Protection, Prevention and Healing: closing the wound of abuse.

In Jamaica we grapple with Child Abuse, rape and molestation on a daily basis. However, once the perpetrator is caught, once child service agencies go home and life resumes for the survivor, what happens next?

My colleague posted this and I thought it was most illuminating. So parents, protection agencies, cotizens, we should make this knowledge about protection, prevention and healing indelible in our minds.
Have a look and consider having a road show and campaign about this.

“The keynote speaker at the OAASIS conference is Jennifer J. Freyd, a professor in the University of Oregon’s Department of Psychology and the editor of the Journal of Trauma & Dissociation.

Freyd and colleague Kathryn Becker Blease, an assistant professor in Oregon State University’s School of Psychological Science who focuses on child abuse and trauma, recently answered questions…about child sex abuse….

What are the top 3 things parents should know about child sex abuse?

1. Most children are abused by someone they know and trust.

2. Sexual abuse that does not involve touching can still be damaging to children.

3. Parents should be prepared for a wide range of responses to sexual abuse. Children often cope with sexual abuse by staying still and trying to block out what is a scary or confusing experience. They may not have words to describe what has happened. Children commonly do not say no, fight physically or report abuse immediately. Parents should know that these reactions make sense given children’s developmental level and experience.

How can parents minimize the likelihood of a child being sexually abused?

Sex offenders target children who they believe are unlikely to disclose abuse, or to be believed. Kids who have honest, open discussions with their parents about a variety of topics, including sexuality and relationships, are harder to victimize.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s publication for parents, “Sexual Development and Behavior in Children,” explains normal and developmentally inappropriate sexual behavior for kids of various ages. NCTSN recommends telling children around 5 years of age that sexual abuse is abuse, even if it is by someone the child knows. Children who have been taught about their bodies and personal boundaries may be harder to victimize, and less likely to abuse others, but ultimately children are dependent on adults to keep them safe.

The Centers for Disease Control publication “Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations” lists specific steps that camps, schools and churches can take. Parents can look for signs that an organization follows procedures designed to reduce sexual abuse risk.

What are the additional challenges or complications when the abuser is a relative of the child?

The child is put in a bind between protecting the relationship with the abuser and acknowledging the abuse. Many children will respond by prioritizing the relationship because they need that relationship for physical, emotional or psychological survival.

If they do disclose (the abuse), there is often another complication: They are at greater risk for not being believed. This can further damage the child.

Parents may need to both protect a younger child who is a victim and get help for an older child who perpetrated the abuse. The family may lose its financial provider. Children may be removed from the home by child protective services. Extended family may side with the perpetrator, potentially disrupting even more of the child’s relationships.

The challenge is to help the child see these real problems as caused by the perpetrator, rather than themselves; that these are problems for adults to solve; and disclosing the abuse allows adults to solve these problems so that abuse stops.

How can parents help a child recover from sexual abuse?

Recovery varies a lot depending on the age of the child, the relationship to the perpetrator, and many other factors. Parents are sometimes surprised that long-resolved issues resurface as children grow older. The onset of adolescence, for example, could cause feelings of vulnerability to resurface.

Having a stable caregiver who consistently believes and accepts the child helps children trust others, feel safe and put their experience in perspective.

What challenges do survivors of child sexual abuse face as they grow into adults?

Adults who work as prostitutes, abuse drugs and victimize others are more likely than others to have a history of sexual and other kinds of abuse. However, most children who are sexually abused do not grow up to have these serious problems.

Many find it difficult to trust others (or trust others too much) and may find it challenging to maintain healthy sexual relationships. Some may worry about their ability to protect and nurture their own children.

The good news is that people can learn new ways of relating to each other. Two good books on these topics are “The Sexual Healing Journey” by Eugene psychologist Wendy Maltz and “Parenting from the Inside Out” by Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell.

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The article is online at:

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