By Stephen Messner, M.D., Medical Director and Chair, The Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Stephanie V. Blank Center for Safe and Healthy Children
One in 10 children will be a victim of sexual abuse before age 18.1
That’s about three children in the average classroom. One child per baseball team. One child per bus stop.
Ninety percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser.2 Abusers can be neighbors, teachers, coaches, friends and even family members—individuals that parents know and trust. While it’s important to teach children about “stranger danger,” the real threat is often much closer to home.
As adults, we increase the risk for children when we fail to face the reality of child sexual abuse and educate ourselves on how to keep children safe. Prevention starts with having the knowledge to recognize when abuse may be occurring, as well as the tools to prevent children from being victimized in the first place.
So, what exactly is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse is any sexual contact between an adult and a child, or sexual contact between two children when one exerts power over the other.
Child sexual abuse can also include actions that don’t involve physical contact, such as exposing private parts to the child, showing the child pornography or communicating in a sexual manner with the child by phone or internet.
To minimize the opportunity for your child to be at risk for child sexual abuse, consider the following recommendations:
Prevention starts with having the knowledge to recognize when abuse may be occurring, as well as the tools to prevent children from being victimized in the first place.
Recognizing child sexual abuse
Take note of potential warning signs:
Responding to child sexual abuse
If a child considers you an adult they trust, he or she may disclose to you that they are being sexually abused. How you respond to their disclosure is extremely important.
Share this information with family and friends and talk about what you’ve learned. By being an example for others, you may empower other adults to take the needed steps to protect the children in their lives.
If you suspect a child you know is being sexually abused in Georgia, contact the Division of Family and Children’s Services at 1-855-GA-CHILD. The hotline can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In addition, you should also contact law enforcement in your county to file a report. To learn more about recognizing and preventing child abuse from the training team at the Center for Safe and Healthy Children, visit www.choa.org/cptraining.
For national resources and crisis intervention, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). To find a local child advocacy clinic in your state, visit http://www.nationalcac.org/find-a-cac/.