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What We Can Learn from the Duggars

No matter what we think about the story that has surfaced regarding Josh Duggar’s molestation admission, there are many lessons we can all take from this public discussion. This newsletter contains information we all need to know about child sexual abuse:

You are Required to Report

In Nebraska we have a mandatory reporting law. This means that if anyone in Nebraska witnesses or suspects that a child has been physically or sexually abused or neglected, they must report it promptly. If it is an emergency call 911 immediately. If you know it is not an emergency call the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1-800-652-1999.
Unreported or untreated child sexual abuse not only scars children and destroys families, it also leaves offenders free to abuse and cripple future generations.

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. Some forms of child sexual abuse include:
• Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction
• Fondling
• Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor
• Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate
• Intercourse
• Sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal
• Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children
• Sex trafficking
• Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare

Who is a Perpetrator?

The majority of perpetrators are someone the child or family knows. As many as 93% of victims under the age of 18 know the abuser. A perpetrator does not have to be an adult to harm a child. They can have any relationship to the child including an older sibling or playmate, family member, a teacher, a coach or instructor, a caretaker, or the parent of another child.
Abusers can manipulate victims to stay quiet about the sexual abuse using a number of different tactics. Often an abuser will use their position of power over the victim to coerce or intimidate the child. They might tell the child that the activity is normal or that they enjoyed it. An abuser may make threats if the child refuses to participate or plans to tell another adult. Child sexual abuse is not only a physical violation; it is a violation of trust and/or authority.

What Can You Do?

In order to protect your children teach them what appropriate sexual behavior is and when to say “no” if someone tries to touch sexual parts of their bodies or touch them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Observe your children when they interact with others to see if they are hesitant or particularly uncomfortable around certain adults. It is critical to provide adequate supervision for your children and only leave them in the care of individuals whom you deem safe.
Ensure that communication with your children is open and loving so they do not worry about being punished or shamed if they need to tell you something uncomfortable has happened to them. Children need to know that they can speak openly to a trusted adult and that they will be believed. Children who are victims of sexual abuse should always be reassured that they are not responsible for what has happened to them.
Help make others aware of sexual abuse by arranging for knowledgeable guest speakers to present to your organizations or groups. Encourage your local school board to establish programs to educate both teachers and students about the problem.

What are the Warning Signs?

Child sexual abuse isn’t always easy to spot. The perpetrator could be someone you’ve known a long time or trust, which may make it even harder to notice. Children who are sexually abused may exhibit behavioral changes, based on their age.
Children up to age 3 may exhibit:
• Fear or excessive crying
• Vomiting
• Feeding problems
• Bowel problems
• Sleep disturbances
• Failure to thrive
Children ages 2 to 9 may exhibit:
• Fear of particular people, places or activities
• Regression to earlier behaviors such as bed wetting or stranger anxiety
• Victimization of others
• Excessive masturbation
• Feelings of shame or guilt
• Nightmares or sleep disturbances
• Withdrawal from family or friends
• Fear of attack recurring
• Eating disturbances
Symptoms of sexual abuse in older children and adolescents include:
• Depression
• Nightmares or sleep disturbances
• Poor school performance
• Promiscuity
• Substance abuse
• Aggression
• Running away from home
• Fear of attack recurring
• Eating disturbances
• Early pregnancy or marriage
• Suicidal gestures
• Anger about being forced into situation beyond one’s control
• Pseudo-mature behaviors

In Nebraska, we have a network of child advocacy centers that provide forensic interviewing, medical evaluations, advocacy and support, therapeutic intervention, case review and tracking. For more information on their services and training provided go to http://www.nebraskacacs.com/.