Child Sexual Abuse
Signs of Child Sexual Abuse
Usually, one sign alone may not point to abuse; however, if many physical and/or behavior changes are seen, abuse is something to consider. These are just a few of the signs:
- Changes in appetite, sleep patterns
- Change in school performance
- Adult sexual knowledge
- Sexually inappropriate behaviors
- A return to infant-like behaviors
- Odd or unusual bathroom behaviors
- Intense sadness/anger/aggression
- Suicidal behavior and/or talk
- Bloody, stained underwear
- Pain, bleeding in private areas
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Ongoing difficulty sitting or walking
- Repeated yeast or urinary infections
Many children are afraid to tell that they are being abused or do not know how to tell. They may drop hints or make odd statements as a way of telling. These statements or hints may sound like the following:
- “He/She hurts me”.
- “_______ does things to me that I don’t like.”
- “I’m afraid to go home.”
- “I’m afraid to go to __________ house.”
- “I don’t like being alone with ___________.”
Why Some Children Tell and Others Don’t
Sexual abuse is overwhelming to children, especially when someone they trust is involved. Also, children are taught from a very young age not to talk back to adults, to behave the way adults want them to, and to believe whatever adults or older children tell them. In addition, children often blame themselves for the sexual abuse. For these reasons, it is very difficult for children and adolescents to tell about sexual abuse.
Other Common Reasons for Not Telling
- They may not recognize what happened to them as abuse, due to their age or developmental level
- They are afraid no one will believe them
- They are afraid they will be blamed and punished
- They may feel very confused and do not know what to say
- They may feel love and loyalty for the abuser
- They may have been threatened in some way
- An older child may be embarrassed to talk about the abuse and to use words that refer to sexual behavior and body parts
Children Will Usually Tell About Sexual Abuse When
- They learn that sexual abuse is wrong through information and/or programs which leads them to tell a trusted adult or friend
- They become very scared because the types of sexual behaviors they are experiencing get worse and/or the number of times it is happening is increasing
- They may meet an adult that they trust and feel safe enough to tell
What Do I Do Now?
If you would like access to more information on Child Sexual Abuse, please see our Resources page for more information and helpful websites.
- If a Child Tells about Sexual or Severe Physical Abuse
If a Child Tells about Sexual or Severe Physical Abuse
Learning that a child may have been abused can be very upsetting. It is suggested that adults act in these ways:
- Report any suspicion or information you may have about child sexual or physical abuse to Children’s Protective Services as soon as possible. Reporting is important because it lets children know they are believed. It also lets them know that they are not responsible for what happened and that they are victims of a crime. In Michigan please contact Children’s Protective Services
Children’s Protective Services of Michigan’s Department of Human Services
301 East Louis Glick Highway
Jackson, MI 49201
(855) 444-3911 (Centralized Intake)
(517) 780-7600 (Jackson Office)
- No one wants to believe that any child has been a victim; however, believe the child because children seldom make up stories about sexual abuse. If the report does turn out to be false or exaggerated, the child may have a serious problem that requires attention.
- Do not ask the child a lot of questions about what happened. A forensic interviewer, local law enforcement, or children’s protective services worker are professionally trained to ask such questions.
- It is very important that you stay calm on the outside. Feelings of guilt, denial, anger, and/or confusion are normal reactions to have; however, if you have a strong reaction to a child’s report, the child may be unwilling to talk any further about this with you, the police, or a counselor. Also, a strong reaction from you may cause them to withdraw or may increase feelings of shame, embarrassment, and guilt.
- Do not express shock or criticize the child’s family. Be available to listen and remember to respect a child’s right to privacy. Be careful not to discuss the incident in front of people who do not need to know what happened.
- Encourage the child to talk freely, but do not “put words in their mouth”. Do not deny the problem. Do not make judgmental comments and never blame, punish, or embarrass the child.
- Tell the child that he or she is not to blame for the abuse. Most children, trying to make sense out of the abuse, believe that somehow they caused it or should have been able to stop it.
- Offer to protect the child and promise to do your best to stop the abuse. Let the child know that telling you was the right thing to do. Do not promise not to tell.
- Get professional help. Feel free to contact AWARE at (517) 783-2861 to schedule a counseling appointment for your child.
- What Happens after a Child Tells about Sexual Abuse
What Happens after a Child Tells about Sexual Abuse
After a report of child sexual abuse is made, one of these two things will happen:
- If a child has been abused by an adult who does not live in the home, or by a juvenile or sibling, then the case will most likely be given to a Law Enforcement Officer for further investigation.
- If a child has been abused by a parent or other adult caregiver who lives in the home, then the case will most likely be given to a Law Enforcement Officer and a Children’s Protective Services Case Worker for further investigation.
The safety of a child is the most important factor. If the offender lives in the home and refuses to leave or if the non-offending parent/caregiver is not able to protect the child, the child may be temporarily removed from the home and placed in a safe setting.
After the case is reported to Law Enforcement or Children’s Protective Services, a forensic interview will be set up at the Jackson Child Advocacy Center. This is the beginning of the investigation. Once the interview has taken place, Law Enforcement will investigate further and write a report and send it to the Prosecutor’s Office. It is up to the Prosecutor’s Office to decide whether or not criminal charges will be filed. You will be notified by the Prosecutor’s Office if charges are going to be filed. AWARE employs a crisis counselor who works with the Jackson Child Advocacy Center who will be available to assist you in understanding and coping with this investigative and legal process.
- What to Say and Do for a Child After the Abuse is Reported
What to Say and Do for a Child After the Abuse is Reported
- Provide love, safety, and a stable home life.
- Keep the child away from the suspect.
- Let the child know it is okay to express emotions of anger or sadness.
- Let the child know that talking with the interviewer was the right thing to do.
- Do not quiz or keep questioning the child about the interview or abuse. Any questions you have should be asked of the Caseworker or Law Enforcement Officer.
- If the child does not ask questions or bring up the issue, it is best that you also do not bring up the issue or ask questions.
- Do not share your feelings of frustration or helplessness with the child. Instead, talk to someone you trust and/or find help for yourself. You do not need to handle this all alone. Contact AWARE for free counseling at (517) 783-1638 Ext 133.
- Do not tell the child that the forensic interview at Child Advocacy Center is the end of the legal process. It is possible that your child will be interviewed again and may be asked to testify in court. (It is best to wait until you have been notified by the Prosecutor’s Office about testifying, before telling your child that this is a possibility. Many of these cases never require this step, and telling your child prematurely could cause unnecessary stress.)
- If there are other children and families involved in the investigation, avoid discussing the case with them. It may damage all the cases involved if the cases end up going to court.
- Protect the child’s privacy. Neither you nor the child needs to share any information about the abuse with anyone except for Law Enforcement, the Prosecutor, Children’s Protective Services Caseworkers, the Forensic Interviewer and the Child Advocacy Center.
- The single most important factor in helping a child recover is the strong support of his or her parent and/or caregiver.