I have a son. And i am very scared. Because, while abuse with girls is easier to acknowledge and talk about, abuse of boys is still pushed under the carpet, as if it never happened.. as parents, we do not know how to make sure we know when something is not right with our boy, the signs to watch out for in a male child, and of course, not enough people know what to do.
For personal reasons, i'd declined an invitation to join April as the Childhood Sexual Awareness month, but this is an important subject that needs talking.
What IS sexual abuse of a male child?
Same as a female child - any unnecessary and unacceptable touch / conversation around the private parts / sexual prowess of a young child. This starts right at birth - all aunties looking at and commenting on the "size" of a little infant boy - all in jest, of course. The nanny touching his private parts just a little bit longer than necessary... As male children grow, they are under increased threat, not just from aunties and maids, but also from other, older boys (or boys of the same age). Unlike females, privacy in a male washroom is minimal and allows for "peeking" and "comparing". There are other "games" that all male children may not enjoy, but are forced into.
If my child appears unimpacted, is it still abuse?
Yes. Children do not immediately react to abusive memories or incidents. It only shows up as emotional response or behavioral response many years later. make no mistake about it - the impact of sexual abuse is long lasting and sometimes severe. in most cases, it impacts the ability to trust and emotionally connect with others - especially of the other gender.
How to tell if my child is impacted?
This is where i draw a blank. I can tell you for girls, because most victims i worked with were girls. A boy may get more aggressive, or way more withdrawn. They may become socially rude, or they may become terribly moody. At any rate, they are likely to become anti social and talk less. If your child is talking lesser to you, that is cause for concern. If its not sexual abuse, it could be bullying, or anything else.. i would investigate as soon as a male child withdraws. Beyond that, i would really like to know from other therapists working on the subject.
Open Communication Channel
There is, however, one thing that cannot be overstated - NOTHING ELSE can tell you if your child is being abused. ONLY YOUR CHILD can tell you that. its so discreet that no one else gets to know. Which is why, the single MOST IMPORTANT Prevention and correction mechanism is to have an OPEN COMMUNICATION CHANNEL with your child.
Ask HIM if he ate. Ask him if he took a bath. Ask HIM if he reached school on time. NOT his caretaker, not his teacher, not his day care. Only the child. He may be only 2 and unable to talk, he may lie in the beginning and make things up. But thats ok. He is getting the confidence that you care about his activities and his feelings, and that you take his word for it. Which is the second most important thing. Always, his word is trusted more than any other word. Even if you know it to be an explicit lie, trust it and act as if you trust it. EVERY SINGLE TIME.
Let me explain why this is crucial. When he comes to you, if ever, with the confession of abuse, the one thing that he cannot bear to hear is "You're making this up. Of course Uncle Binny would never do such a thing. We've known him for years! " He needs to know, BEFORE he comes to you, that he will be explicitly trusted. no matter what his age.
Here are some links that i found useful:
Sexual Abuse of Boys
Living Well website has a lot of resources.
And of course, this post by Monica that started it all.
Do visit the CSA blog - i think its fantastic work!