The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 3.3 million cases of child abuse are reported each year. Individual abuse cases that are reported often involve multiple children, bringing the total number of abused children in the U.S. to an astonishing 6 million. It’s a horrific number, but what’s even worse is that the United States is consistently ranked number one for the total number of abused children each year among all the industrialized nations in the world. This proves that abuse occurs among every ethnic group, every socioeconomic level, every religious denomination, and within all levels of education. The industrialized United States of America is guilty of an appalling crime. Different kinds of abuse include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Psychological maltreatment
- Medical neglect
Sexual abuse cases involve nearly 600 thousand juveniles each year, the third most common form of abuse. The signs that may indicate a child has been victimized by this kind of abuse can help parents and guardians act quickly to put an end to it, and to press criminal charges against the perpetrator.
UNDERSTANDING SEXUAL ABUSE
Any sexual interaction with another individual that is not consensual is abuse. People of all ages, races, and genders can be victimized by this atrocity. It is common for the abuser to use intimidation to coerce his victim. The abuser may threaten the child that he will subject him to further harm, or that he will harm his friends, or his family members if he does not do as he is told. It’s common for the abuser to make these threats so the victim will keep quiet. Sometimes it can be years before a child will report the horrific acts to someone who can help. There are ways in which a perpetrator can sexually abuse a child. They may include the following:
- Forcing sexual behavior
- Speaking in a sexually suggestive way to a child
- Exposing genitalia, fondling, and kissing in a sexual way
- Inappropriate touching
- Signs of Sexual Abuse
It is reported that 90 percent of children who have been victimized by sexual abuse were abused by individuals the family knew and trusted. As devastating as it is to know a friend or family member may have betrayed you and your child, the long term psychological and emotional injuries to a child can be insurmountable. Some common signs among young children and adolescents may include:
- Nightmares or sleep disturbances
- New toys or money from an unknown source
- The child talks about making a new older friend
- The child’s concept of self is that he is dirty, or bad
- The development of new phobias that are related to certain people or places
- Drawing or dreaming about frightening or sexual images
- Changes in eating habits including the refusal to eat, and difficulty swallowing
- Acts distracted and distant
- Calls private parts different names than the child was taught at home
- Protests the removal of clothing at times that are appropriate, like diapering and bathing
- Role playing sexual behavior in an adult-like way
- Psychological and Emotional Injuries
In addition to physical injuries a child might receive from sexual abuse, the psychological and emotional injuries can also be painful. Physical injuries can heal quickly in comparison to the psychological damage a perpetrator may have inflicted on his victim. Researchers generally agree that there are four psychological problems:
1. Stigmatization – In 1983 Sgroi and others coined the phrase “damaged goods” in reference to the way a victim of sexual abuse may feel. He or she may feel that they are less pure than they were before, and that they certainly are not as pure as their peers. Victims may exhibit self-destructive behavior like substance abuse and self-mutilation.
2. Betrayal – Children generally look up to adults to provide for and nurture them, so when they experience abuse from someone who was entrusted to care for them they feel betrayed. Behavioral manifestations may include avoiding or manipulating others.
3. Powerlessness – A child will feel that his will is continually disregarded and that there is nothing he can do to change the situation. He may act anxious, avoid others, run away, and have sleep problems.
4. Traumatic sexualization – It’s likely the child will have a warped view on healthy sexual relationships in the future because of the traumatic experiences he/she had when abused.
FILING A LAWSUIT
In addition to facing criminal charges, an attorney can file a lawsuit against the perpetrator for personal injury. Winning a suit can provide the victims and their families with money so they can start to recover and rebuild their lives. When large organizations like churches and schools are involved in a lawsuit it can also help to prevent the abuse from happening to other children.
At Dugas Law Firm we have seen first-hand the damage that these predators can cause. The victims of abuse need to be defended so these sexual abusers do not repeat their sick behavior. WE CAN HELP, just give us a call today for a confidential consultation.