By Patricia Gras and Ashley Mancha
In the past week, sexual abuse has taken stage in the news. A popular Penn state coach and the Penn State President were fired for not doing enough about a sex abuse scandal and sexual abuse teen victim Ashley Billasano committed suicide. She was only 18 years old but had lived with the pain for years. There is nothing that bothers me more than the sexual or physical abuse of children. Apparently Billasano had tried to get help but she was frustrated because she was not taken seriously.
Every time I read that a child who has been sexually abused has committed suicide, or started acting out at school or sexually (not uncommon for those hurt by sexual abuse) I keep thinking how my society has failed to take this issue and our children seriously. Then I look at the reaction of about a thousands students at Penn state (a true minority in a campus of 44,000) yet I think. What are these students thinking? A winning Football team is more important than 8 victims whose lives have been shattered for no fault of their own? Surely the coach or the school president didn’t commit the crime. The issue is when someone does not speak out against abuse, or stop it. We are all responsible. One of the most important reasons why sexual abuse continues is that victims and those who know about it, don’t or can’t get the help or the attention they need or they simply become paralyzed with fear and shame .
This is an epidemic we should all be ashamed of! I believe we are all responsible when we can’t or don’t protect a child. It is estimated a child is molested in this country every two minutes!!! One out of four women and one out of 11 men have been sexually abused as children. Most abusers are relatives of the children or close family friends. Strangers are rarely the offenders. What does this tell me? We keep these family secrets as if that is going to make it go away or eventually make things better by keeping quiet. It doesn’t. We need to start talking about this as often as possible so our children feel comfortable speaking out if someone is abusing them.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, please get help. It is not your fault. Talk to someone you can trust. Don’t blame yourself EVER. No child should ever have to endure this or any type of abuse. If you as an adult have any doubts someone is getting abused in your family, or your school or your neighborhood, ask questions, call crisis hotline or your school counselor, the only way we can stop this epidemic is by shining light on the issue. We have to get rid of these dark secrets by shining the light of truth, justice and accountability.
The effects of sexual abuse are devastating.
Depresion, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, propensity to further victimization in adulthood, and physical injury to child among other problems.-
- Sexual abuse by a family member or incest, and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest. Some children who have been sexually abused have difficulty relating to others except on sexual terms according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
- No child is psychologically prepared to cope with repeated sexual stimulation.
- Even a two or three year old, who cannot know the sexual activity is wrong, will develop problems resulting from the inability to cope with the overstimulation.
- If the child tries to break away from the sexual relationship, the abuser may threaten the child with violence or loss of love.
- Sexually abused children may also develop the following:
- Unusual interest in or avoidance of all things of a sexual nature
- Sleep problems or nightmares
- Depression or withdrawal from friends and family
- Statements that their bodies are dirty or damaged, or fear that there is something wrong with them in the genital area
- Refusal to go to school
- Delinquency/conduct problems
- Aspects of sexual molestation in drawings, games, fantasies
- Unusual aggressiveness
- Suicidal behavior
- Overacting sexually
What must be done to avoid sexual abuse or prevent it?
1. Be very vigilant. Pay attention if you notice any child exhibiting classical signs of sexual abuse such as unaccounted injuries, substance abuse, depression, hypersexual behavior or withdrawal.
2. Provide a safe place for the child to speak his or her mind. Children fear they won’t be believed or they will be blamed for the situation.
3. Tell their children that If someone tries to touch your body and do things to make you feel funny, say NO to that person and tell me right away
4. Teach their children that respect does not mean blind obedience to adults and to authority, for example, don’t tell children to, “Always do everything the teacher or baby-sitter tells you to do.”
5. Encourage professional prevention programs in the local school system.
A few years ago we did a show with a sexual abuse survivor. She has the courage, wisdom and strength to speak out and help others in the same predicament.
On Living Smart with Patricia Gras Vikki Bush shares what she had to do to overcome childhood sexual abuse she endured.
- There are also more ways for parents to help prevent child sexual abuse at http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6241177/k.BB0E/7_Steps_to_Protecting_Our_Children_from_Sexual_Abuse.htm
Recent stories(articles) on child sexual abuse:
- The former Penn State Footbal Coach, Jerry Sandusky, who sexually abused children & his friend Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, who knew but didn’t say anything .
- Rosenberg high school student, Ashley Billasano Commits suicide in order to get the word out about being sexually abused.