Every child in America is vulnerable to some type of child abuse. Today's parents must face the possibility that someone may hurt or take advantage of their child. For example, research indicates that as many as one of every four children will be the victims of sexual abuse.
Almost all of these children will be abused by someone they know and trust: a relative, a family friend, a caretaker, or even a parent.
There are different kinds of child abuse: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional maltreatment.
More on Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional and it includes:
Sexual abuse involves forcing, tricking, bribing, threatening or pressuring a child into sexual awareness or activity. Sexual abuse occurs when an older or more knowledgeable child or an adult uses a child for sexual pleasure. The abuse often begins gradually and increases over time.
The use of physical force is rarely necessary to engage a child in sexual activity, because children are trusting and dependent. They want to please others and gain love and approval. Children are taught not to question authority, and they believe adults are always right. Older children and adults who abuse know this and take advantage of these vulnerabilities in children. Sexual abuse is an abuse of power over a child and a violation of a child's right to normal, healthy and trusting relationships.
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Because most children cannot or do not tell about being sexual abused, it is up to concerned adults to recognize the signs of abuse. Physical evidence is rare. Therefore, we must look for behavioral signs. Unfortunately, there is no one behavior alone that definitely determines a child has been sexual abused.
The following are general behavioral changes that may occur in children who have been sexual abused:
What To Do If You Suspect Child Abuse
If a child trusts you enough to tell you about an incident of sexual abuse, you are in an important position to help that child recover. The following suggestions can help you provide positive support.
What not to do:
Kentucky law requires that any person who knows or has reason to suspect that a child has been sexually abused must report it to local law enforcement authorities. Remember, the "reason to suspect" means you have seen indicators of abuse. It does not mean you are certain that abuse has occurred. Reporting abuse or suspected abuse is actually a request for professionals to investigate and check into the situation.
To report abuse or suspected abuse, call Child Protective Services, 24 hours a day: 502-595-4550 (in Jefferson County, Ky.) or 1-800-752-6200 (for the nearest office).
The Family Place: a Child Abuse Treatment Agency, Inc.
1800 Neville Drive
Louisville, KY 40216
(502) 636-2801 FAX: (502) 636-2857