CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE
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The Secret Storm
“Terrors overwhelm me; my dignity is driven away as by the wind, my safety vanishes like a cloud.”
Nothing penetrates the core of a child’s inner being like sexual abuse. Its long tentacles reach deep within the child … wrapping around the young heart … choking and killing innocence and trust. For many, the terror is so overwhelming that no part of the child’s soul is able to escape its evil presence. As with Marilyn Van Derber years after her abuse, its degrading impact continued to corrode her personal dignity and pervert her perception of others. She, as well as other victims, can truly identify with the suffering of Job: the terror attacks, the loss of dignity, the lack of security.
Childhood sexual abuse is an umbrella term that covers a variety of inappropriate actions with children for the sexual gratification of an older child or adult. Such exploitation is like a violent storm that leaves a chilling aftermath of fear and devastation.
What Is Childhood Sexual Abuse?
- Childhood sexual abuse is any physical, visual or verbal interaction with a minor by an older child or adult whose purpose is sexual stimulation or sexual satisfaction.
- Abuse is intentional, not accidental.
Who Is the Victim of Childhood Sexual Abuse?
A child victim of sexual abuse is any boy or girl under the age of eighteen who has suffered a single experience or many experiences of sexual abuse.
Safe from the Storm
Childhood sexual abuse brainwashes its victims into believing that they are unlovable … or they will no longer be loved if “people find out.” What they perceive to be conditional love buries their secret all the more. Children who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse need not only a physical haven of safety, but also an emotional haven for the wounded heart. Tell them about God’s unconditional love and then be an example of His unconditional love. Help children run into the arms of Jesus to receive His emotional support and security.
What Constitutes Childhood Sexual Abuse?
The Secret StormChildhood sexual abuse is an umbrella term that covers a variety of inappropriate actions with children for the sexual gratification of an older child or adult. Such exploitation is like a violent storm that leaves a chilling aftermath of fear and devastation.
- Abuse is mistreatment: using something or someone in an inappropriate manner.
- Abuse is intentional, not accidental.
- Sexual abuse of a child is any physical, visual, or verbal interaction with a minor by an older child or adult whose purpose is sexual stimulation or sexual satisfaction.
- Sexual abuse victims are boys and girls under the age of 18 who have suffered one or many experiences of sexual abuse.
- Sexual abuse of a child is almost always committed by someone the child knows or with whom the child has frequent contact. Such familiarity sets the stage for a child to be all the more vulnerable to a victimizer.
“Like a lion in cover he lies in wait. He lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.”
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What Is Incest?
Incest is sexual interaction with a child or an adolescent by a person who is a member of the child’s family: any blood relative, adoptive relative, or relative by marriage or remarriage.
“No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.”
What Is the Difference between Molestation and Rape?
- Molestation is unlawful sexual contact.
- Rape is both a forceful and non-forceful act resulting in sexual penetration.
Checklist for Childhood Sexual Abuse
Indirect Sexual Abuse:
As a child, did you experience ... ?
- Voyeurism: being stared at while undressing
- Exhibitionism: being exposed to the intentional, inappropriate nudity of someone much older
- Lewdness: being made to listen to sexual talk or watch sex acts
- Pornography: being shown sexual pictures, magazines, videos, or movies
- Child Pornography: being made to pose for sexual photographs, videos, or movies
- Psychological Abuse: being teased or ridiculed about private body parts, subjected to sexual name-calling, or made to feel like a sex object
"What the wicked dread will overtake them; what the righteous desire will be granted. When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.”
Direct Sexual Abuse:
As a child, did you experience ... ?
- Fondling: being touched, stroked, or caressed in sexually sensitive areas
- Oral Sex: being made to perform oral genital contact
- Penetration/Rape: being forced into unwanted sexual intercourse or anal sex
- Child Prostitution: being made to perform sex acts for money
- Sadism: being subjected to the painful use of objects on sexual parts
- Satanic Ritual Abuse: being forced to suffer systematic acts of sadistic sexual abuse in ceremonies exalting Satan or evil
Why Don’t Children Tell?
For a number of reasons, most abused children never share “the secret” of their abuse. And if they do, it’s usually many years later! Typically, they feel they must protect their perpetrators—or at least the secret—because:
- They feel immense shame and guilt—which is false guilt— assuming it’s all their fault.
