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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Defining Sexual Abuse

I'd first like to thank everyone who is supporting me in this journey. It has taken me quite awhile to gather up my thoughts on this subject, and I'm so honored to have received so much support. My hope is that these posts will bring about awareness, and help. I do know that some of the things I will be sharing might bring unwanted visitors to my blog (via search engines), but in the long run, I know it will be worth it. If you have yet to read the first post in this series, please do so now.

The information I will be sharing is derived from the teachings of a highly regarded National expert in the field, Cory Jewell Jensen, M.S, Co-director of the Center for Behavioral Intervention. I have had the privilege of attending three of her trainings in the last 5 years. I am grateful for the information I have received, and it is my wish to spread the word.

Today, I'll be tackling the subject of what exactly sexual abuse is. While it won't be pretty, it surely is a good starting point.

"Abuse occurs when there is a violation of a trusting relationship with unequal power and/or advanced knowledge, there is a need for secrecy and, there is sexual activity. " (Vandam, 2001).

You may want to read that explanation a few times, as it is a bit wordy. I'd first like to look a bit at what might constitute sexual activity.

Sexual activity includes, but is not limited to:

-Sexual contact between an adult and a minor.

-Sexual contact between minors.

Each state has different standards, but many state that sexual activity between children who are three years apart is considered inappropriate or, if one child engages another child in sexual activity when there is an unequal balance of power or control and/or advanced sexual knowledge.

-Fondling, intercourse, vaginal or anal penetration, or oral/genital contact.

-Exposing children to pornography or using them for pornography.

-Having sex in front of children.

Now I'd like to take a closer look at the meaning of "unequal power".

Some of the obvious things to consider are:

-Age difference
-Size difference
-Intellectual difference
-Being "in charge"/babysitting

Some of the more subtle implications are:

-Strength differential
-Power of popularity
-Self image differential
-Arbitrary labels (ie. Leader, boss, etc.)
-Fantasy roles of play ( ie. King, Doctor, etc.)

Last week, I shared the statistic that fewer than 5% of child victims tell anyone of the abuse. While MOST children do not show symptoms, certainly if children demonstrate any of the following things, get them checked out.

Signs and symptoms of sexual abuse and other behavior requiring intervention:

-change in modesty.
-Genital pain, itching, discharge, bleeding.
-Stomach aches, headaches.
-Sleep disturbances, bed wetting.
-Unexplained fears--refusing to go places or this certain people.
-School problems, peers, excessive crying/depression.
-Clingyness, aggressiveness.
-Escape behavior--drugs, alcohol, runaway, isolation.
-Age inappropriate understanding of sex.
-Overly sexualized behavior.
-Fear touch of a certain person.
-Fire setting.
-Abuse of animals.

Again, none of those symptoms means a child has been abused, but they are each something to take notice of, and look for a possible cause, which might be sexual abuse. The fact that most children don't show any sign that they are being molested is part of the reason it's more effective to periodically talk with children about safety issues and abuse, rather than waiting until a child is symptomatic (which means it's started effecting them enough to overwhelm them).

I'll be delving further into what we can do to protect our children from sexual abuse later in this series. In the next post, I'll begin the process of discussing "who" a child molester is. I'd appreciate some help from you all via the comments section today. If you feel comfortable (you can even make your comment anonymous), can you take the time to let me know some of the reasons you believe someone would molest a child? Just throw some stuff out there, so that I might better steer my next post.

Questions regarding what was discussed today is ALWAYS welcome. I'll be happy to clarify anything that was not clear. If you have the question, chances are...someone else does to. Please don't hold back.

Thank you all, for reading today. Your support is much appreciated.

11 Live It or Love It:

Autumn said...

Another wonderful post Corey. I'm so proud of you for this, it's a hard subject to cover but it's so important.

noexcuses said...

Hi, Corey. I was sent over to you by iheartfaces. I was expecting your post to be about photogrpahy. Nevertheless, I was meant to read this one. It is subject near and dear to my heart.

