How to be prepared to detect sexual abuse of our children
In the last article we saw how difficult it is for most of us to talk about sex, especially with a child. That for adults, sexuality seems trivialized, but as soon as it concerns children, we don’t know how to do it.”
This is one of the reasons why a situation of abuse against our children can occur without anyone noticing.
In the article entitled “Ways to protect our children – let’s talk about the reality of pedophiles” I talk about the reality that a pedophile is not, the vast majority of the time, a scary man with dark clothes, hidden in a playground.
That we must realize and accept the reality that 94% of sexual assaults are made by the most reliable, respected and productive people in our community.
Here we come to the topic of this article:
“How to be prepared to detect sexual abuse of our children”,
from Gérald Brassine’s book
“Prevent, detect and manage sexual abuse of children. Should we talk to the children about this?”, Part two.
Sadly enough, this book exists only in French and Spanish. I worked with the French version, and translated parts of it into English. All page numbers are from that French version.
To read the first part of this report, look at this article.
Let’s look at the first question dealt with in this chapter:
1. Why children don’t talk (P.35)
The author explains:
“The wall of silence that our culture has established for centuries in front of everything that has to do with sex has created a taboo that produces discomfort in adults and does not invite children to speak. (…) However, the better informed and supported the children are by the family culture, the faster and more easily they will share in the event of a problem.»
Mental manipulation (p.36)
He continues by describing a mental manipulation that the abuser exerts on the child, taking advantage of this environment of silence when it comes to this subject. It will shape the child’s mind in such a way that a deviant sexuality is considered normal.
“A child doesn’t know the difference between having to finish his plate, clean his room and behave in the babysitter’s house… even if the babysitter or his partner is abusing the child. For him, the only horizon is to obey the adult, period. Even when he does not discern the reasons for what is being asked. This position makes him a fragile prey, easily manipulated.»
Blackmail, locks (p.37)
Then there is blackmail, inducing guilt in the child or even resorting to violence:
“If you say something, I’ll kill myself”
“If you say no, it’s because you don’t love me anymore”
“It’s our little secret”
“I’ll say you’re lying and no one will believe you”
“If you talk, you’ll be the one punished and not me”
“it’s for your own good”
“It’s a punishment, you deserve it”
“It’s you who wished it”
“If you talk, I will do it to your brother/sister” etc..
The division (p.38)
“The abuser sometimes manages to ensure secrecy while abusing several children in the same family. In this case, he carefully ensures that his actions and victims are kept separated, operating with each other without the knowledge of the others.
He can then say, for example:
“If you refuse, I will do it to your brother/sister”.
The prevailing silence and compartmentalization confuse and disrupt the identification of abuse and the abuser.
Learned helplessness (p.39)
Some victims – children or even adults – who are repeatedly abused may suggest that they are seeking it…” This is obviously not the case; in reality, these people suffer from what is called “learned helplessness“.
It is a feeling of helplessness in which the victim is immersed during a first abuse or aggression and which instantly settles in his memory. This form of helplessness persists in its latent state, but is systematically reactivated throughout its life cycle, whenever the victim is confronted with an abuser or any kind of abuse.
Guilt (p. 41)
Brassin explains that it is unfortunately common for some victims to remain silent for years because they feel guilty about what they have experienced.
That “anyone who suffers a trauma (it can be a common car accident as well as a sexual assault) feels, if not guilty, at least responsible for what happened to them. The same applies to a sexually abused child or adolescent.
Mechanical sexual pleasure (p.43)
Automatic, strictly physiological pleasure is by no means synonymous with consent or even unconscious desire.
It is a physical response to fondling, touching or masturbation. But this physical response does not imply voluntary participation in the act.
But this disorientative feeling horribly confuses the victim about what she or he is going through or what she has been through, because she or he feels betrayed of her or his body.
Although it seems inconceivable that an aggression can be “forgotten”, some victims manage the unbearable by this strategy of mental avoidance that will make them “forget” the events.
The accumulation of suffering, painful feelings and disillusionment about the abuser is sometimes too painful to bear.
