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Child abuse prevention: A personal account

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Victims of childhood sexual abuse often carry physical scars throughout their lives.

Unfortunately, the physical injuries are not the only ones. Victims also suffer emotional and psychological damage that affects health, relationships and success.

Below is a personal account by one of those victims.

I was sexually abused twice when I was a child.

I understand that many cases involve relatives, but that was not my situation.

However, what happened led to dysfunctional relationships with family members that continue to this day.

The first incident occurred when I was about 8 years old. My family was at a social event that ran late into the night.

I got tired and was told to go sleep in the car.

After a short while, a man came to the car and spoke to me through the window. He said he had something to show me. Well, I was an innocent child, how was I to know?

He made me fondle him for a long time. Suddenly, my older sister came out to the car. She asked the man what he was doing in a loud voice and he quickly disappeared.

She then proceeded to interrogate me and generally made me feel as if I had done something very, very wrong and I was terrified that she would tell my parents and get me in all kinds of trouble.

The second incident happened about a year later. My parents had met a man, a stranger to them, at a friend's house. He needed to go into town and as we were headed that way, my dad offered him a ride.

He happily volunteered to sit in the back seat and told me, "Here, you can sit on my lap."

Again, I was an innocent child, how was I to know?

Thankfully the trip was a short one as he made me feel very uncomfortable as he put his hands on my private places under my clothes. At the same time, he carried on a cheerful conversation with my parents in the front seat.

I can remember desperately thinking that I needed my dad to help me, but I didn't know what to say or to do.

Judging from the conversation, dad seemed to really like this man and I had this vague, terrifying idea that maybe this was what good little girls should allow their parents' friends to do.

Throughout my life the memory of these incidents come to mind. I can forget them for a while, but they return with great vividness again and again.

The feelings of guilt and confusion fill my heart. I also felt so much anger toward my sister because she blamed me, and my parents for not protecting me, and for not being the kind of people that I felt free to talk to about what happened.

To this day, I struggle with sexual attitudes in relationships.

Is this wrong?
Is this right?
Is it okay to do this?

And if a relationship goes bad, as it so often does, I only blame myself.

After all, it was my fault when I was a child, wasn't it?

Some victimized children seem to move on and thrive in spite of the abuse.

Many victims, however, develop fears or subtle phobias that they carry into their adult lives.

Far too many develop severe symptoms like those found in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

An evaluation by an experienced counselor or therapist may benefit the abused child.

In 2004, the Texas Department of Family Protective Services investigated 132,000 cases of reported abuse, and 50,529 victims were confirmed. The majority of Texas children identified as victims of child abuse are under the age of 13, and 56 percent of that number were six years of age or under.

In 77 percent of the cases where child victims of abuse or neglect were identified, the parents were the alleged perpetrators.

By the time they are 16 years old, one in three girls and one in five boys will be a victim of sexual abuse.

Most sexual offenders are not obvious or easy to identify. They look just like your mother, or uncle or your sister's boyfriend.