Frequently Asked Questions

How should I react in front of a possible sexual aggression disclosure towards my son or daughter?

Knowing that a sexual aggression event has occurred towards a loved one, may provoke intense emotions, such as anger. However, at the time, the affected minor needs unconditional support. Anger and even frustration are valid emotions. Nevertheless, trying to reach calmness is the appropriate response, even though it may be the most difficult. What follows are the most important steps when confronted with a possible sexual aggression disclosure. They do not need to occur in that order, but all must be achieved. Step 1. Remain calmed. Step 2. Believe the minor. Step 3. Alert the appropriate authorities so they can investigate and mention the identified aggressor. Step 4. It the minor’s physical health is at risk, he/she must be taken to medical assistance, immediately. Step 5. Provide daily support to the minor. While the situation is being taken care, his/her life routine will possibly change. There are several ways in which to support the minor. Some follow:

  • Keeping him/her away from the aggressor.
  • Keeping him/her in a safe place.
  • Telling daily how worthy, important, and loved he/she is.
  • Understanding that the abuse event does not define, guide, nor determine the minor’s life.
  • Taking him/her to professional help.

Do sexual aggressions only happen to girls?

No. Underage boys can and have been sexually abused. Statistics related to the number of abused minors have many limitations. Also, in some places, aggressions towards males are not acknowledged. There are several reasons for this, such as:

  • Statistics are based on reported cases. Some research reports have exposed that only 3, out of 12 cases are reported to the authorities.
  • In some regions, sexual abuse towards males is acceptable.
  • Laws that typify sexual abuse as a crime, may vary in different countries.

Are sexual aggressions always committed by strangers?

Multiple studies from different parts of the world indicate that sexual aggressions are commonly carried out by persons known to the minor, generally being a family member or a family friend. Cases of fathers, mothers, stepfathers, stepmothers, cousins, uncles, physicians, sports trainers, teachers, religious leaders; among other convicted of sexual abuse to minors, have been reported.
Research of sexual offenders shows that:

  • They approached boys and girls:
o With family problems. o With little confidence on themselves.
o That were alone in certain place.
o That were very curious (with no healthy boundaries).
o Who appeared to be too unsuspecting.
  • They used the following strategies:
o Attend places where children go, frequently.
o Gain the family trust.
o Take advantage, when a child could get close to ask anything.
o Seek opportunities to be alone with the minor, asking to play, teach some sport or play a musical instrument. This was the most common.
o Appeared to be kind and caring.
o Tell the minor that it is a game or teaching.
o Threats to hurting the minor’s family.
o Threats to say that it was the minor’s fault. It is also reported that once they gain the minors’ trust, they begin talking about sex, invite them to take baths or get naked together, alleging for example that all is a game. Initially, the aggressor would assess the minor’s reaction to the presence of sexual materials using magazines, videos, sexual games, and slightly touching the minor. Also, sexual offenders occasionally would assess how capable children were of keeping secrets and how they reacted, when touched “accidentally”. Reference: 2009. Cantón J. & Cortés, M., Malos Tratos y Abuso Sexual Infantil (Children Abuse and Sexual Abuse).

If I introduce this topic with my little children, will I be taking away their innocence while arousing curiosity?

As children grow and develop, their brain is very active. Through their senses, they receive information from their surroundings and the brain processes it, so it can become part of what they have learned. Information on how they can be protected must be inserted in their information system with the appropriate language. If they are taught fearless and naturally as anything that is part of their daily living, this knowledge should not awaken their curiosity nor will take away their innocence.
An offender, takes advantage precisely, on the lack of knowledge and skills a minor might have, to approach him/her. Children should learn how to proceed in a possible sexual aggression situation. It is important to highlight that teaching a minor how to be protected, does not mean, talking about sex. It means, providing them of safety. o Note: In our workbook, which you can be accessed in the online “Store” tab, we present a section for parents and caregivers about the appropriate language use to introduce this topic to children.

Are people who commit sexual aggressions always men?

No. There is a false perception in some countries that those who abuse and mistreat children, are men. Data shows that women also incur in this action. Once more, it depends on reported cases and cultural taboos in different countries. There is not a unique profile that identifies a person as a minors’ sexual offender. We can only rely on the alert signs. To identify those signs, we must know them.

Is it the mother responsibility to share this topic with the children?

The myth behind this question is associated with a fact in many cultures where the mother is directly responsible of raising her children. These days, many children are raised by other family members who are not their biological parents, necessarily. We have grandparents raising their grandchildren, adoptive parents, stepparents, uncles, siblings, substitute homes; mong many options. The primary responsibility to teach this topic to children relies on whoever is carrying out the raising of a child, be it the biological parent or not.

Even if I am always checking on my children, can this happen to them?

As a father, mother, or caregiver, you might think that your child will never be at risk of a sexual aggression because you know your family well, your neighbors, your friends and your children’s, his/her teachers, and all their surroundings. However, the truth is that risks and dangers do exist, and they commonly occur within the children daily living environment, as researches have evidenced. We all know that no one carries a sign stating, “I am a sexual offender”.
Risks do exist in the daily living of children. For that reason, it is necessary to teach them about those risks to reduce the possibilities of a sexual aggression.

What is the indicated age to talk to boys and girls about this topic?

