Having to live through sexual abuse as a child is one of the hardest things to have to deal with, and can really impact a child’s life. To have an uncle that you thought loved you so much but then to realize that he loved you too much, and then to have your father loving you the exact same way is not a childhood that brings happy memories. This was not the way I wanted to be brought up, but nonetheless, this is my background. And after this experience it was amazing to see how many other people I met growing up that had also suffered through sexual abuse. It is a rampant crime, and one that is also a silent crime.
Today, children in America are suffering from what we call a “hidden epidemic” of child abuse and neglect. A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. That is hard statistic to acknowledge. Child sexual abuse has been reported up to 80,000 times a year, but the number of unreported instances is far greater, because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened. Not only are children afraid to tell what happened, but it’s so difficult to have proof that most of the time, the cases go unopened and there is nothing that can be done for the children. In this situation, the children are going to be seen as liars and the perpetrators could now be enraged because the child tried to get help. Unless there is visible proof, it is extremely difficult to get out of the situation, which is what happened to me as a child.
The children also have to fight the loyalty and love that they have for the perpetrator if it is someone close to them. Can you imagine trying to tell yourself it’s okay to “tattle” on Daddy because he’s touching you, but you don’t like it? Of course there’s going to be such guilt involved in a child’s mind when having to decide between telling someone and hurting the perpetrator that is also a close person to them.
Child abuse crosses socioeconomic boundaries
Child sexual abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. No one is excluded from abuse. The sad part is that innocent children are being taken advantage of sexually, when their perpetrator should know better. More than 90 percent of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way, whether it is their parent, sibling, friend, neighbor or teacher. And the abuse is longsuffering, causing damaging feelings, thought and behaviors for the rest of the child’s life.For those that haven’t experienced it firsthand, it is hard to conceptualize that it could be happening, but for those that have, it is very real and they live with the effects every single day of their life. Children that have to endure any form of abuse are such strong children, and it requires great effort to overcome the ill effects and turn their lives around.
So what can parents do to protect their children and give them support when it does?
Parents need to be aware of the possibilities of what could happen to their children, and they need to take precautions wherever they are so that the children are safe. There is an internet site that was built to support families all throughout the Unites States of America and to keep them informed about what’s going on in their neighborhoods. It’s called AlertID, and this website is all about reducing crime while improving safety and security for the children, family and communities all over the United States.
This website gives out alerts every time that something happens in your own community. You sign up, type in your address, and up pops all the alerts. There are so many things that are listed for you:
- Sexual offenders living near you
- Public disturbances
- Car accidents
- Suspicious vehicle/person
- Public safety alerts
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 9.2% of victimized children were sexually assaulted. Now this is 9.2% of a total of 754,000 duplicate victims (abused more than once) and 695,000 unique (one count per child regardless of the number of times abused). Parents need to get online and get educated, and keep up with some sort of alert system, like AlertID, so that they know what’s going on in their neighborhoods.
Researchers estimate that one-third of abused and neglected children will grow up to abuse their own children when they become parents. You and I can help in small ways to stop this cycle. Teach your children the proper way in which we need to treat ourselves and others, and educate them on what is an okay for of touch from others and what isn’t. We need to give our children the ability to stand up for themselves.
When you see abuse take place, stand up and do something about it, don’t ignore it or let it happen. If you aren’t aware and working to stop abuse, chances are no one will.
Amanda Hildreth is a wife and mother and defines herself through faith, family, and love of writing. She is halfway through completing a fictional novel about a child surviving through child abuse. Amanda is an advocate for her 4-year-old daughter, Grace, who was born with many developmental disabilities, and will graduate with a Marriage and Family Bachelor’s degree in June 2015.
Taylor Hartman is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University-Idaho with a degree in communications and an emphasis in public relations and family studies. Taylor is interested in communications as it relates to public policy. Taylor and her husband are currently living in State College, PA, doing graduate work at Penn State.