Pedophilia is a crime involving sexual intercourse or committing other sexual activities with a minor (according to the Polish criminal code, it is a person under the age of 15). Therefore, it will be a pedophilic act to obtain sexual satisfaction through, among others: sexual intercourse with a child, touching the child’s genitals, or forcing him to touch the genitals of adults. It can also be forcing children to have sexual contact with each other. It is worth noting that a pedophilic act is not only sexual contact with a child, but also abuses in the form of showing the child the sexual organs of adults, showing pornographic materials, masturbating with the child, as well as watching the child naked (including photographing / recording him). Research shows that the most common perpetrators of pedophilic acts are people from the closest environment – those that the child knows very well, e.g. uncles or family friends.
What Indicates Child Sexual Abuse?
The most obvious signs are venereal diseases, pregnancy and sperm (in body orifices, on the body, on clothes). Any abrasions, scrapes and bruises should also cause immediate reaction. If such injuries appear to the neck, arms, wrists, and legs around the ankles, it should be considered of particular concern. Girls may also experience vaginal bleeding, swelling and abrasions to the labia. Often, children are unable to explain to their parents what exactly happened and how the above-mentioned injuries appeared. In such situations, you should immediately contact a doctor and a psychologist – sexologist.
Changes in the child's behavior
You should also look out for sudden changes in your baby’s behavior, such as:
- aversion to a specific person, sudden fear of that person or of specific situations (e.g. extracurricular activities) or places;
- sleep disturbances, nightmares, waking up at night, bedwetting (once your baby has gained bladder control);
- identifying genital organs in ways that were not named by parents;
- drawing sexual acts, games suggesting sexual acts, e.g. with the use of dolls / stuffed animals;
- talking about secrets with other adults;
- initiating games with peers, in which there are elements of sex.
How and when to talk to children about risks?
From an early age, it is worth teaching children values that reduce the risk of sexual abuse against them. It is good to reassure the child that he does not need to keep any secrets from his parents, and even if another adult has asked to be kept a secret, this rule does not apply to the parents, as everything can be told to the parents. It is worth repeating these words from time to time and inspiring the child’s trust as often as possible, and above all, always listen to the child when he or she wants to share something with the parent. It is worth speaking openly about the inviolability of the child’s body and the fact that the child himself decides who he touches and who can touch his body. It is inadvisable to convey to children such messages as “give your aunt a kiss because she will be sorry” or “uncle will be offended if you do not hug him”. Such words suggest to children that they have to put up with unwanted physical contact with others and that they have no right to oppose anyone, and that their own emotions and resentment are irrelevant. It is worth teaching the child to be assertive from an early age, as well as emphasizing the fact that the word “no” matters and that the child does not have to agree to everything that adults propose. It is also good practice to teach the child the correct names of the genitals and clearly indicate who and when can touch them, e.g. a kindergarten teacher with the help of toilet activities or a doctor during an examination.
Consultation with a psychologist-sexologist
If you notice a change in your child’s behavior and you feel that they may have been sexually abused, then it is worth going to a child sexologist who will help to assess whether the disturbing symptoms may indicate the fact of sexual abuse. In such a situation, the first step will be to talk to the parents themselves, and then to the child. Treatment methods may vary depending on the age and problems of the child.
Read more: Child Sexologist Warsaw
Autor: Nadia Urbańska