How to Deal With Sexually Abused Kids
The reality is that sexual abuse (molestation as well as inappropriate sexual exploration) happens much more frequently than we care to admit or realize. It’s an age-old problem but that doesn’t make it an easy one to solve.
Many kids survive without any help at all – with impacts later in life – keeping their parents blissfully unaware of what has happened to them.
Parent’s tend to over-reaction, allowing their fears to drive them and yet they also feel awkward and under-qualified addressing sexual issues so they flounder when it comes to providing effective support. They are not alone, counselors also find this difficult and in some cases do more harm than good. Obviously we can solve all this with a single blog post, right? Well maybe not in one post but at least some of the key considerations can be raised.
SEVEN Facts That Can’t Be Ignored:
1. It’s too early in life for the child to focus on sexual activity – there will be consequences – but since the switch has been flipped, we need to be aware that the child is now different. The child is now conscious of dimensions in life and relationships which he or she had never considered before. The path to such consciousness is seldom balanced or healthy but they’re on it.
2. The child may act out this new consciousness but in many cases the opposite will happen and the child will become embarrassed and secretive about sexuality and intimacy.
3. A simple chat with the child won’t resolve issues, attempts to “counsel” the child can do more harm than good – the dilemma is how do you get to the issues that matter without opening a bunch of new doors and adding information that’s inappropriate. Too much information too soon isn’t smart, while not enough doesn’t deal with the reality of what has happened.
4. The child needs to be able to disclose what happened without fear of consequences and the parent / counselor needs to deal with his or her reactions to what is told with enough empathy to draw out the truth while not super charging the child’s mind with emotion. We transfer our fears and insecurities as well as our judgment and emotions onto children too easily yet that transfer can build a strong and inappropriate response in the child.
5. We tend to lead children in the way we talk with them and in this case it is something we must avoid. There are celebrated child-molestation cases where the psychologists and counselors essentially instructed the children in what to say and after a while the kids had no clue where their recollections came from or what really happened. If there ever was a case, it was destroyed by the counselors. Our aim is to let the child tell us what happened while we listen with extreme care, without volunteering things we expected to happen or reacting to what we are told. It’s the kids story, not ours. If we don’t know their story, we can’t expect to be any help to them.
6. Relationships are involved – sexual activity is now understood as a part of relationships – be it with power persons and the need to please them, or with peers and a new definition of “normative” relationships. Expect kids to be dealing with issues like: fear and uncertainty in relating, the difference between winning approval and being used, sex has now become a relationship-builder introducing new expectations into relationships as the kids attempt to work out how to take advantage of others to get what feels good. Enter the art of conquest in the pursuit of self-esteem and self-definition. The kid is not ready for these relational developments and so inevitably there is a price paid – both now and later in their lives.
7. These issues force kids into developing coping mechanisms. Their choice of coping mechanism may be reasonable for a child (because it sort of works) but guarantee it will be inappropriate when they become an adult. There will be problems ahead in such areas as their values and attitudes towards sex, their perceptions of self-esteem and self-worth. Often there is acting out – I’m a used product now! Pass it on! Never again! There’s the ongoing quest to find “safe” partners [older, weaker, power-played victims, or younger [less resistant] ones.] Trust and secrecy – who to tell / who can know, how to deal with parents and “authority” people. Their perceptions of the same / other gender and their sexual activity are set through such encounters, and we can expect them to discover pornography and self-stimulation earlier than others. There’s a battle raging: it feels good and bad at the same time – - since it seems to please others, it must be good for me to do it, yet it hurt me and I want to avoid it – especially the person who did it to me – but I can’t tell anyone – I was warned not to so I’ll only suffer more – others will think I’m “dirty”. As you can see, this laundry list is endless and messy, it’s complex and difficult to trace, it varies greatly between kids who have suffered abuse.
This list is not the list to end all lists. We are dealing with complex people and complex situations, We are dealing with the stuff that affects relationships and marriages and the way they will treat their own kids. In some cases we are dealing with the beginnings of homosexual orientation, promiscuity and we might even be dealing with a budding Jerry Sandusky who will in time become a fully fledged sex offender. None of this can be taken lightly and it can never be shrugged off while we say, “Kids will be kids!”
What would you add to this list?
Next post we’ll consider some land-mines for parents.
- Here’s How to Help A Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused by Another Child (citesimon.com)
- The Aftermath of Childhood Sexual Abuse (everydayhealth.com)
- Sibling incest: An exploration of trauma, impact, and treatment (udini.proquest.com)
Posted on October 16, 2012, in Relationships, Self-awareness and tagged Child sexual abuse, coping mechanisms, counseling abused children, Human sexual activity, incest, Jerry Sandusky, marriage relationships, self-esteem, Sexual abuse. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.