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Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Posted Jan 09 2010 3:09pm

I found this insightful (if concise) article via Twitter today. I was utterly astounded by how much of it describes my behaviour after my uncle raped me when I was about 10.

I don’t really fancy getting into the ins and outs of the incident at the minute, though I’ll explore it more in a future post.  For now, though, these are the paragraphs that resonated so strongly with me:

The most common symptom for children is sleep disturbance or more specifically nightmares.  They don’t seem to be able to be explicit in describing what is happening in their dreams but they do know that “it is bad.”  Children that have been abused have advanced knowledge beyond their years about sex andthey often act very seductive or sexually inappropriate around adults.  They are usually angryand either will cryor they are aggressive towards younger children without exactly knowing why they are behaving in that manner.  Often times in younger children they  display regressed behaviors, such as talking like a baby or they start wetting the bed.  In older children, they will often begin finding places in the house in which to touch themselves or masturbate.

Other symptoms that may be present are self-mutilation, usually seen in older children, lying or stealing, sudden changes in behavior, running away from home,eating disorders * , excessive fears, drugs/alcohol ** , or threatening to kill themselves. There is no one sign/symptom or behavior that is proof that a child has been sexually abused, however these are some key symptoms for parents to look for to help them determine if abuse has occurred.  As always, a professional whether it is a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or a mental health professional should be consulted in order to assist with the behavioral/emotional symptoms that are being displayed.

(c) Tara Tamanini, Kid Awareness Series

The italics are mine, denoting signs that I exhibited.

* -ish.  I often behaved in a psuedo-bulimic fashion, throwing up my food for no reason other than not wanting to gain more weight.  But not often enough, I think, to actually be considered to have that illness.

** I started drinking when I was very young – perhaps 12.  No drugs, though.

As I’ve stated several times before, I think very little about my late childhood and early adolescence, but this brings back a lot.  Whilst recognising objectively that I have no reason to feel to blame, I am so horribly ashamed nevertheless.

Ashamed that I flirted with anyone, especially him, ashamed that it was seemingly a catalyst for my fairly early sexual self-explorations, ashamed that I lied and stole at times, ashamed of my aggression (which still hasn’t gone away), ashamed that I ever let any of it happen.

It makes my fucking skin crawl.  But I am glad I found this article.  As long-term readers of this blog know, I’ve been quite neurotic about MW, my uncle’s great-grandson.  This is now especially troubling as MW’s mother, SL, is due to have her second child in early 2010. Whilst I am terribly concerned for MW and any future brothers he may have, I’m pathologically terrified that SL will have a daughter.

I know that child sex abuse is not really so much about the perpetrator’s sexual orientation as about the fact the victims are children, and, of course, about the perpetrator’s power (as is the case in any instance of sexual abuse).  Nevertheless, although I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility that he would act inappropriately towards a male child, I am (perhaps irrationally) terrified that a female is at an even greater risk.

Whilst obviously this article is short and therefore far from definitive, it is a half-decent start.  The problem is, without ruining the family and potentially putting the children in further risk, what can be done before he touches any of them up?  All of these signs are reflective – ie. something will already had to have happened for anyone to recognise them.  For very obvious reasons, I’d rather pre-empt any abuse.

A thinks it’s unlikely that anything is likely to happen. MMcF’s husband is getting on in life, I’ve seen no evidence that any of the other generations have been effected and, due to his medication, he is exhausted and sleepy all the time. I can appreciate that it’s unlikely, at a rational level.  But is that enough?  ‘Unlikely’, almost by definition, is suggestive that there is still a possibility.  And that’s what scares the fuck out of me.

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