Child abuse is much, much more common than you would ever suspect. But just ONE adult who reaches out with compassion can make the world of difference. Most insidious and damaging is child sexual assault because damage to the sexual body causes trauma to the emotional, spiritual, social, and physical bodies. Like all abuse, sexual abuse takes many forms, not just the publically acknowledged form we call “rape”. Anything that attacks or undermines the healthy sexuality of a person is sexual assault to the body, mind, and spirit.
To help and protect children we must understand how pedophiles choose their victims. Children are preyed upon much more commonly than adults because they are more vulnerable and because they are whole and perfect. A pedophile is someone who was damaged sexually themselves so they are sexually broken. Rather than seeking appropriate healing, these individuals try to “steal” the beauty and wholeness from the sexual bodies of others.
Children come into the world whole and perfect, with open hearts and open minds. They glow with power and beauty. Even though most people in our culture don’t consciously see this the way I do, everyone registers it subconsciously. Predators see the parts they are missing and try to take them by force, or manipulation. Of course, sexual power cannot be stolen (only earned by loving and empowering others) so the predator breaks the child’s spirit and remains broken himself, only damaging himself further through his cruelty.
The children most likely to be preyed upon are those who have no healthy caring adults willing to listen and talk frankly and honestly about sex. Kids are made even more vulnerable if they are punished for “lying” (see How to Lie and Why You Should) or physically or emotionally abused by parents or caretakers (also pronounced “spanking”, “controlling”, “disciplining”, etc – see How to raise Children). Such treatment leaves kids with no one they can turn to in times of doubt for fear they will not be believed…or for fear the adults in their lives will reject them.
Realize that, like adult victims of abuse, children experience feelings akin to shame, guilt, revulsion and self loathing in the wake of assault. But these kids don’t even have the words, knowledge or resources to sort these feelings, reach out for help, or reason them away. So the pain and damage goes deeper, making the child even more vulnerable to other predators. One strong, kind adult who can reach out to a such a child, even once, can turn this picture around. The crushing spiral of damage and vulnerability CAN be stopped.
Key to helping is knowing the signs and having the courage to act. Adults may ignore the tell-tale signs of child abuse because they are afraid to confront the perpetrator. This is NOT an unrealistic fear. Abusers are usually experts at manipulation and can easily turn the tables, making the hero look like the perpetrator. Moreover, the courts make the process of punishment convoluted and ineffective. The good news is that punishing the abuser is NOT the way to stop child abuse! In fact sending a sexually broken predator to prison is likely to make him MORE of a danger to the community, not less.
When, exactly, has violence, used against the violent, been shown to STOP violence?? Never.
So the REALLY GREAT news is that you don’t need to attack the attacker. What is needed AND most effective is empowering the victims & would-be victims.
Empower kids for safety!
How to Spot Abuse
1. Inappropriate sex play – while it’s completely normal for kids to take an interest in nudity of all kinds, to play with their own bodies AND to be curious about animal mating behavior and reproduction, kids who act out adult human sexual behavior are demonstrating knowledge beyond their years. DO NOT punish kids for such behavior. DO NOT get embarrassed. See this demonstration as a cry for help.
2. Sudden weight gain (or loss) – A sudden change in weight can often be traced directly back to an event of abuse or trauma. Appetite is a funny thing. It often goes haywire in response to stress. People may use food to fill an (emotional) emptiness inside. Or they may exert control over what they eat as a subconscious response to a desperate lack of control over more profound areas of their lives. Neither gain nor loss of weight in children should ever be dismissed as merely physical.
3. Nervousness, anxiety, fear & avoidance – If a child gets stomach aches, tremors, or other physical symptoms when its time to go to school or church (etc) this is a red flag that something very serious is wrong at the institution. Often, predators intimidate their child victims with threats to their parents, siblings, or loved ones. The child may be too terrified to tell anyone what happened or who did it, but they will go to great lengths to avoid being alone with the predator. Please DO NOT dismiss a child’s fear as “normal” or punish them for “acting up”. Always take a child’s fear seriously.
