Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sexual Abuse: Who this Happens to, Who to Blame, and Some Prevention Tips

As a past advocate for children and adults victims of sexual assault, I can tell you that sexual assaults happens to all races, genders, ages, etc.  Sexual Assault does not discriminate against one group and not another.  I have many goals in life and many passions, but one of the biggest is getting the word out to children and adults so that Sexual Assault may not happen to you. 

One of the biggest myths about child sexual assault is that it happens by strangers.  This is not the case in 90% of sexual abuse cases.   We teach Stranger Danger, but we need to teach Safe Touching.  This will include strangers and people the children know. 

There have been parents that could not believe their child was raped and they were not told about it.  This commonality is not saying anything against parents, but is saying a lot about what happens during the course of the crime.  A child is told that if they tell, that someone will be hurt or that the child will be breaking up the family.  It is true.  In some cases, a father, mother, brother, sister, etc will be taken out of the home and this will cause an upheaval in the family unit.

If a child tells you that they were a victim, DO NOT start asking a lot of questions.  Let them talk and do not put words into their mouth.  Let them know you will protect them by calling the police, an agency that specializes in advocating for child victims of sexual abuse, and the Department of Social Services or Human Services that works the cases in your state.  Let them know that they did the right thing by trusting you.  Do not make promises such as "You'll never have to see this person again."  Or "They are going to jail for a long time!"  We are never sure what the future is going to hold.

Not all sexual perpetrators are labeled as one (Many get away with it because the secret is never told!).  Watch out for your children the way you would if you knew that there was a perpetrator roaming in the halls of your church (it does happen in churches),  at your family reunion (yes, family members can be sexual perpetrators), or in your own home (friends, family, babysitters, etc.)  It may be a good practice to walk your child to the bathroom at church, to not let friends inside bedrooms, and to make sure a child checks in at a rate that makes you feel comfortable to you. 

I would encourage every person to be aware of their surroundings as they leave their work place, head toward their car, or are walking about town. If you are into meeting people from online, be safe about it.  Do not drive to someone's house or invite them to your hotel room unless you know them quite well.  Do not invite them to pick you up at your house.  There are central meeting locations in most cities, and if your city is too small for that, then it may be safer to pick another city to meet in.  If you feel that something is not right, trust your gut.  

Anyone can be a victim.  Being aware of your surroundings and trusting your gut may help prevent a sexual assault.  If it does happen, it is not your fault no matter what the circumstances are.  It is always the fault of the perpetrator and no one else!!

The analogy that I always used that made the most sense to the victim that I was talking to was, "If I ran outside completely naked, would it give anyone, but the police officer who was arresting me, the right to touch me?"  They all agree that it would not give anyone the right.  If I went outside in the shortest skirt with my cleavage hanging out, it still would not give anyone the right.  It is not about the victim at all, it isn't about the victim being drunk, high, or whatever, it is always about the perp wanting to be in control!  No one is ever asking for it!!
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