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2011-04-07

Save a child - be alert to signs of sexual abuse

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The month of April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child abuse can be in the form of neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse. With a rising number of cases of sexual abuse in Bandera County, prevention of this heinous crime should be a priority for everyone.
Parents, grandparents and indeed, all adults, need to be aware of the signs of possible sexual abuse in a child.
Signs of sexual abuse
Some of those signs may be:
• Noticeable fear of, and reluctance to visit a particular person or place, especially when that person or place was not a problem previously;
• Unusual or unexpected response from the child when asked if she was inappropriately touched by someone;
• Unreasonable fear of a physical exam (as if they were hiding marks or injuries);
• Child makes drawings that show sexual acts, extreme violence or both;
• Abrupt changes in behavior, such as bedwetting or losing control of bowels;
• Sudden awareness of, and obsession with genitals, sexual acts and words that seem inappropriate for age;
• Attempting to get other children to perform sexual acts.
Listen to the child
It is important to understand that boys and girls are most often sexually abused by adults or older children who are known to them and who can exert power over them.
In eight out of 10 reported cases, the victim knows the offender.
If a child reveals sexual abuse to you, it is vital to take what the child says seriously. Unfortunately, many children who report sexual abuse are not believed by the parent they tell.
When a child\'s plea for help is ignored, he may not risk telling again. As a result, the child could remain a victim of abuse for months or years afterward.
Listen to the child's explanation about the abuse in a supportive way, and don't be afraid to ask questions that will help clarify the story.
Report the abuse
Make sure you report the abuse and help the child to understand that the abuse is not his or her fault. He will need lots of love, comfort and reassurance.
It is not up to professionals or adults who discover concerns for abuse to determine if it is actually child abuse or not. That is for the Department of Family Protective Services, law enforcement and the courts to decide. They will investigate it and make that determination. As concerned adults, it is simply our duty to report it.
Report child abuse by calling the Department of Family Protective Services at 800-252-5400 or go to the online web site at Report Child Abuse ONLINE: https://www.txabusehotline.org/Default.aspx. Those who report abuse are protected by confidentiality.
Information for this article came with permission from the excellent website of Kids' Advocacy Place in Kerrville. KAP is one of 64 child advocacy centers in Texas providing education, assistance and a safe haven. Call 830-895-4527 for more information.