- They fear going to jail.
- They feel love and loyalty for the abuser.
- They fear that the one they tell will respond with disbelief, denial, or disgust.
- They feel no need to tell because the trauma caused dissociation, resulting in no memory of abuse.
- They fear the abuser’s authority and power.
- They feel threatened by the abuser.
- They fear what will happen to the abuser.
- They feel obligated to the abuser.
- They fear no one will love them anymore.
- They fear being taken away from their family.
- They feel no one cares because no one asks!
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.”
Dos and Don’ts of Awareness
When it comes to abuse of any kind, too many people become like an ostrich—hiding their heads in the sands of denial. Although tremendously difficult, facing the truth that child abuse has taken place is the first step to healing. Take comfort in the fact that ...
“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.”
In facing the truth about child sexual abuse, know these Dos and Don’ts:
- Do ... Be aware that child abuse is illegal, a crime that must be reported.
- Do ... Be aware that children are usually abused by people they know.
- Do ... Be aware that children seldom lie about abuse.
- Do ... Be aware that most often, physical abuse is violent, but sexual abuse is usually not violent.
- Do ... Be aware that children may deny or change their stories because of fear.
- Do ... Be aware that sexual abuse is progressive and will get worse if not stopped.
- Don’t be in denial, no matter how difficult it is to believe.
- Don’t assume that if it happened only once, it is not serious.
- Don’t minimize the abuse.
- Don’t let the offender go without confrontation.
- Don’t blame other family members.
- Don’t keep abuse a “family secret.”
How to Surface the Secret
Not telling leaves victims of childhood sexual abuse in bondage to “the secret.” Revealing the truth is the only strategy for breaking the power of that secret. The key to opening the hearts of victims is to give them loving care and the tender compassion of Christ. ...
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”
As you seek to surface the secret ...
- Pray for supernatural wisdom from God.
- Provide a safe atmosphere away from people and places that could be upsetting or intimidating.
- Ask, “Have you been experiencing something uncomfortable or confusing?”
- “Has anyone ever touched you in way that made you uncomfortable?”
- Listen carefully, repeat what is said, and ask, “Did I get it right?”
- Be cautious about asking “leading questions,” such as, “Did he do _______________ to you?”
- Let authorities with an expertise in childhood sexual abuse ask most of the questions in order to determine the truth.
- Communicate that you believe the child.
- Acknowledge that the offender is wrong.
- Give assurance that the child is not to blame.
- Confirm that “telling” is the right thing to do.
- Don’t reach out with physical affection unless you ask permission: “Would you like for me to hold your hand?” ... “Can I give you a hug?” Even if the answer is yes, if you sense a hesitation, slowly withdraw.
- Provide a safe atmosphere by displaying genuine love and compassion.
The following statements can instill confidence and build assertiveness in a young heart and help the child to resist inappropriate sexual advances:
- “God loves you and made your body with a special plan and purpose.”
- “If you are asked to do something you think is wrong, say ‘NO!’ even to an older relative or friend of the family. Then come tell me whether saying ‘No’ worked or not.” (Role-play saying no in a firm, assertive voice.)
- “Your body belongs to you, and you decide who touches it.”
- “The parts of your body covered by a bathing suit are private.”
- “Never allow anyone to touch your private parts—unless it is for medical reasons and a parent is present.”
- “If someone tries to touch your private parts, scream and run to a safe place.”
- “If someone touches your private parts and says that it’s okay, they are wrong! You must tell me or someone you trust.”
- “If a person does not stop touching you, say, ‘I’ll tell if you don’t stop!’ Then tell me or someone else when you are safe.”
- “If someone threatens you, do not be afraid, tell anyway.”
- “If you are asked to keep the touching a secret, tell anyway.”
- “If the person you tell does not believe you, keep telling no matter how embarrassed you feel. ... Keep telling until someone believes you.”
- “Pray to have a safe adult you can trust (someone who is not a member of your family) to help you.”
- “If sinful men entice you, do not give in to them.” (Proverbs 1:10)
Key Verse to Memorize
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Key Passage to Read
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