I have sat in front of my
television set, like most of you, with coffee cup in
hand watching channel 9 news. Rare is a day without a
report that a child has been stalked, kidnapped,
physically or sexually abused or murdered.
Emotional abuse doesn’t
make the headlines there wouldn’t be enough hours in the
day to report it all of the events.
Child abuse is an epidemic
in NH. It is cold comfort to know that we are not alone.
All across our country crimes against children are on
As a psychotherapist my
role has been to help individuals and families repair
the after affects of crimes against children. At times
that means helping an older person heal from abuse that
occurred a half century ago. Many people attempt to
manage symptoms on their own.
Sexual abuse is a
powerfully negative experience – It affects mind and
body at the same time. Its invasive nature changes how
children and adults think about themselves and the world
around them. Once trust is broken and secrecy permeates,
maladaptive behavioral patterns continue into adulthood
in the form of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem,
substance abuse and disruption in the ability to make
choices that are life enhancing.
The answers for stopping
the abuse of children are complex. Parents, teachers,
medical professionals are the ones in a position to make
a difference in keeping kids safe. There is still so
much to be learned about protecting children. A parent
of a sexually abused child recently said – “stranger
danger training is a band aid. We tell our children not
to talk to strangers, get in their cars or go with
them.” We feel better but our children remain at risk –
strangers do abuse children but most are sexually abused
by people they know and trust.”
We know this but when it
happens it continues to be a surprise every time. We
hear neighbor’s interviewed by news reporters say – “our
neighbor was such a nice person, what a shock, why is
People who abuse children,
for the most part, are likeable and seem to show a
special interest in children. This is confusing because
there are lots of good people who show special interest
in our children.
What can you do?
Educate yourself about the
child sexual abuse
Listen to your child.
Children do not speak the language of adults – they
speak with their bodies. They cry, get tummy aches, let
us know in various ways they want to go….listen to them.
Be there – Tag along
to children’s events – be present.
Talk to other parents
– When someone else is concerned – listen.
When you get a gut feeling
– listen to yourself.
To make the error of being
rude or discourteous to an innocent person is a small
price to pay to keep your child safe.