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  • Writer's pictureDesert Bloom Counseling

Unveiling the Silence: 5 Reasons Parents Avoid Discussing Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a distressing reality, with the US Centers for Disease Control reporting that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. Furthermore, 44% of rape victims are under 18. The aftermath of such abuse is devastating, with victims three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide, according to the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN).

Despite these alarming statistics, many parents find it challenging to discuss child sexual abuse with their children. Here are five reasons why:

1. Misconception: Child Sexual Abuse Doesn't Happen in My Community

Child sexual abuse is not confined to specific locations, religions, races, or income brackets. It can occur anywhere, from bustling cities to quiet farming communities. It's a universal problem that can affect anyone, regardless of their background or circumstances.

2. Overreliance on Stranger Danger

While teaching children about the dangers of strangers is important, it's equally crucial to understand that 93% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts. By focusing solely on stranger danger, parents may inadvertently overlook the potential risks posed by familiar faces.

3. Belief: My Child is Too Young for This Discussion

Contrary to this belief, experts suggest that discussions about child sexual abuse prevention should begin as early as three years old. Parents can introduce the concept of appropriate and inappropriate touch, explaining that the areas covered by a bathing suit are private. It's also important to clarify any exceptions, such as during potty training, hygiene routines, or doctors' visits, and to encourage children to report any "bad touch" to a trusted adult.

4. Fear of Instilling Fear

Parents often worry that discussing sexual abuse will frighten their children. However, just as we teach children about traffic safety without instilling a fear of crossing the street, we can educate them about body safety in a way that empowers rather than scares them.

5. Assumption: My Child Would Tell Me if Something Happened

Unfortunately, many children don't immediately disclose sexual abuse. Perpetrators often manipulate their victims into silence, convincing them that the abuse is "their little secret" or that their parents will be angry if they find out. It's crucial to reassure children that they won't be blamed or punished for disclosing such incidents.

The aftermath of child sexual abuse requires a compassionate and supportive response. Parents of victims should consider seeking the guidance of a trained therapist who can help the child communicate their experiences and manage their feelings.

If you or someone you know is a parent of a child who has been sexually abused and is interested in exploring treatment options, please reach out to a professional. Remember, it's never too early or too late to start conversations about safety, consent, and body autonomy. By breaking the silence around child sexual abuse, we can equip our children with the knowledge and confidence they need to protect themselves.

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