Stories about: Amy Tishelman

Sexual abuse and children: do you know the warning signs?

For the past week the nation’s attention has been focused on the child sex abuse scandal engulfing Penn State’s football program. It’s a heartbreaking story that has triggered feelings of anger and horror in millions of people. It also has many parents wondering about the safety of their own children.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse of female and male children is more prevalent than many people realize and many cases go unreported. Children stay silent about their abuse for a number of different developmental, social or psychological factors.  In some instances the victim is too young or otherwise unable to tell anyone what has happened, and may have some confusion about what has taken place. Other times the child may be afraid their abuser will hurt them or their family if they tell anyone, or they are embarrassed, ashamed or blame themselves for what happened.

As troubling as it may sound, there are also many victims who never come forward because they are protecting the person who hurt them. It’s not unusual for the abuser to have a bond with the child so strong that the victim is unwilling to identify him or her for fear of getting the perpetrator in trouble. If the abuser is a person of high regard— like a respected authority figure, or popular coach or teacher—the victim may think no one will believe the story, or be angry with them for accusing a respected person.

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