence.
We live in a world where the strong prey on the weak and vulnerable. Children are a weak and vulnerable group, and therefore, should be protected. A child is a precious gift. We should cherish and ensure their safety at all times.