We often focus on the victim, but it's also important to look out for signs that may drop hints of an adult indulging in child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse cases have been on the rise and reports of this heinous crime are everywhere these days. The most alarming part is that such abuse often occurs in places that are supposed to be safe havens for children – in school, during play-dates and even in their own home!
Often, we focus so much on identifying the telltale signs that a child has been victimised that we forget to focus on the perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Paying close attention to the people who interact with our children, and closely scrutinising all interaction is key to preventing, or at least, a step to early intervention in the unfortunate case of such abuse.
Firstly, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what constitutes child sexual abuse.
What is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse, or child molestation is when a child is used for sexual stimulation.
It’s important to note that child molestation does not necessarily involve touching. Certain non-touching activities are also considered child sexual abuse and should be taken seriously.
Exposing or touching a child’s genitals for sexual pleasure, making a child touch someone else’s private parts, playing sexual games, engaging in sexual activity or oral sex, penetrating the child with objects, or using the child for pornography are examples of child sexual abuse that involve touching.
Child sexual abuse without touching include things like exposing a child to pornography or explicit content, exposing one’s genitals to a child, taking obscene photographs of a child or watching a child in a state of dress.
When such things occur, the consequence can swing in extremes. The child may display hallmark symptoms of a child who has been sexually abused, such as trauma, becoming reclusive, acting out, harming themselves or having extreme mood swings, just to name a few.
On the other extreme, the child might not even have the slightest clue that he or she is being subject to child sexual abuse. And this is the most dangerous situation!
Signs that an adult might be indulging in child sexual abuse
When it comes to your children, you can never be too careful and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Some of the signs that an adult might be indulging in child sexual abuse generally seem innocuous. This is why it’s really important to be mindful of whom you allow your child to be in the company in, and to always keep a close watch on their interaction.
Here are some signs to look out for:
1. Favouring a child, or being overly affectionate towards a child.
This is a clear give away. If you have a relative, or a family friend who seems to be going out of his or her way to shower your child with affection, money or expensive gifts for no apparent reason, keep a close watch.
While of course they could genuinely be fond of your child, it could also be a telltale sign. If you have other children and someone chooses to make this child feel more special than their siblings, or spends extra time with this particular child, it’s not something you should ignore.
2. Insisting on physical affection
If someone insists on showing your child physical affection such as hugging, kissing, or even playing wrestling, especially when the child does not like or want it, it’s not a good sign. Step in if you have to. Even if you’re unsure of the person’s motive, it wouldn’t hurt to politely tell them not to do so as your child clearly doesn’t like it.
Knowing that you are aware might deter the predator from indulging in child sexual abuse.
3. Ever ready to babysit
Face it, no one really wants to babysit, all the time! If someone seems a bit too forthcoming to babysit your child, even without you requesting, you might want to ask yourself if they have a different agenda. Don’t be too eager to get your kids out of your hair!
4. Creating opportunities to be alone
It’s never a good idea to leave your child alone with anyone, regardless of how trustable they seem. If someone, particularly an adult, is constantly trying to create opportunities to be alone with your child, or take your child out alone, don’t allow it to happen. It could lead to child sexual abuse.
Even if it’s in your own home, do ensure that your child is never alone in a room with someone who could harm them. If they have a tuition teacher or music teacher, it’s best that they are within your sight. You really never know when and how child sexual abuse starts so it’s best to err on the side of caution!
5. Disregard for privacy and personal space
No one should be walking in on your child when he or she is in a private space. That includes when they are changing, resting, lying on their bed or couch, showering or using the washroom. If you notice someone intruding this private space or completely disregarding your child’s privacy, it’s not something that you take lightly.
Likewise, warning bells should start to ring if you notice someone always trying to sit close to your child. If you even suspect that that they are too close for comfort, or if your child seems uncomfortable, do something about it.
On this note, as unfortunate and as uncomfortable as this sounds, as children start to grow, it’s important to be mindful of siblings as well. It might not be child sexual abuse that occurs intentionally, but children start to get curious and their siblings are the easiest target for them to ‘explore’. Set boundaries for your children and explain to them what is appropriate.
6. Talking on behalf of the child
No one has any reason to be talking on behalf of your child, intimidating them, interrupting them or showing any form of control or command over them. As a parent, you should sense something is amiss if this happens. Whether or not it is a case of child sexual abuse, it’s disconcerting and you should take note of it, and act accordingly.
Mums and dads, our children are extremely precious and we must always look out for them. Often they are unaware of the dangers that lurk around them. If we are vigilant enough, child sexual abuse can be prevented by identifying potential abusers.
Don’t be too quick to trust anyone when it concerns your child.
Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore