Would You Know If Your Child Were Being Abused? Are You Sure?
Yesterday’s news that Jerry Sandusky was sentenced to 30-60 years in prison was the latest chapter in a long, sad story that opened a lot of people’s eyes to the realities of child sexual abuse. It’s been almost a year since the country learned that a well-respected former Penn State football coach was accused of raping several young boys over decades. And in that time, we’ve seen that this was not a crazy, isolated case–in fact, it almost felt like the tip of the iceberg, with so many similar stories coming out, including from Horace Mann and Poly Prep, two prestigious private schools right here in New York.
In our November issue, out now, we have a feature by Jessica Snyder Sachs about child sexual abuse–how to prevent it, how to recognize warning signs, and how to broach the topic with a child you suspect may be (or have been) abused. It also includes age-appropriate advice on talking to your child about sexuality and boundaries. Knowing the right things to say can up the chance that your child will feel comfortable coming to you if she ever feels scared or confused.
But the message that stuck with me is that we can’t assume our kids will come to us. In fact, only 1 in 5 children who’ve been abused will report it while it’s actually happening–the vast majority wait until they’re older to discuss it. As Robin Castle, child sexual abuse prevention manager at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont, explains, “It’s very, very hard for a child to disclose, even under the best of circumstances.” Even if you have a close relationship with your child–even if you feel he or she would surely tell you if something was wrong–you simply can’t rely on that when it comes to sexual abuse.
So we must be aware of the red flags. Please read our story, and share our story, and if it makes you question anything–including events from your own childhood–you can utilize the resources listed at the end.