Thank you for writing. As Autumn stated, it is a hard subject to cover. I will return when I have more time and can read former posts.

The pictures you took in yesterday's post are amazing and exquisitely detailed. I love old things, and I'm fascinated with the particular histories of older dwellings.

Both are great posts!

Gabrielle said...

Wow, tough subject! But, your desire to bring about awareness is paramount! As a victim of this myself, there are no words to describe the grip around my throat when I read the title, but after much love and support over the years it is something I can discuss and help others through. As a former youth leader it was very rewarding to be able to lend some knowledge to kids about how and when they can be easily abused. Some younger teenagers truly believed that if they felt they consented to sexual acts with older ones that it wasn't 'bad' but the condemnation and emotional issues they were having were still the same as if they did not consent. As for as who commits this crime, I have ponders this for years. When I was four an adult took advantage of me and a couple of years later a young teen baby sister who was a boy thought it would be fun to play house.Of course there were not similarities in these two perpetrators that I can distinguish. I have noodled it often and wondered myself, but all I can imagine is that they themselves were also victimized in some way and their selfish pain needed an outlet. I have no idea how my rambling will serve this post, but please know: Anyone who is suffering the pain of this heinous abuse of power, you can heal, you can have a healthy sexual relationship with someone, there is hope.

Bryce's momma said...

One word! Powerful! Congrats on your iheartfaces success.

Al said...

The Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation is a newly formed nonprofit with a mission to help heal and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse worldwide. We are actively seeking adult survivors who would be willing to post a childhood photo and caption, their story, or their creative expressions to our website We need to "show" the world that we will no longer be silenced and that there are enough of us to make a difference. By uniting survivors from across the globe we can help provide a stronger and more powerful voice to those survivors who have not yet found the courage to speak out. Together we can; together we should; together we NEED to stand up and be counted. Please visit our site for more details on how you can send us your submissions.

Thank you for everything you do!

Gretchen Paules
Administrative Director
Let Go...Let Peace Come In Foundation
111 Presidential Blvd., Suite 212
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

Momo Fali said...

GOOD FOR YOU! Both of these posts were excellent and I'm so glad you are sharing this information. It is invaluable.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for providing education. If your sharing helps protect even one child, then it has done its job.

Denise Karis said...

I love that you step out of the blogging comfort zone - so many people dont have the guts to come out of the whole "look at my favorite pictures today" realm and enter the realm of seriousness - child abuse is completely horrible and sadly overlooked - I am beyond paranoid with my child - I wont leave him alone with anyone other than me, his dad or his grandmother - thats it... I think the world is disgusting right now and people are so twisted - I wish more parents would BE CAREFUL with their kids - thats really where it starts - its unfortunate when its a family member that abuses a child because the abuse is within the home - but I think that a lot of it can be prevented if parents know where their child is always and who their child is with - its such a scary scary subject :(

AnnD said...

Thanks so much for doing this "series." As a mental health therapist, most of my lower-functioning adult clients have been sexually abused at some point or another...always by a family member or family friend.

I am consistently digusted by the effects it has on people, more specifically the poor personal boundaries that result in some of the children that have been abused and that those poor boundaries continue often into adulthood and only serve to further hurt them and put them into even more dangerous physical and emotional situations....

It also consistently amazes me that parents continually let their children spend time and spend the night over at other people's house that they have little to no information about! I air on the side of caution and, at this time, can't imagine letting my children spend the night with anoyone other than family right now unless I know the child's parents VERY, VERY, VERY, well...and only after I feel they are properly educated and verbal enough to communicate with me if something were to happen to them.

AnnD said...

And even with family....I am extremely picky! There are family members that will never have her overnight for many reasons!

Christina said...

Thanks for taking the time to write about this difficult issue, Corey. Although I hope it's something that never touches me dirrectly, it's definitely good to be aware of it.

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