Signs and Symptoms of Abuse
The presence of one or even many of these signs does not necessarily mean the child has been abused. If you feel that your child could be a victim, contact the DCFS hotline, law enforcement or call the Center to discuss your concerns.
- Heightened fear or anxiety
- Increased tearfulness, crying, clinginess
- Changes in sleeping patterns such as nightmares, bedwetting, fear of going to bed
- Changes in appetite
- Withdrawal from usual activities and friends
- Changes in school performance, attention span, loss of interest
- Nausea, upset stomach or frequent stomach aches
- Sexual language and sexual behaviors “too old” for child’s age.
Children react differently to abuse depending on age, extent of abuse, support from others and their relationship with the offender. If you are torn between loyalty to your child and loyalty to the offender, find a professional such as a therapist, counselor, or minister to help you sort out your feelings. Make sure your child knows that he/she is number one priority!
What Offenders Do
People who abuse children come from all economic, ethnic, social and educational backgrounds. According to research, 80% of all sexual abuse of children is perpetrated by someone the child knows. Many abusers are trusted and loved by the child.
You cannot recognize abusers by their appearance. Abusers may be married and have children, may have criminal record, or may be outstanding citizens. Sometimes children are sexually abused by other children. Sometimes sexual contact between kids is simply curiosity, but when one child is much older than the other, or the behavior seems unusually abusive or adult like; INTERVENE.
Offenders use many tactics to gain access to children. They;
- Seek out an approachable child who is easy to get to.
- Establish relationship with child by buying them games or presents, becoming their best buddy, volunteering to babysit often
- Break down child’s resistance to touch by playing frequent touching games, wrestling, tickling, etc. As a result the children become confused when the touch becomes sexual.
- Blame the child and persuade them to keep the secret by making them feel responsible. They tell them that they’re “special” or tell them that someone will get hurt or mad if the child tells.