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Moment Of Clarity

The Truth About Child Sexual Abuse

After working with survivors of abuse for 20 years, one thing remains consistent: there are always signs. Unfortunately, many people see the signs but for one reason or another, dismiss them.

Let’s begin by defining sexual abuse. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), it is any sexual contact that is harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare.

Did you know the rate of sexual abuse, in both boys and girls, is probably higher than you thought?

In several studies conducted by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, he discovered that 20 percent of girls (1 in 5) and 5 percent of boys (1 in 20) are sexually abused.

In fact, over the course of their lifetime in the United States, 28 percent of youth ages 14-17 had been sexually victimized. In total, 237,868 people sexually assaulted every year and 44 percent of them are under 18-years-old!

Yep — that’s a lot of boys and girls.

What many people are unaware of is that 66 percent of all child sexual abuse and assault is often at the hands of a family member (incest) or a family friend.

The reason that I raise this issue is because I have seen and experienced firsthand how sexual abuse impacts the life of a child. Their self-esteem drops, they feel worthless, they have a distorted view of sex, and they can become suicidal.

If you see the signs, don’t ignore them. Oftentimes, it takes that child all the strength they can muster to tell someone. Please listen and believe them. If they don’t say anything, simply ask them how they are doing; you’d be surprised to hear some of the answers.

Talking about the signs of sexual abuse is a great way to get the conversation started and encourages children to use their voice and protect their bodies. Giving children permission to speak up is the most powerful thing we can do.

Below are the most common signs of sexual abuse. Please note that these signs do not indicate that abuse has occurred. If you suspect that your child has been abused click here to learn how to talk with them.

Types of sexual abuse that either occurs once or over a period of time and typically escalates:

1)   Fondling

2)   Obscene phone calls

3)    Exhibitionism

4)    Masturbation

5)    Intercourse

6)    Oral or anal sex

7)    Prostitution

8)    Pornography

Physical signs of sexual abuse:

1)   Difficulty walking or sitting

2)   Bleeding, bruising, swelling of genital area

3)   Sexually transmitted diseases

4)   Bloody underclothes

Behavioral signs of sexual abuse:

1)   They report it!

2)   Inappropriate sexual knowledge and behavior

3)   Bed wetting and nightmares

4)   Suicide attempts or self-mutilating (self-harming)

5)   Doesn’t like physical contact

6)   Runs away

7)   Very protective of siblings

Reactions by victim:

1)   Withdrawal

2)   Depression

3)   Phobias

4)   Psychosomatic (headaches, stomachaches, throwing up)

5)   School problems

6)   Anxiety

7)   Guilt

8)   Regressive behaviors (thumb-sucking, baby talk, etc.)

Again, please don’t ignore the signs and if a child tells you they’ve been abuse – BELIEVE THEM!

With love and light … I wish you all safe, healing, and pleasant journeys.

RESOURCES: Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, American Human NetworkStop It Now!, Bursting the Bubble, Love is Respect 

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt "The High Achiever's Therapist"

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at digitalpitches@ebony.com. We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90 percent success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!