4. Back pain & degenerative bone disease – Many of the victims of child sexual assault that I have treated manifest some kind of lower back pain or degeneration. The symbolic connection is clear: the spine and especially the lumbar region form the foundation of our physical selves. Back pain and disease that persists in young people should always be taken as more than simply physical circumstantial, or random. I have had great results healing such conditions by treating the whole person.
5. Compulsive lying – When children are forced to keep the terrible secret of sexual assault to themselves, their whole lives become a lie. They have to lie to themselves every day to hold on to their sanity. Its very common that these people become compulsive liars. Compulsive lying can be spotted when a person lies randomly or casually. There may seem to be no reason or point to the lies. They may invent tall tales just to get positive attention or they may enhance the truth for no apparent reason. Never punish a child for lying (See How to Lie and Why You Should). Help compulsive liars, child or adult, to seek counseling.
6. ADD, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, Split Personality (a.k.a Dissociative Disorder), and even the more problematic manifestations of the Asperger’s Spectrum – all these “incurable” problems of unknown cause have their roots in child abuse. The trauma caused to the psyche of a child by physical punishment and assault often results in a mind that is “broken” and unable to function with continuity. If you believe in spanking and have a child manifesting any of these disorders, you need to change yourself before you can change your child.
Kid’s empowerment is key to stopping abuse!
How to STOP Abuse
1. Listen & believe – Kids don’t always have the vocabulary to express what has happened to them. If assaults continued over a long period the memories are probably somewhat suppressed. So if a child tries to tell you something about abuse it is likely to sound vague and confusing. You job is to believe them. Your job is NOT to play judge, jury, or detective inasmuch as those are tempting roles. Take any ideas about wrongfully accusing an adult off the table and simply focus on believing and supporting the child. This is how you actually make a difference.
2. Relieve – One of the most powerful things you can say to a child who has been the victim of assault is this, “Any child your age would have done exactly what you did.” Believe it or not, one of the most soul crushing burdens children suffer is the burden of guilt and shame. As obvious as it may seem to you that a child cannot be responsible for sexual assault, victims of all ages suffer from the delusion that they could have and should have done something to stop it. Predators also use the natural human tendency to self blame to keep their victims silent. They may say things to make the victim believe they were voluntary participants, or that they were seducing or enticing the perp. So when you reassure a person that their silence was normal and the best anyone could have done, you lift a huge psychological burden.
3. Answer and Explain – The most empowering thing you can do for your own kids or any kids in your care is to answer their questions about sex and sexuality as simply and matter-of-factly as you can. Children are sexual from the day they are born, but it is a very different kind of sexuality than that of adults. So get over your own hang ups, get some facts and share them with the kids. My studies have shown that the best way to ensure a child will grow to have a happy, well adjusted and satisfying sex life is to answer their questions about sex factually and without embarrassment when they are young.
4. Empower & Support – Talk to kids like they are people. Support and respect their opinions and ideas just as you would an adult. They are only small and inexperienced, they are not mentally deficient. Never teach a child to obey an adult “Because I said so.” Avoid giving too much power to authority figures. Children will respond respectfully to adults and authority when they themselves are treated with appropriate respect. If a child has a “creepy feeling” about a person or a place, don’t talk them out of it. Believe them. Children are naturally more in tune with the unseen world.
5. Affectionate touch – Hug your kids often. Pet their heads. Pat their backs. Kiss their ears and toes. Humans need warm affectionate touch like flowers need sunshine. There is something about kind, respectful physical affection, freely given, that both heals and prevents victimization.
6. Treat & Heal – I wish all counselors were good counselors. I wish everyone working for child protective services actually cared about children. I wish I knew even one other therapist or health professional who could actually heal the sexual body. You have the right to be discriminating when you choose a professional to help your child. And you have that responsibility. I treat and heal assault survivors everyday. I give life, liberty and happiness back to those who have been preyed upon and broken. Please call, text or email for an appointment.
Facts: Of the patients I treat about 50% have signs of sexual assault in some form. Males and females are equally likely to be preyed upon. MOST sexual dysfunction among adults (from lack of lubrication to uterine prolapse, from incontinence to poor libido to erectile dysfunction to cancers) has its root cause in sexual assault.