Monday, July 9, 2012

Child Abuse - It's time to talk.

Pink Sherbet Photography
Child Abuse

"And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." - Mark 9:42

 Once I got into high school, I began hearing stories of how my friends had been sexually abused.  As an adult, I still hear stories of how those I know have been abused.  Someone I once considered a good friend, is in prison for abusing children.  This is a topic that shoots a dart to my heart and brings out the "momma bear" in me.  *smiles*

In this day and time we must be aware of the warning signs of child abuse.  As caring Mommies, we want to protect our children from inappropriate TV, crude language, bullies, the flu and speeding cars.  But, we must also have our minds and eyes open so we can protect our babies from people who would physically take advantage of them.  

This isn't a topic most Mommies want to talk about.  We don't ever wish to suspect a relative, friend or our husband.  We feel "unfaithful" or distrustful or like a bad wife or daughter if we use caution and stay aware.  Perhaps you've never even considered observing your spouse or relative.  Well, now is the time to think, talk about it and put safety boundaries in place.  Openness and communication on this issue with those who are around your children on a regular basis can be a wonderful way to start!  

Because I respect the privacy and pain of my friends, I will not share the multiple personal abuse stories I've been told in confidence.  You will have to take my word for this - most of the abusers were trusted family or friends.  This is heartbreaking and scary.  Whenever you hear a story in the news, or someone's private story is released via a blog or book, who was the abuser?  Granted, there are those dreadful stories of children being kidnapped, but I'm talking about the children who were abused over a long period of time without anyone suspecting a thing.  We must not ignore or close our eyes to the potential possibility of abuse to our children and those around us.

In our family it's an across-the-board rule - no men are allowed to watch our daughter alone.  No grandpa, no uncle, no friend - no male ever, alone.  Not that we don't love and trust the male's in our lives, but because of statistics and the private stories I've been brought into, this is our choice.  

We don't trust many people to babysit our daughter - if Grandma or an older lady friend are not available, oh well!  And this means we don't get to go out on as many dates - but oh, it's so worth knowing my daughter is safe!  There are plenty of years ahead  and we still find plenty of "alone time" - you can date at home too!  (See Family Life Today's Romantic Nights Kit.)  

I've spoken with a counselor about our "extreme rule" and he feels we are not crazy.  In his professional experience, abusers are typically someone close to home.

If you are aware of a situation involving your children, or other children NO NOT KEEP SILENT.  Allowing a child to be abused in order to keep a marriage or family together - how can you?  A wrong does not equal a right.  A child will NEVER thank you for keeping their abusive father or older sibling around.  But, they WILL thank you for getting them out of a horrible, night-mare situation.

Child abuse should never be accepted - no matter who, no matter the situation. 

Please, seek help.  Find a counselor or legal help.  Below I have listed several organizations who will help you, or someone you know.

May God bless you as you strive to protect your darling babies.

"...Child sexual abuse is most commonly committed by someone known to the child, including family members. In this case, the act may be considered incest. Incest is overt and/or covert sexual contact or acts between people who are related genetically, by marriage, by living arrangements, or in whom a child perceives a trusting relationship, for example parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-parents, foster parents..."  

It can be difficult to recognize when a child is being abused; below are 10 common signs to watch for. Learning these signs and discussing them with those close to you is the first step in breaking the pattern of violence that hurts us all.
  1. Unexplained injuries. Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child's injuries.

  2. Changes in behavior. Abuse can lead to many changes in a child's behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.

  3. Returning to earlier behaviors. Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems may be an issue.

  4. Fear of going home. Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.

  5. Changes in eating. The stress, fear and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child's eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.

  6. Changes in sleeping. Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.

  7. Changes in school performance and attendance. Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children's injuries from authorities.

  8. Lack of personal care or hygiene. Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.

  9. Risk-taking behaviors. Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.

  10. Inappropriate sexual behaviors. Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.

From Parenthood
Signs That a Person Is a Sexual Abuser 
Often after a child abuser has been revealed, those closest to the situation will recall feeling that something was wrong, without knowing how to address it or what to say. Abusers count on this feeling of confusion and reticence to cover their tracks. Instead of remaining silent, parents should learn to question the behavior that produces these feelings. Some questionable behaviors, according to a booklet on child sexual abuse produced by the organization STOP IT NOW!©, include when an adult or older child:
• Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want this affection.
• Is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen (for example, talks repeatedly about the child’s developing body).
• Insists on time alone with a child with no interruptions.
• Spends most of his or her spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with someone of his or her own age.
• Regularly offers to baby-sit children for free or takes children on overnight outings alone.
• Buys children expensive gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason.
• Frequently walks in on children or teens in the bathroom.
Trust your instincts. If questioning these behaviors does not produce change, or if the answers do not seem acceptable, remove your children from contact with that person.
Signs That a Child Has Been Sexually Abused
No one sign (with the exception of pregnancy or the presence of a sexually transmitted disease) is conclusive as to whether a child has been sexually abused or not. Nightmares or mood swings can be produced by other stressful events, including divorce, death of a family member, problems at school, etc. If you observe a combination of signs in your child, such as these provided by STOP IT NOW!, Mothers Against Sexual Abuse and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, start asking questions and reaching out for help.

A few links from the plethora of resources available online...

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