With the news of children being sexually abused and even impregnated by adults, including fathers, brothers and even grandfathers, it’s time to once again talk about sexual abuse and why it’s WRONG. The current statistics stand at 5 child rapes PER DAY in Malaysia. These statistics are only considering reported rape cases, and not the unreported ones. Be it adult, teenagers or children, sexual abuse is inexcusable. For an individual to want to partake in raping and molesting a minor or another individual is frankly, sickening and repulsive, especially when partaking in incestuous acts.
As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that our children grow up happy and loved, the right way of course. Even though this is the wish of every parent, some times, it is difficult to ensure that your children are protected and safe from harm at all times. Well, here are a few tips to help you identify and prepare in the event that your child might have fallen into the hands of a sexual predator.
1. Has adverse reactions or show signs of fear towards a person or place
This is one of the biggest indicators that your child might be sexually abused. If your child is very adamant in not being left alone with someone, or being sent somewhere, take note. This might not be them throwing a temper tantrum, but could be them trying to tell you that something is wrong.
2. Become quieter and more withdrawn or secretive
Noticed that your bubbly precious jewel is no longer as happy and talkative as they were before? Be it sexual abuse or other causes, this is definitely a sign that parents should take note of, as it could mean that your child might be struggling with something in life. If you notice that your child has withdrawn from friends and family, and is not keen on communicating like before. it’s time to take note! Even more so if your child shows depressive behaviour. Another note would be if they indicate or show that they have a secret with a particular adult, be it family or otherwise, that they refuse to reveal. This could mean that the person had coerced or groomed your child into keeping the activities a secret.
3. Shows adverse reactions to physical touches
Another sign that your child might be sexually abused is that your child might show adverse reactions to physical touches. For example, your child used to love getting hugs and affection, but have suddenly become withdrawn and dislike physical interactions. When you want to hug them or show any other forms of physical affection, they might lock up or start panicking or act fearful. Should they exhibit these signs, it’s definitely something to take note of.
4. More obedient
If your cheeky little monkey has suddenly turned a 180 and became a very obedient child, there are two possible options – either they did something wrong and am trying to hope that you don’t notice, or they are or have been groomed to be so. By grooming the child to be more obedient, they would have less trouble doing what they want with your precious baby. So this is definitely something to take note of.
5. Change in character or conversation topics
Another sign that your child might have been sexually abused is that there is a change in the way they act. Really, and change in behaviour in your child is a cause for concern. However, for children that have been sexually abused, one of the more telling signs would be their conversation topics and vocabulary. If you notice that your child has picked up vocabulary of phrases that they have no way of knowing on their own, or haven’t been exposed to, something is definitely wrong. This is especially for sexual words and phrases.
6. Act in inappropriate sexual ways to toys or objects
Another way to help identify that your child might have been sexually abused is by observing how they interact with their toys or other objects. If your child is younger, they do not have the understanding on what they are doing, and could just be reacting or repeating what was done to them as a kind of lesson. After all, they do not know any better and could have been groomed to think that it is normal behaviour.
7. Nightmares / Not enough sleep
If your child consistently wakes up due to night terrors, or have trouble sleeping, it could mean that they are undergoing psychological trauma. Be it due to sexual abuse or other external factors like bullying, it is definitely a cause for concern. This is especially crucial for children who are unable to speak out about their emotional stressors.
8. Regressing to childlike behaviour
Due to the emotional and psychological stress that your child is undergoing after being sexually abused, it can cause them to regress to childlike behaviour that they had already grown out of. Some examples of such behaviour are bed wetting and thumb sucking. This could arise due to them not being able to cope with what they are experiencing. It can also affect their development. For example, late to learn how to speak and so on.
9. Change in appetite
Another sign that your child might have been sexually abused is if they have a sudden change in appetite. If your child suddenly shows a disinterest in foods, even if it’s their favourite, it should definitely be a concern. Not only that, due to the sexual abuse, they could be experiencing trouble swallowing or discomfort when trying to eat. If your child shows signs of this, it’s definitely a big sign to watch out.
10. Unexplained gifts or talks about a new older friend
If your child is receiving lots of new gifts like video games, new toys or even candy and they refuse to tell you where they got it from, chances are they are being conditioned or groomed by a sexual predator. Not only that, if they suddenly start talking about a new older friend whom treats them really nice and is being really friendly to them, this could definitely be a cause for concern. You could ask your child to bring them to meet this new friend or try to dissuade them from associating with them. However, if your child has been groomed or conditioned, this might not work as well as your child only associates positive things with that person.
11. Self-harm or random bruises and wounds on body
If you are finding new bruises or wounds on your child that is unexplained, or if your child has taken to self-harm, these are definitely points to take note of. In Malaysia, mental illness is still very much a taboo subject. However, if you feel like your child is suffering from a mental illness, make sure you take your child to the appropriate professionals like therapy and so on. Do not let your pride cost you the life of your child. In terms of sexual abuse, though not as common as psychological signs, the wounds would normally be centered around the mouth and genitals.
12. Persistent pain when urinating or using the bathroom
If your child is having problems urinating or doing their business, visit the doctor! This pain could be indicative of sexual abuse as the abuse could have caused damage to their genitals and nether regions. This is especially so if they are still developing. The forceful penetration that occurs during rape, regardless of age, also results in tearing and pain, which would lead to the pain as well. This sign is the most telling, however, your child might have scared or conditioned to keeping all this secret and is therefore hard to tell sometimes.
13. Sudden and drastic mood swings
When faced with psychological and emotional stress, and they are unable to express or tell someone about this, the frustration eventually leads them to act out. One outlet would be with mood swings. Some moods that they go through include anger, fear, insecurity, withdrawal and so on. Parents shouldn’t treat these mood swings as just your child being rebellious and going against you, as per the norm, especially in Asian families, but as an unconscious plea for help.
14. Leaving little “clues” – Drawings, stories, etc
Be it in their stories while story-telling, or in their drawings during art sessions, if your child displays anything disturbing or suggestive of any psychological imbalance in their works, it’s time to pay attention. Listen to what your child is saying or what they’re trying to tell you. Do not pass it off as your child asking for attention. When the truth comes out, it might already be too late.
15. Thinks of own body as repulsive or bad
With the media portraying their image of the “perfect body”, it’s definitely not a surprise that your child might have body insecurity issues. However, what I’m talking about is something more sinister. Society tends to treat rape victims as tainted and soiled. This impression will definitely affect your child psychologically, and can lead to your child hating their body and thinking of their body that way. If this is the case, it is crucial to ensure that you are there for your child, and help them overcome this psychological damage by giving them the help they need.
Really, the most important thing to ensure that your child stays healthy and safe is to be vigilant. If you notice that your child is exhibiting unusual behaviours, PAY ATTENTION! Don’t pass it off as them growing or their imaginations. A lot of parents refuse to report their significant other or other family members when they are sexually abusing their children as they are worried about their livelihood after. My only question is, why? Is material wealth and being comfortable more important that the health and safety of your child? Is scarring them for life really worth that? If so, why did you even have children in the first place?
To find out more about child abuse and what to do if you suspect a child is being abused, click here.
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