If all of a sudden a child changes his or her behavior or mood, then, this child could be a victim of sexual abuse or harassment. Maybe that straight A student is no longer motivated in school or an athlete is scared of going to practice, these are all red flags parents should be aware of.
Paulina Ospina is a family therapist in the Coachella Valley. She said that oftentimes, child victims are too scared to speak up.
“A child who has been sexually abused has a trauma that person has a sense that they are often guilty, that they are dirty, that there body is not theirs, that they are not worthy of love or attention,” she said.
According to the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, “as many as one in five children will be sexually abused before they are 18 years old.”
“We always think, we always see sexual abuse as only touching, but sexual abuse is also showing you inappropriate images, or showing a child your private parts if you are an adult,” Ospina said.
Because minors tend to remain silent, it is crucial to to engage in conversations with them.
“The conversation we all need to have with our children is ‘your body is yours,’” she said. “Normalize it in a way where it is tell me about it, I will always be there to protect you even if they are threatening you.”
The Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center stated that “90% of all incidents of sexual abuse are committed by someone in a trusting relationship with the child.”
Ospina thinks parents have to trust and believe their children when they report uncomfortable situations. They have to remind kids that “nobody, no family member, no teacher, no coach, no priest can touch you in a way that is inappropriate or uncomfortable for you,” she said.
On the long run, victims can suffer from depression, substance abuse and self esteem issues, which is why Ospina recommends victims to seek therapy and to engage in support groups to help heal from the trauma.