The very words exploit means to use unfairly for one’s own advantage. Sexual abuse can take the form of child exploitation for example, by photographing the child in a compromising situation, with the intent to either use the photos for their own sexual stimulation or to sell the photos as pornography. It can also mean kidnapping and selling children into prostitution, or even just forcing someone younger and weaker to do your will.
It has been estimated that 25% of the exploiters of children are other children!
When I read the above statistic, I was astounded. Then I started asking questions. Teenaged friends told me about a group of local middle school kids who have oral sex parties after school for money or drugs. Adolescents need freedom, but they need boundaries more. For a free article on setting boundaries, please go to my website http://www.ArtichokePress.com.
The range of abuse is so wide and varied that it is hard to pin down a specific definition that can be agreed on by experts in the field, let alone those who have experienced it.
Trauma May Take Many Forms
The fact is– sexual abuse of children involves varying degrees of violence and emotional trauma, and can be defined in a variety of ways, depending on the culture, context and purpose of the definition. However, the one consistent factor that is always present is that the child does not know how to protect himself when someone bigger and stronger has power over them.
What many parents, police and others don’t understand is that the fear, intimidation and loss of trust are frequently much more harmful and hurtful than the actual act of sexual violation. All these emotional stressors cause confusion about roles, boundaries and sexual awareness.
A child or teen that has been abused sexually will need patience, understanding, support and tools to deal with the trauma. They will need support and reassurance that it is was not their fault and that adults should protect children, not hurt them.
What Can We Do?
Our challenge as a community of caregivers, teachers and parents is to prepare children for any eventuality of sexual exploitation without scaring them to death. We have to counterbalance their natural deference to authority by providing them with a strong sense of what other people should and should not be permitted to do to them under any circumstances. They must know that they will be supported in their efforts to act and speak out against being victimized.
If, for whatever reason, they are not being protected within their own homes, they need to know that there are other supportive avenues of help available. In that regard, school personnel and other adults who have contact with children must be alert to the visual signs and halting messages of children in trouble.
Child victims of sexual abuse can only be as strong and effective in acting on their own behalf as the protective system and the caring adults who are standing behind them. Use your energy to heal, reassure and love the children in your circle of influence.
Sexual Abuse: What is Child Exploitation?
© 2006 Judy H. Wright, parent educator, author & International speaker