Part of our responsibilities and requirements for having our child attend Catholic school is that we get trained and remain certified in Virtus® Protecting God’s Children®. One of the recent lessons was interesting and very eye opening so we decided to share it here with you. The course and program is very well done and has certainly helped us be more aware as parent. In the Buffalo area information on the course can be found at the Diocese of Buffalo.
Experts tell us that one out of every 10 males and one out of every five females will be sexually abused by the time they are 18. Many of those incidents will occur before the child is 9 years old.
Studies estimate that 11 percent of abuse is committed by strangers, 29 percent by relatives, and 60 percent by others known to the victim. Priests fit in the latter category, but so do many others, including teachers, coaches, volunteers, youth ministers, neighbors, etc.
There are three major factors that contribute to the conspiracy of silence that surrounds this crime: 1) our belief that this only happens to other people’s children; 2) the perpetrator’s grooming process; and 3) the apprehension adults have about reporting abuse.
The abuser’s mission to conceal his or her objectives is aided by parents’ reluctance to consider the risk to their own children and the fact that the behavioral signs of child sexual abuse are also indicators of many other physical and emotional problems.
If parents, guardians, and other caretakers don’t believe their children are really at risk, then none of the signs and symptoms that show up will raise concerns about sexual abuse. In fact, many of the signs are dismissed by parents as “going through a phase,” “puberty,” “problems with friends,” “difficulties with a particular program at school,” or “growing pains.”
It is important that parents, guardians, and other caretakers talk with children when these signs and symptoms appear. Find out what is going on with them. Notice the behavioral changes in children and get to the bottom of what’s happening. Whether the problem is drug abuse, depression, or the child is just having a bad day, it is important to know why a child’s behavior has changed.
And, keep in mind that children rarely lie about being sexually abused. A study of all the reports of sexual abuse received in Denver for one year concluded that 53 percent of the allegations were founded and 41 percent were inconclusive. Five percent were found to be false reports made by adults and 1 percent was false reports made by children.
If child sexual abuse is the problem, early intervention that stops the abuse is important to the child’s ability to recover and to the prevention of harm to other children. Parents, guardians, and other caretakers must acknowledge that their children are at risk, look for the warning signs in their child’s behavior, and uncover the cause of the warning signs (behavioral symptoms). These steps are critical to effectively undermining the atmosphere of secrecy created and perpetuated by the offender.
 Russell, D.E.H., Bolen, R.M., (2000) The Epidemic of Rape and Child Sexual Abuse in the United States, Sage Publications, 149-50.
 Jones, D. & McGraw, J., “Reliable and Fictitious Accounts of Sexual Abuse to Children,” 2 J. Interpersonal Violence 27, 30 (March 1987).