“If someone would have talked in school about safe touch and unsafe touch, I believe I would have spoken up as a child and not been victimized over and over again for years, but that day never came, which is why my mission now is to protect children from the childhood I could not be protected from.” ― Erin Merryn, An Unimaginable Act: Overcoming and Preventing Child Abuse Through Erin’s Law
This April marks the official 19th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, hosted by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. In its ongoing effort to stamp out sexual assault, the nonprofit organization leads the way in providing information and tools to individuals, communities, and service providers. The mission of the annual campaign is to raise awareness about sexual violence around the world and to educate communities on how to prevent unwanted sexual contact in any other form. In addition to translating research and trends into best practices, the NSVRC also works with the media to promote informed reporting and engage the public in addressing this widespread issue.
The statistics shared by the Darkness to Light organization are sobering—
- About one in 10 children experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday.
- 60% of children never tell anyone
- Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults occur to children aged 17 and younger.
- Every 98 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted.
- Most sexual assaults happen at or near the victim’s home, often by someone they know, and trust.
- Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults remain unreported.
Sexual Abuse in Children and Teenagers
“Childhood sexual abuse is vastly under-reported, making accurate statistics a challenge. As such, we do not know the precise level of impact it has on our society,” states Danielle Render Turmaud, M.S., NCC.
Due to feelings of helplessness or various fears, including not being believed, being “in trouble” themselves, or bringing repercussions on the perpetrator, many children are reluctant to tell anyone about the abuse. Knowing the perpetrator compounds these feelings.
Healthcare organizations can improve their effectiveness at being a critical link in identifying at-risk children and teenagers with ramped up staff training. By giving priority status to ongoing internal awareness campaigns, these key points can be emphasized:
- Direct physical signs of sexual abuse are not common.
- Some signs are indistinguishable from other symptoms of childhood stress, distress, or trauma.
- Two of the most telling signs are sexual behavior and language that is not age-appropriate.
These signs and symptoms noted by the Darkness to Light organization should be discussed and referenced often with your staff:
- bruising, bleeding, redness, bumps, or scabs around the mouth or genitals
- urinary tract infections
- chronic stomach pain and headaches
- “too perfect” behavior
- use of alcohol or drugs
- falling grades
- cruelty to animals
- bullying/being bullied
- running away
- self-harm of any kind
As explained by Darkness to Light, “Child sexual abuse victims may exhibit a wide range of immediate reactions, both in magnitude and form. Resilient children may not suffer serious consequences, whereas other children with the same experience may be highly traumatized.”
Perpetrator Behavior Awareness
“Most sexual abuse experts agree sexual abuse is never only about sex. Instead, it is often an attempt to gain power over others.” Many times, it’s an adult or older child/teenager attempting to exert power over a child.
Signs from Parent Protect! of this type situation include:
- Something seems off about the way he/she plays with the child
- Often favoring the child and creating reasons for them to be alone.
- Refusing the child enough privacy.
- An insistence on physical affection such as kissing, hugging, or wrestling even when the child is uncomfortable.
- Being overly interested in the sexual development of a child or teenager.
- Insisting on time alone with a child with no interruptions.
- Spending most of his/her spare time with children, little interest in spending time with people his/her age.
- Regularly offering to babysit for free or take children on overnight outings alone.
- Buying children expensive gifts/giving money for no apparent reason.
Training for your staff
Darkness to Light offers a host of training opportunities that address specific areas of this frightening epidemic.
Their flagship program, Stewards of Children, provides in-depth training that teaches adults how to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The training, available in both online and in-person formats, includes skill development in mandated reporting and human trafficking.
The program includes a framework of steps to prevent child sexual abuse and protect children:
- Learn the facts
- Minimize the opportunity
- Talk about it
- Recognize the signs
- React responsibly
Let your commitment to protecting and supporting victims of sexual assault be an ongoing initiative that gets prioritized throughout the year, weeks, and months after the official Sexual Assault Awareness month ends.
Medical Temporaries, Inc., is proud to partner with healthcare organizations whose passion for the health and well-being of their patients is their number one priority. You can trust Medical Temporaries to place the most qualified candidates on your team, because our team’s goal is to be the best medical and dental staffing agency in the greater Virginia Beach area. Contact us today.