Every child has the right to physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing and child abuse is usually a violation of these rights. There are different types of abuse which are sexual, physical, and emotional and neglect however this article will focus on sexual abuse. Sexual abuse refers to a sexual act imposed by an adult or another child on a child who lacks emotional, maturational and cognitive appreciation for sexual gratification of the abuser. That is to say that it is not an act performed willingly or in any form of understanding on the part of the abused.
Can anyone really tell if someone is a child abuser? Most people think one can tell just by looking at a person- it is usually the weird, scary looking people right? This is a wrong assumption because one cannot tell by merely looking at someone. A child abuser can be anyone despite their job, age, gender, appearance and respectability within the community. There have even been cases where pastors who are expected to uphold and embody the highest form of morality in the society have been known to sexually abuse children. We read of law officials such as policemen and judges who are expected to serve and protect the rights of the vulnerable being the very same people disregarding their own laws and taking advantage of children. Fathers and uncles who are meant to protect and nurture their children being the ones at the helm of sexually abusing these children. It really could be anyone.
Child abusers tend to be very friendly, likable and charming in order to win the trust of the children and those around them. They are like wolves in sheep’s skin but if you pay very close attention to their mannerisms you may pick them out and protect your children before any harm is done. Child abusers will find a way to be alone with children and in a position of authority over them for example they will volunteer to babysit or volunteer at schools in a way that gives them access to possible targets. Research shows that 80% of child abusers are people who are close to the child such as relatives, family friends and child minders while only 20% are strangers so it is important to keep a lookout for signs of possible danger to your child which may be even closer than you think. This is not to make you paranoid or overly suspicious of everyone who smiles at your child but rather to make you aware that there is a very present danger and that by paying close attention, you can save your children from abuse. Here are a few warning signs that point to a potential abuser.
- Someone who is overly friendly with children and insists on having time alone with them. This person will often be disappointed or even frustrated if they are denied time alone with the child and this should make you question their motives.
- Someone who showers children with gifts and proceeds to request intimacy through endless hugs and kisses. This is done to gain the child’s affections and to make them more trusting. The person may go on to request time alone with the child. This may not even be an hour. 10 minutes is enough for a child to be abused so try to always watch over your children.
- Someone who plays “secret games” with children is likely to be an abuser. Children are not only abused by adults but also by other children. They may mention secret or special games out loud or whisper to the child. It is important to know what kinds of games they are playing, watch them if possible. Encourage open communication with your child and make sure they are comfortable enough to speak to you about anything without getting into trouble. They should also know to seek your permission before going off to a secluded area with anyone. If they are comfortable speaking with you then they will likely tell you what was whispered to them, “Let’s go play in the back yard. If you don’t tell your mom I’ll give you sweets” so establish trust and open communication.
- This may also be a person who children are intimidated by or are uncomfortable around. They may try to blackmail the child using something they did wrong to gain submission from the child. “If you don’t do this I will tell your mom you broke her mug!” Again, the way to avoid this is to communicate with your child and to be alert when a child gets uncomfortable around a particular person.
- Culturally, adults may call your children their wife or husband. This may be harmless but if you find someone forcing unwanted contact on the child for example hugs and holding hands that is a sign of danger. Pay attention to your child’s responses. It might save them from a potential abuser.
As research continues, we will bring you more information on how to spot a potential child abuser before they can cause any harm. Please share this and help prevent child abuse. You are also free to share your views and inputs in the comments below. Together we can protect our children.