Hello, WITS blog readers.
My name is Estefania Rodriguez and I am currently a program coordinator at WITS. I am also a psychologist with a sub-specialization in sexology. In my previous position, I adapted psychological tests on children who have been abused and taught psychologists and therapists new tests to confirm sexual abuse in children. As you can see, I am not only an expert in this topic, but it is important to me. While discussing child sexual abuse can be uncomfortable, all those working with children must be trained and aware.
Child sexual abuse happens more often than we think and in places we least expect.
To talk about prevention is to talk about information, education, and action. We must consider that the responsibility of prevention is on adults rather than children because once they are in that situation, unfortunately, there is not too much the children can do to avoid it. Adults working with children need to understand the facts and the myths, educate their children on body autonomy, and know what actions to take.
Prevent Child Abuse America defines Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) as the involvement of a child (ages 0–17 years old) in sexual activity to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator. This includes both touching and non-touching behaviors.
According to the DEA’s Office of Public Information, in the United States, every nine minutes a child is the victim of sexual abuse. About 60,000 cases of child sexual abuse are reported each year in the United States and it is believed that this corresponds to only 25 percent of what happens as not all cases are reported. That means that 75 percent of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to the authorities. 93 percent of children who are abused know their abusers and they tend to be people close to their family circle.
|Sexual abuse is rare or happens very seldom.||About 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse.|
|People who commit sexual abuse are mentally ill.||There are no set characteristics that define an abuser.|
|All children are at equal risk.||Children with disabilities are 3.4 times more likely to be abused and children of color are twice as likely to be abused compared to white children.|
|It only happens in lower social and economic classes.||Sexual abuse happens in every type of family and social class.|
Three books to teach students about body autonomy.
At WITS, we believe that literacy is the foundation of all learning. By reading age-appropriate books your student can learn about difficult or uncomfortable topics in ways they can understand. Adding these books to your at-home libraries is a step towards prevention.
Who Has What? All About Girls’ Bodies and Boys’ Bodies by Robie H. Harris
For students ages 3-8
A great book for younger children to open a conversation and let them ask questions. This book has child-friendly language and approaches to teach kids about their bodies and the proper names.
I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping private parts private by Kimberly King
For students ages 4–9
This book helps parents, teachers, and concerned adults teach students to know and set limits. It uses kid-friendly language and includes topics like how to deal with inappropriate behavior, where to go for help, and how to deal with guilt and shame.
Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept by Jayneen Sanders
For students ages 3-8
This book tells the story of a boy who is touched by his older classmate, making him feel insecure and unwilling to talk. This is a great book to teach children not to keep secrets, and to seek help when they feel uncomfortable.
Actions Adults Can Take
- Take an active role in your child’s life and know what activities they are involved in and who is involved in them.
- Check the behaviors of other adults. Warning signs may include not respecting the child’s privacy, wanting to be alone with them, or constantly giving them gifts or money for no reason.
- Encourage children to set limits on their bodies and to say no when they don’t want to touch or be touched including non-sexual ways (hugging, kissing, holding hands).
- Talk to children about not keeping secrets so that it is not a weapon against them.
- If you are a parent or guardian, monitor children’s social networks, check contacts and ask about people you don’t know.
- If a child tells you about being abused, stay calm and listen carefully, try not to interrupt, and never blame the child. Thank the child for telling you and report the abuse immediately.
What We Do At WITS
WITS partners with experts from the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center to provide mandatory training for all WITS staff on identifying, responding, and reporting child abuse and neglect.
The Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center is the city’s only nonprofit organization that coordinates the efforts of child protection staff, law enforcement professionals, family advocates, medical experts, and mental health clinicians under one roof.
If you want more information about this topic I encourage you to refer to the WITS blog How to Be Trauma-Informed. For free training with specialists visit www.d2l.org or Simply Safe Kids to learn more.
I hope this information will help you be advocates for students and children in your lives. To quote Martin Luther King: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”