What is Child Abuse?
"An adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is performing a criminal and immoral act which is not normal or socially acceptable behaviour.”
It is our view that children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults, and any such action by an adult or older child must be stopped.
Paedophiles or others?
Paedophiles are people who prefer children but there are others that abuse children who are not paedophiles because they take anyone at any age that becomes available.
The name used to group all of the ways predators use to prepare children to become a victim. The grooming process allows predators to desensitise children, preparing them to be tricked into sexual abuse. Children most at risk for grooming are children who have experienced a degree of emotional, social or economic disadvantage.
The effect of Child abuse
The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, complex post-traumatic stress disorder, propensity to further victimisation in adulthood, physical injury to the child, among other problems. Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.
Who are the predators of child abuse?
Do not assume predators are ugly old men. Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; however studies on female child molesters show that women commit 14% to 40% of offences reported against boys and 6% of offences reported against girls.
Our natural instincts can detect danger but overlook charming, good looking, well dressed people who are polite and friendly. Predators come in all forms. They may be respected community members or your next door neighbour and appear to be helpful and trustworthy. Possibly a shopkeeper, or a relative, or the son of a friend who is all too willing to babysit your children. There are others in positions of trust such as the schoolteacher, a child-minding centre, a youth club leader, someone in a religious organisation.
They are almost always men, more often married adult males and they work in a very wide range of occupations. They can work anywhere, however they try to find ways to be around children. They try to avoid detection in their normal job by taking a voluntary job or paid weekend position as a sports coach, day-care worker, church or secular youth worker; anything that can provide the contact with children they need. Some well-known paedophiles have placed themselves as teachers or leaders of artistic bodies such as dance schools, where they are surrounded by vulnerable children. Some become music or singing teachers giving private lessons
Child abuse within the family is usually an adult male such as the father, stepfather, uncle, grandfather or live-in boyfriend of the mother. Single mothers are used by predators whose real intention is to abuse her child, while pretending to in love with the mother. (Sometimes the mother becomes aware of this but chooses to allow it to happen to maintain her relationship. In such cases abused children may only be found by other relatives, or teachers
Tactics of the Perpetrator on the child
- Paying attention and being overly kind to a child who appears emotionally needy
- “Accidentally” exposing themselves by coming out of the bathroom, wearing shorts that allow a view of the genitals, openly praising nudity as “normal,” etc.
- Giving gifts or money, providing alcohol or drugs
- Engaging in physical contact such as cuddling, wrestling, tickling, pats on the bottom, etc.
- Showing adult magazines or films, letting the child know they can come to them for sexual information or concerns
- Talk to them about sex and show them explicit sex videos
- Telling the child that they need to examine the child’s body for some reason
- Asking questions about the child’s sexual development, fantasies, masturbation habits, or giving the child more information about sex than is appropriate for the child’s age or developmental level.
- Staring at the child or looking at his/her body and saying how beautiful they are.
- Explain why they need to keep secrets (details of techniques restricted)
- Takes photographs or videos and have them act roles in fun games.
How to recognise predators and some tactics they use
(Of course some people are naturally nice to children so use your instinct and you will soon know if you pay attention to the signs)
- Relates better to children than to adults
- Few adult friends
- Prefers children in one specific age group, such as infants and toddlers, children between six and ten year’s old, or young teenagers up to the age of 16.
- Invites children over to watch movies, or to eat and offers to take them on trips
- Invites more than one child
- "Love words" to children, speaking to them in a manner that seems over the top. (Darling, sweetheart, lovely boy give me a hug)
- Often around when they return from school to “say hello” and to give them a treat
- Touches the children in playful ways
- Loves taking photographs or videos and having the children pose
- Buys presents often
- Always available to babysit and unwilling to accept payment.