Fear to disappoint (p.45)
A child also keeps silent out of fear to disappoint. A fear that comes from the feeling of guilt he feels to such an extent that he sometimes seeks the punishment he believes he deserves by being difficult.
This feeling of guilt may come from the fact that:
- His aggressor is considered as kind by his entourage. (We know that it is part of the paedophiles’ strategy to have a particularly friendly and courteous approach to the family)
- That he (the child) does not denounce the facts; from his point of view, he betrays the trust and love of the adult who continues to want to be close to him (especially with regard to his mother: even if the abuser demands that they do not tell anything, he will feel like betraying his mother to whom he has said everything until then). This feeling will be reinforced if the abuser uses padlocks such as: If you tell her, she will die, she will be ashamed of you.
Let’s look at the second question addressed in this chapter:
2. Why adults don’t see
We are unable to consider the worst (s.47)
More than 70% of non-abusing spouses did not notice any abuse that the child had suffered.
This is because abusers are very skilled at hiding what they do. Moreover, it is a reality that involves too much suffering.
Brassin underlines this reality by saying:
“As soon as it is a question of sexual abuse, pain or an immense possible disappointment, we are as if we are prevented from seeing and understanding, prevented from seeing and realizing the worst. Most people refuse to see “this” and it is often only when the worst is revealed to everyone that the child’s behavioral changes or remarks make sense. »
Abusers are not always who you think they are… (p.50)
As I mentioned at the beginning, we know that abusers exist, of course, but we have a very remote representation of them. In fact, the abuser is not – and perhaps never has been – the gentleman who attracts children with candy. The pedophilia cases that the press is talking about have opened our eyes on this issue, but not enough!
The author insists that:
- The abuser may be another child or teenager who, moreover, is sometimes the victim of sexual abuse himself.
- The abuser may be women, sometimes acting under pressure from a man but also on their own account.
Cognitive distortion (p.52)
Cognitive distortion occurs in all victims of major trauma, whether it is rape, car accident or natural disaster…. This is one of the manifestations of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The cognitive distortion will generate an erroneous but almost automatic version of the facts and a feeling of the kind: “I am responsible”, “I am guilty”.
This mechanism leads the abused girl or boy, the raped woman, to think nearly always “it’s my fault, I’m a tease; I attracted him… »
Abusers cover their tracks (p.53)
“Aware of the perversity of his actions, the abuser is committed to cultivate our blindness and blurs the tracks by masking his behavior. Often, he displays in public a kind, friendly, gentle personality to get everyone’s approval, but in secret his behavior towards the child is cruel. When it is discovered that there is abuse, he will deny it, show himself scandalized or even orient suspicions towards other people; he is always manipulative (…)
Symptoms are various, unexpected or invisible (p.54)
The author explains that abuse does not lead to any particular symptom that would definitely indicate it, and in this sense, abuse is not easy to identify because the symptoms that the child develops can be very diverse, sometimes invisible or totally unexpected.
It should also be noted that some children show no symptoms because they are carefully threatened in this by their abuser and psychologically padlocked.
I will end this article with the detection barrier which, in Brassin’s opinion, is the most powerful driving force behind our blindness:
“Denial, in psychic jargon, refers to the unconscious – and involuntary – mechanism that masks reality when it is too painful. In this way, the more we fear something, the more likely we will close our eyes the day that it happens, no matter how obvious it may be. (…)
The same happens when this denial closes our eyes to avoid the pain of admitting that such a parent, such a close relative, such a friend of the family, or such a husband with whom we have engaged in our lives, is abusing one of our children.
How many of us have experienced an event of this kind, for example, being deceived and letting time pass before we agreed to notice it?
In the last article we talked about prevention. Prevention is obviously aimed at avoiding and preventing abuse as much as possible. This article has shown us some tips on how to detect abuse of our children. If there are any suspicions that something could have happened, the last article can be used as the simplest and least dangerous means to apply, to detect abuses and prevent their repetition.
In the third article we will talk about how to manage a situation of child abuse, in both relational and family areas.