Be aware of child sexual abuse

April is Child Sexual Abuse Awareness month. It’s an attempt to bring awareness to a growing problem. The devastating effects of this type of abuse cannot be measured. It’s time that we opened up about how to effectively deal with this in a preventative fashion.

My own 7-year-old son told me about an incident, a few months ago. Some boys at his school pulled his pants down as a joke. It embarrassed him and I could tell he was hesitant to tell me. I knew I had to react, unfortunately, I think the process may have made it worse.

While I truly appreciate my son’s afterschool program, there have been some minor issues such as the de-pantsing. I approached the building coordinator with news of the incident. She acted like this was a firing offense and she immediately began to grill my son on who it was.

Mistakenly, I figured there were adequate safeguards for this occurrence. I don’t think so. She convened a conference with the offenders, my son, and parents. This was probably mortifying for my son who knew it was just a joke, but was uncomfortable with all the hoopla that surrounded it.

I truly wanted more supervision in these cases. Reminding the offenders that this was unacceptable behavior would have been OK, but embarrassing my son was not. I just hope I haven’t squandered his faith in me.

Child sexual abuse takes many forms, but all too often it gets hidden. The secretive nature may be one of the contributing factors in the devastation of victims. I try to encourage my son to come with me if he’s worried about anything.

I’ve recently learned about modeling healthy boundaries. Children shouldn’t be coaxed or threatened to hug their relatives. We should encourage alternatives forms of affection such as high fives or even shaking hands.

It’s important to let your children know that they can talk about these issues to other adults. We talk about this with our children because it can be too embarrassing to talk about it with us.

Most importantly, recognize that child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows 93 percent of the time. That’s a pretty heady statistic. More than 50 percent of the time the offender is under 18.

Calmly and gently open up this kind of dialogue with your children and let’s shed a light on a serious problem.

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