From Enough Abuse Campaign <[email protected]>
Subject Conversation #8: Impacts of Child Sexual Abuse on Children
Date October 17, 2019 4:30 PM
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This is the 8th of

10 conversations

about preventing

child sexual abuse.

Next Conversation:

#9 Internet Safety

Reporting suspected child sexual abuse is everyone's responsibility - whether a
mandated reporter or private citizen. If you suspect a child has been sexually
abused, contact your local child protective services. To locate the child
protective services reporting number in your state, as well as other resources,
call Childhelp at


Thank you for your commitment to

protecting children.


© 2011, Massachusetts Citizens for Children Inc.

Permission to copy, disseminate or otherwise use information from this report is
granted as long as Enough Abuse Campaign/Massachusetts Citizens for Children is
identified as the source.

Children who are sexually abused or exploited often experience feelings of
confusion, guilt, shame and anger about what happened to them. As adults, they
often relate feeling robbed of their right to a safe and healthy childhood. They
describe feelings of hopelessness, difficulty trusting others, low self-esteem,
and self-destructive behaviors. Without help, many can suffer into adulthood
with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, relationship problems,
and further physical or sexual victimization.

It's important to recognize that with support from loved ones and/or help from
professionals many children, adolescents and adult survivors can and do find
hope and healing. However, children who are sexually abused and who can’t tell
anyone or don’t receive appropriate help when they do tell, are at far greater
risk than the general population for emotional, social and physical problems.
When they do face these problems, like all human beings, they look for ways to
cope so they can get through each day and try to lead a normal life.

Some of these coping behaviors may appear to ease the trauma but only
temporarily. Ultimately, they become problems in themselves. Some of these
include turning to alcohol and drugs to help numb the emotional pain they feel.
Some use food to give them comfort and overeat to the point of becoming obese,
often in an unconscious attempt to appear less sexually desirable to an abuser.
Others engage in promiscuous sexual behaviors in desperate attempts to feel
loved and accepted. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study,
these attempts to cope with past trauma are also high-risk health behaviors that
can cause diseases that are among the most frequent causes of death and
premature death in our country, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

To significantly change these outcomes for children, therefore, our principal
goals must be to prevent child sexual abuse from ever happening in the first
place and to identify early children who have been sexual abused.

Tactics Abusers Use to Keep Kids from Telling

Most parents believe that their children would tell them if someone tried to
sexually abuse them. Parents and children with a strong relationship built on
trust and good communication might make some kids feel more comfortable telling
their parents about the sexual approaches of an adult or older child. However,
you should know that abusers often use both subtle and overt tactics on children
so they won't tell and ruin their cover.

Here are some of the things abusers can say that make it difficult for children
to tell:

"If you tell anybody…"
* I will not be able to take you on special trips and do fun things.
* I will not be able to give you any more great gifts, like video games and
* I will not be able to be your friend anymore or be around to give you any
special attention.

* Your family will be angry and disgusted with you. They'll stop loving you.
* You'll get into a lot of trouble with your parents and teachers.
* All your friends will think you're weird.

* Nobody will believe you, anyway. It's my word against yours and nobody
thinks I would be involved in something like this.
* I will be sent to jail and I know you don't want to be responsible for that.
* You know it's your fault that this happened.
* You're in this just as much as I am. I can tell from the way your body
reacts that you like it.

* I will find you and you'll pay for it.
* I just might have to see to it that your dog disappears.
* I just might have to hurt your parents and your brothers and sisters.

Children Rarely Lie About Sexual Abuse

When children do have the courage to tell someone, they must be believed and
supported. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse. In fact, when they do tell,
they often only reveal some of what happened. They need reassurance that their
disclosure won't result in what the abuser has told them – that everyone will be
angry, disgusted or won't believe them.

Often children test adults first to see their reaction. If parents react in an
upset and emotional way or begin questioning the child's truthfulness, some
children will simply recant. In other words, they may take back what they said
or minimize what happened. But that's not the same as lying about it. So if a
child discloses, it's important to stay calm and be supportive. Tell the child
you believe them, it was not their fault, they are brave for telling, and you
will protect them and get help to make sure it never happens again.

So think before you say:
* "This couldn't happen to my child. All the people we know are nice."
* "I don't have to worry. My kids tell me everything."
* "I can't talk to my kids about this. I wouldn't even know where to begin."
* "I don't know what I would do if it did happen, so I'd rather not think
about it."

Use the information in this and previous "Conversations" to get familiar with
the facts about child sexual abuse. Remember: Together, we can prevent the abuse
of our children and give each child the safe and healthy childhood he or she


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