You should always consider the developmental milestones of your minors and speak to them naturally as if you were teaching other behaviors they must learn such as getting dressed or taking a bath by themselves. Keep in mind that this is a needed protection topic. You will talk about how they will be protected, how to identify at risk situations, and how to respond. What follows are some points to be considered and watched, based on the child’s age.
0 to 3 years of age

  • Observe body changes (examples: redness, swollen genital area, genital bleeding). Ifyou notice any physical changes in the infant’s body, including in his/her privateparts, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
  • Always supervise all the locations where your child visits, such as:
o Relatives homes
o Nurseries/child care
o Park
o Market
o Church 3 to 5 years of age
  • Teach basic concepts such as:

o The five senses.
o Basic emotions, such as: love, hate, fear, happiness.
o The body parts with its adequate names.
o Their personal space importance. It refers to the physical proximity to the minor’s body.
o Begin prevention dialogues. Teach them the following 3 lessons:
  • To say “No” to the people and things he/she does not like.
  • To tell you about everything that has occurred, including if they make him/her feel scared, uncomfortable, or another negative emotion.
  • To say “STOP” to people who invade his/her personal space.
o Note: We propose activities for all we have mentioned, in our workbook which you can access in the online “Store” tab. 5 to 8 years of age
  • Increase the teaching of basic emotions to the following: guilt, calmness, anger, joy, confidence, trust; among others.
  • Review the senses and its purposes. It is through them that children receive stimulus and learn about their surroundings.
  • Review the body parts and how to take care of them. For example: washing them, not exposing them to hazardous materials, covering them with clothing.
  • Develop a home safety plan. Your child should know who to call and the phone number, in the event of an emergency.
  • Teach about specific dangers he/she might face. For example: in the Internet, if other minor or adult asks to touch or look his/her private parts, or a strange person coming close to ask personal information.
o Note: We propose activities for all we have mentioned, in our workbook which you can access in the online “Store” tab.

What are the sexual aggression indicators?

Children sexual abuse is a life event. It is not a psychological disorder that can be diagnosed. The main indicator that children who have been victims of sexual abuse display is age inappropriate sexual behavior. Following, is a listing of some indicators that might suggest that a sexual aggression has occurred, based on the child’s age. Preschool (0 to 5 years of age)
1. Touching or rubbing the genitals continuously or insisting in touching other children genitals, preferring doing this instead of another activity, such as playing or eating.
2. Insists on exposing his/her genitals to other children and/or adults in public, after being told that such a behavior is not proper.
3. Intends persistently or sneakily to touch or see other people’s naked bodies even after been instructed of not doing it.
4. Talks a lot about sex and sexual relations.
5. Intends to introduce foreign objects in his/her genitals, continuously.
6. Asks people to remove their clothes or intends of doing it himself/herself by force. School Age (6 to 9 years of age)
1. Asks to have his/her private parts seen or touched even after having been advised of not doing it.
2. Uses foul language even after been told not to do so.
3. Tries to force other children to take off their clothes to play.
4. Talks too much about sex and sexual relations.
5. Forces other children to sexual games.
6. Draws the sex act of group sex. Pre-teens (10 to 12 years of age)
1. Continuously seeks rubbing his/her genitals against other children, adults or foreign objects pretending to be playing.
2. Slyly of fiercely, touches other minors or adults’ genitals.
3. Harms his/her or other people’s genitals.
4. Seeks playing with children of a remarkable age difference.
5. Uses video games highly sexualized.
Regardless of their age, sudden changes in their behavior should always be observed, such as: suddenly wanting to be alone, fears, continuous nightmares, expressing to be seeing monsters in his/her bedroom, lack of appetite, sudden and excessive desires for sexuality, foul sexual expressions continuously, self-mutilation, wishes of dying; among others that concern you.
These behaviors do not necessarily mean that a minor was sexually abused, but they do suggest that he/she was possibly exposed to an age-inappropriate sexuality, which places his/her at risk of experiencing sexual abuse. If you have noticed any of these behaviors, consult with a professional.
Adapted from: Johnson, Toni. (2003). “Understanding Sexual Behaviors in Childhood” (informative brochure).

Why is it important to call the body private parts by their correct name?

Research has evidenced that sexual offenders change the body private parts names to confuse the children. The following is a hypothetical excerpt, taken from a real case. The real case facts are changed.
An 8-year-old girl was claiming for about one year, that her “lollipop” was hurting her. No one took her expressions seriously and it turned out that she was being sexually abused by a male adult who named her vulva, “lollipop”. If she had said, “my vulva is hurting me”, it could be certain that her situation would have been taken care of much sooner.
We strengthen with this example, the importance of always teaching children the adequate name of their body private parts, as naturally as they are taught the name of the other body parts.

Can a sexual aggression from a family member be overlooked?

No. A sexual aggression is a crime and it should be reported. Trusting the minor is the priority. Even when it might be difficult reporting a family member, that person used his/her closeness to the minor and abused him/her by manipulating him/her, and exercising power and control over the minor. Support to the minor must prevail above any family relation or friendship with the offender, if such was the case.

Is it the boy or girl’s responsibility to avoid a sexual aggression?

A sexual offender is always responsible for a sexual aggression against a minor. It is never a minor’s responsibility. A minor does not have the emotional and cognitive maturity to acknowledge the consequences of an aggression, nor has the physical strength to control or stop it. The person who chooses sexually gratifying him/herself with a minor, is total and completely responsible of involving a minor in a relationship, by exercising his/her power and control to achieve his/her objective. All boys, girls, and youths must be certain that in an event of which he/she is not responsible, will be trusted and supported.

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