Child Molestation: What to Look For

The thought of child sexual abuse is so repulsive most parents won't even consider it.

There are, however, certain tip-offs in your child's behavior that would indicate a need to get further information, or check it out with a counselor:

  • Sexually "acting out": sex play with dolls or toys, drawing naked bodies, speaking or acting seductively, or instances of sexual aggression
  • Behavioral changes at home and school, such as withdrawal or rebelliousness, a feeling that "something is not quite right"
  • Sleep disturbances and increased nightmares
  • Bed wetting
  • Clinging fear of being left alone
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Psychosomatic illnesses

If you discover that your child has been victimized, here are some important actions to take:

  • Believe your child. No matter how dignified the accused or unlikely the accusation, children can't make up certain things unless they've been exposed to them.
  • Write down exactly what your child says and include dates. Record any unusual behavior that might confirm the incident.
  • Go to the authorities. School officials, police, or your family doctor are trained in this area.
  • Assure your child that neither the abuse nor its outcome is his or her fault.
  • Offer therapy, but don't insist on it until the child is ready and feels comfortable with the counselor. If possible, choose a Christian counselor who will honor your family's values.

To provide your children with some extra protection against victimization, here are some suggestions:

  • Teach your child to say "no." Sometimes "good kids" haven't been taught to set boundaries or follow their instincts. They want to be polite.
  • Tell your children that if something feels wrong to them, it's okay to make a scene hit, kick, bite, scream or run. You want them to avoid danger by doing whatever is necessary.
  • Give your children a lesson on right and wrong touching. Tell them no one has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, no matter who it is. Major video stores offer free community service videos that teach "appropriate touching."

    Proper words are "No one is allowed to touch your private areas." Don't say, "Never let someone touch you." This puts the responsibility on the child, where it doesn't belong.

Background Information

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