- Becomes a role model male “uncle” for a single mother
- Whispers to them things you can’t hear and they all laugh
What to look for from your younger children
- Child does not want to be around certain adults
- Doesn’t’ want to go outside
- Child suddenly acquires new unexplained toys, money and clothes
- Regressive behaviours (thumb sucking, bed wetting)
- Becomes close to you as if seeking protection but is unusually quiet
- Fear of previously enjoyed people and places
- Engaging in acting out or delinquent behaviours.
What to look for from your older children
The grooming process may vary but there are some common signs to look out for if you think a child may be being groomed: Note: This hard because pads and phone are more often used these days.
- Aggressive and secretive behaviour when questioned about their online activities – this may seem typical of teenagers but when it is outside the child’s normal behavioural pattern, it may be an indication that they are being manipulated by an offender online.
- Ask you to respect their privacy and, or switch pages if you enter their room. Perhaps changing the room layout to make sure the computer screen doesn’t face the door.
- Unexplained gifts or cash – these could be both tangible and virtual gifts, perhaps given as a gesture of friendship or as payment for some behaviour on the child’s part.
- Change in the use of sexual language – as part of the grooming process, predators introduce sex by showing the child adult pornography then child pornography to show how children love sex and may even ask the child to produce their own child pornography.
These signs may not be a result of online grooming, but may be evidence your child is not in a safe place online.
How do we approach our children when we suspect they may be in danger?
The most important thing to do is to become a little bit old fashioned and talk to your children. Modern families are drifting apart and instead of talking we watch TV or check our phones for messages, or chat on line and see how many likes we got and so on. We never ever seem to open ourselves for intelligent discussion.
There are really a lot of things children need to know but usually they get bits and pieces from friends with the same age and experience that comes with it or by searching on line. The Internet doesn’t have the same response as a parent who knows from experience just what children need to know.
It might take a while for and your family to get used to ‘talking’ but it will be worthwhile. Even when you ask a question that might a be problem for them they will not answer correctly and you will know but later you will ask them another way. Sometimes you can gain valuable information from their school by dropping in and saying hello. how pleased you are with the school. Ask the school to keep you informed and if there is anything you can assist them with. You never tell them you heard they had a drug problem but you could say that you heard another local school had problems and have they noticed anything.
Jane's Team advises that the very best time to talk about such things is when there is publicity about a child who is missing, or of one that has been abused. Simply ask you child what they think happened to that child. This simple approach removes the discussion from being about your child to about a third person and brings the discussion to a different level. You need to start the conversation, with a simple "Oh how terrible! Did you hear about...?" You need not push for anwers as your concern for the other child indicates to your child that such things are important. Keep doing this from time to time and soon there will be a meaningful dicussion.
We never tell our readers or clients what to do but we provide information to enable you to make your own decisions. Our generalisations cannot fit every situation so please adjust accordingly. (A young child needs different words than a teenager). Your reaction to your discovery and the eventual disclosure plays an important role in the beginning of the healing process for the child. Resist the urge to react strongly to the information or display anger toward the abuser. Instead, consider ways to protect your child. Most importantly try to get the whole story before you take action. In some cases you might be able to resolve it with a few strategic moves but in others you might find it necessary to seek professional help and protection
Do talk to your children about cases that make headlines when a child is abducted, or is missing and later found dead. This gives you an opportunity to explain that some persons who seem nice are really bad people. (“Oh Grandmother what big eyes you have” said Little Red Riding Hood to the big bad wolf disguised as her grandmother). Ask questions like “Have you seen any drugs being used at school?” You may find that a matter of fact question like that will usually be answered. “Oh Yeah! Quite a lot actually
Young children are easier to engage. Important you ask them how they enjoyed visiting ‘the neighbour (or whatever) and casually “ask what did you guys do?”. Just keep probing little bits and pieces. Or if it’s a baby sitter ask how the baby sitter helped them get to bed on time and so on.
With the older children (especially teenagers) we believe it better that you talk to them about cyber bullying first and for that please look at our i–safe post on cyber bullying