How can we support victims of sexual abuse

• We must support and believe the victim when the disclosure of abuse is made.

• We must support and have com passion for other fam ily members who are affected and help them to grieve.

• We must help them gain self-worth and self-esteem by supporting them when they reexperience their personal traumas, and the resulting process of disaster syndromes.

• We must help them shed selfblame and compliance and help them avoid retreating into silence about their abuse.

• We must help them reorganize their lives by supporting them when they vent constructive anger, and in searching for power and assuming control of their lives.

• Self-help programs should be encouraged, supported and funded.

How sexual abuse affects children

• They suffer from depression and low self-esteem.

• They have learning problems, fears, phobias and self-blame.

• They are afraid of disclosing their abuse.

• They don’t realize that abuse is a crime in society and towards a human being like themselves.

• They suffer from nightmares and insomnia.

• Most female and male victims feel a ruination of their physical self.

• They are drawn into fleeting and abusive relationships later in life.

• They suffer from learned helplessness and impotent rage which is sometimes inner-direct ed.

• Their abuse may affect their children in adulthood.

• They may be driven to be abusers themselves.

• They may have suicidal feelings.

• They may have multiple personalities and suffer flashbacks and horrible dreams.

• They suffer diminishment of adolescence.

• They suffer social handicaps and prolonged infantile behaviour.

• They distrust adults.

Characteristics of offenders

• They are usually depressed about their inadequacy with women.

• They feel that they are entitled to love and sex, within and outside their marriages and family structures or as their impulses dictate.

• They are deceptive in that they prey on defenseless, weak and powerless victims to satisfy their supposed needs.

• They are violent individuals and are content to vent their violent personalities in order to feed their abusive appetites or expression of unresolved conflicts.

• They are insensitive to trauma, terror and fear, and harmful consequences of their behaviour.

• They are incapable of human compassion and respect toward their victims.

• They use sexual gratification to cushion the impact of personal emptiness, inadequacy and failure within their own lives.

• They deny and minimize personal responsibility.

• They try to assuage their bruised egos.

• They are aroused to every kind of sexual impulse.

• They have imperfect control of their natural needs.

• Some are past victims of sexual abuse themselves.

How you can protect your children

You can help protect you children from sexual abuse by teaching them just as you teach them about other kinds of personal safety, for example, crossing the street.

• Tell your children that if an adult touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable or confused or if an adult wants to be touched in a way the child doesn’t like, your child should tell you immediately.

• Encourage your children to trust their feelings about people and places.

• Teach your children about the names of their body parts. They need to know words for their genitals, etc.

• Let your children know it is wrong for an older person to ask them to keep a secret about sexual touching; even if that person is a parent, family friend or any other person.

• Tell your children they can talk about sexual abuse. Tell them if anyone touches them in a way they don’t like or understand, it is not their fault, that you don’t blame them and that you will protect them.

• Show your child where to find emergency numbers like the police, doctor and social services.

• Your child should explain to the police or other helping agency about the abuse. Tell them you will help him or her all you can to talk about the abuse.

• If your child is afraid to talk, you can report the incident to the police.

• If there has been physical contact take your child to the doctor—even if there is nothing wrong with the child. You need to know that your child is well.

• If you get anrgy when your child talks to you about the abuse, talk to another adult about it and release your anger constructively.

• If your child needs therapy or counselling, Criminal Injury Compensation may help to pay for it. The doctor’s report will help in this case.