Today is April 26. Only four more days and this month is over. Only four more days that we are asked to recognize Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month. Phew! We don’t have to think about that awful topic for another year. Once May hits we can think about Cinco de Mayo, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Wikipedia lists 11 organizations or groups that designate May as their awareness month. That gives us quite a variety of places to focus our attention.
I must agree that Memorial Day is a big day at our house. We have an annual celebration for the start of summer that we begin preparing for in early May. I also agree that other groups, such as Cystic Fibrosis and Multiple Sclerosis, deserve to have a month directing attention to their cause.
Here is the point I want to share. The purpose of the designated month is to create awareness, raise a few eyebrows, and propel people into action. This does not mean that when the last day of April comes we drop it and move on. Preventing child sexual abuse needs to be a year long, lifelong pursuit and having awareness is the perfect way to keep working at prevention all year.
These few tips will heighten your awareness and help you protect a child:
· Most children are NOT abused by strangers, 90% are abused by someone they know and trust. If you have a child or are with children that means you probably know the perpetrator too.
· There are signs of inappropriate behaviors in adults that should be a red flag. Here are just a few:
Ø They prefer to be around children more than adults
Ø They don’t respect boundaries or personal space
Ø They share secrets, texts, gifts, phone calls and internet connections with children
Ø They allow children to get away with inappropriate behaviors
Ø They are “too good to be true” i.e. Offering free babysitting or vacations with children.
· There are many symptoms in children that they are being abused. A few are:
Ø Frequent nightmares or sleep problems
Ø Being unusually distracted or distant
Ø Changing moods, behaviors or eating habits
Ø Talking about an older new friend
Ø Having unexplained gifts or money
· You don’t need hard evidence to report abuse. If you suspect a child is being abused report it. It is up to the professionals to determine if the abuse is really happening. You can call the Department of Children and Families or your local Police Department.
For more information on signs in adults and symptoms in children go to www.StopItNow.org. You can also call the Stop It Now! Helpline at 1.888.PREVENT for guidance and answers to your questions. If you are not ready to talk with a person check out their newest site, Ask Now! and read questions others have asked the Helpline and the answers they provided.
By having an awareness of the signs of abuse you will have the tools to protect a child before they are harmed.
Together we can prevent child sexual abuse long after April 30th. It should be a year long, lifelong commitment. Imagine if you prevented one child from the pain and scars of sexual abuse just by making yourself aware of the signs, symptoms and ways to take action. Roberta