Childhood Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse of children is a devastating and widespread problem in our society. Children are most often sexually victimized by someone they know; often it is someone they know well. The violation of trust inherent in such abuse can be physically and emotionally traumatizing and is further complicated when the perpetrator is a parent, step-parent, family member, family friend or other acquaintance.
Many parents teach their children about “stranger danger.” While it is wise to give children basic safety rules about strangers, the fact is that the vast majority of perpetrators of child sexual assault are known to the victim. It is also important to talk to children about personal body safety, good and bad secrets and what to do if anyone speaks to them or touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
Anyone aware of abuse of a child is required by New Hampshire law to report the abuse to the Division of Children, Youth and Families. This report can be made through your local police department, or by calling the DCYF intake line at 800-894-5533 (In-state) or 603-271-6562 (Out of state).
Signs of Sexual Abuse
- Physical signs of sexual abuse are not common, although redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections or other such symptoms should be carefully investigated. Also, physical problems associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
- Emotional or behavioral signals are more common. These can run from “too perfect” behavior, to withdrawal and depression, to unexplained anger and rebellion. Additionally, sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate can be a red flag.
Be aware that in some children there are no apparent signs whatsoever.
If You Believe Your Child Has Been Sexually Assaulted:
- Obtain assistance for your child, yourself and your family
- If there is an emergency, contact your local police department.
- Under New Hampshire Law, abuse of a child under the age of 18 must be reported to the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families.
- You may want to bring your child to a hospital/medical provider, depending on how recently the abuse occurred, the type of abuse, etc.
- Stick to family routines as much as possible.
- Take time to think before answering your child’s questions. You can tell your child:
- I believe you.
- It was not your fault.
- I’m not angry with you, I am angry with the person who assaulted you.
- Telling was the right thing to do.
- I’m sorry this happened to you.
- I don’t know the answer, but I will try to find it for you.
- This has happened to other children and families.
- We will get through this.
- Sexual assault is against the law.
- I will do my best to protect you.*
*Adapted from NHCADSV’s Child Sexual Abuse Page
New Beginnings works with parents and children to help move past trauma. We provide assistance through support groups and individual settings. Children’s groups may include art, story-time, gardening and other activities to help them return to normalcy. Groups for parents include positive reinforcement, self-care activities and parenting skill-building. Click here to read more about our Support Groups.
New Beginnings also meets one-to-one with children who have been abused, as well as their non-offending parent(s). We are here to provide non-judgmental support, information and referrals.
New Beginnings accompanies non-offending caregivers to interviews of their child at the local Child Advocacy Center. This process can be overwhelming for caregivers, and New Beginnings is there as an extra support; we do not engage in any part of the CAC process without request by the caregiver(s).
Remember, if there is an emergency or if you feel that you or your child’s safety is at risk at any time, call 9-1-1.