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Warning signs of child sexual abuse

Watch out for 3 red flags

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Stacy Pendarvis has spent years working to educate parents, educators and children about the dangers of sexual predators and offenders. She has a masters in social work and psychology. She is also a director with the Monique Burr Foundation for Children.

Pendarvis says there are three warnings signs that a child or teenager is being sexually abused.

FIRST WARNING SIGN: ATTENTION

About 90-95% of the time the abuser is someone the victim knows, loves or trusts.

"It could be someone right within the family," said Pendarvis.

That could also include a child, like a cousin or a brother or sister. Many times the abuser is a coach, a friend or a neighbor.

Pendarvis said anyone who is getting too comfortable with a child, giving them gifts or giving them more attention than someone else, could be an abuser.  This kind of attention should be an immediate red flag.

The term is referred to as grooming, when a predator slowly wins the trust of a child by buying them gifts and giving them money.

SECOND WARNING SIGN: PHYSICAL SIGNS

"There could be indicators such as a child who is having urinary tract infections or a child who is bleeding from the genitalia," said Pendarvis.

THIRD WARNING SIGN: BEHAVIOR CHANGES IN YOUR CHILD

"A child that has become withdrawn and doesn't want to talk," said Pendarvis.

If the child or teenager suddenly or over a short amount of time doesn't want to go to school or doesn't want to spent time with a certain adult, those are red flags of sexual abuse. The child may be also having trouble in school or their grades have dropped.

TERMINOLOGY:

Pendarvis warns parents to use the correct terminology when referring to their children's private parts. She said there have been cases of abuse when a child tried to tell an adult someone was touching them inappropriately, but the adult did not realize it because the child used words one would not typically use to describe a child's private areas.

"We call our body parts all kinds of funny names, but a child may disclose someone touched their cookie or their purse and someone doesn't understand what they're trying to tell them," Pendarvis said.

GOOD TOUCH, BAD TOUCH

Pendarvis also cautions against teaching children the words, "good touch and bad touch." Instead, she suggests you teach safe or unsafe, or appropriate or inappropriate touches.

"We have learned sometimes the abuse feels good," said Pendarvis.

"If someone touches you front, back, top and bottom for girls, it is not appropriate and we need to be clear with our children, so there is no ambiguity," said Pendarvis.

She also suggests parents start talking with their children about who can and cannot touch their bodies as early as kindergarten age.


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