Watch for Signs of Child Abuse as School Resumes

August 25, 2009 at 7:35 pm 1 comment

Summer’s conclusion is here, and many girls and boys return to school with some mixed feelings of excitement for seeing friends and new teachers, but also with sadness
at the loss of that easier pace of life.

But for some girls and boys, summer’s end is a time of possible help, relief, anxiety, and a need for careful attention by caring adults.  These are kids who suffered sexual abuse.

A great article posted in Monday’s Gaston Gazette, from Gaston County, North Carolina,
describes the higher incidents of child sexual abuse during summer months, when time is less structured and kids have less access to the safety, structure, and supervision of school days. http://www.gastongazette.com/news/school-37233-teachers-meeting.html
Laurie McClure of Hope Circle and Norma Aguilar-Freyre of Assault and Victimization Intervention and Deterrence, whose centers are often flooded with calls and reports during the first weeks back, make some key points:

  • Often the person assaulting a child is a family member or close friend.
  • The offender’s age is getting younger, now often under 13 years old.
  • Video games are a lure – the child is invited to play a cool game with this older person, usually in a location of a home outside of view of others, for example in a bedroom or den with door closed.
  • It’s important to keep video consoles and computers in common locations, and to have limits and parental controls on pornography and violent games.
  • Some families and certain cultures such as Latinos and other groups with more traditional gender roles send mixed messages to kids: boys are supposed to get experience around sex, girls are supposed to stay away from sex and be virginal. Boys may feel compelled to experiment, and have likely also been abused themselves.  Girls are reluctant to tell if someone has touched them for fear of being shamed.  Thus, parents and adults – tell your child to tell you or a trusted adult if they are ever uncomfortable about someone or around someone.

StopItNow.org is a great resource about ending child sexual abuse.   For Warning Signs, see their list: http://www.stopitnow.org/warning_signs_child_behavior and notice their Safety Plan, something we can all incorporate as a resource with families and children.

On the subject of offenders becoming younger, I was reading this morning about our “mirror neurons” in Mirroring People, The New Science of How we Connect with Others, by Marco Lacoboni (2008).  He explains our mirror neurons and how we learn through imitation – the function of these mirror neurons.  He then describes a range of studies that are convincing in explaining a surge of aggression and sexual violence in youth these past few decades.  Bottom line: we learn by watching.  I’ll get into this in more depth in another post, but it’s SO important to get the message out to parents and caretakers to protect kids from viewing hours and hours of violent games and pornography, especially over time.  There is a direct correlation between what kids see on the game, computer, t.v. and movies, and what they do.

Take care!
~Beth Hossfeld


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. girlscircleassociation  |  August 25, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Thanks for the very important message about the brain and “mirror neurons” – can’t wait to hear more. There has been so much debate about what seems so blatantly obvious. How can viewing all that violence and sex not affect youth? Thanks, Beth.

    Reply

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