Any sexual activity between an adult and a child constitutes
child sexual abuse. Sexual abuse may also occur between children. This sexual activity can include such things as obscene phone calls, fondling, exposure, pornography, prostitution or rape. Specific
legal definitions may be found in the Texas Penal Code Sections 21.11, 22.011 and 22.021.
A national study conducted in 1990 revealed that approximately 27% of girls - 1 in 4 - and 16% of boys - 1 in 6 - will be sexually
abused before their eighteenth birthday.
According to this same study, 34% of child sexual abuse occurs by age eight. Many experts estimate that in an average class size of
thirty children, five to six have been affected by sexual abuse. Children unfortunately, are at an extremely high risk of sexual victimization.
Offenders spend a great deal of time and energy in the process of grooming" the child. They generally gain the
child's trust and confidence to begin the process. Because the offender is generally someone known to the child, the child may feel that he/she has no alternative but to accept the abuse.
The next step is to introduce the child to sexual types of touch. This is often accomplished slowly, so that the child is gradually
desensitized to the touch.
Sexual offenders then manipulate the child to keep the secret. The offender may trick or force a child into keeping the sexual abuse a
secret by using subtle tactics, such as:
"I'll let you watch TV late if you let me do this."
Threats of Harm to the Child
"If you are really going to get it if you tell anyone."
Threats of Harm to the Offender
"If you tell, I'll go to jail."
Withdrawal of Affection
"I won't like you anymore if you tell."
Break-Up of the Family
"This would really hurt your mother if she knew."
Taking Advantage of the Child's Innocence
"It's OK, everybody does this," or "if you tell anyone, I'll just say you were lying."
The grooming procedure is extremely effective, and consequently, the vast majority of children do not disclose the abuse. Offenders are
often clever at grooming adults and caregivers of children as well. Adults may be set up for victimization in similar ways.
Deviant sexual arousal, faulty thinking and access are the necessary components any sexual crime.
Deviant sexual arousal is the process of being sexually aroused to abnormal stimuli. There are many different types of sexual deviancy.
Examples include pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, rape and obscene phone calls. The average sexual offender has three types of sexually deviant behavior.
The offender utilizes faulty thinking to rationalize his behavior. During this process the offender attempts to remove responsible from
himself and place it with the victim.
An individual with deviant sexual arousal towards children (pedophile) and faulty thinking will use whatever means are available to gain
access to children. Typical access methods are careers with children. volunteering, marrying someone with children, living near children and having children.
According to Northwest Treatment Associates in Seattle, Washington, sex offenders statistically possess the following family history:
Witnessed sexual abuse 17%
Victim of emotional abuse 23%
Victim of sexual abuse 27%
Victim of family violence 30%Witness family violence 37%
Physically and emotionally isolated 47%
Dysfunctional family 100%
Northwest Treatment Associates also maintain that there are several common personality traits among sex offenders. Such as:
Very self-centered; feels that nobody gives them enough of what they need; they have to take care of themselves because
nobody else will take care of them; their only fulfillment is through personal gratification.
Dislikes themselves; feels very vulnerable; insecure about self and relationships with others; lacks confidence in
Ability to project responsibility for problems onto others; makes excuses for deviant behavior; may believe that the
abusive behavior is not deviant, that everyone has similar feelings.
Obsessive or fixed pattern of thinking; may misinterpret a seemingly innocent situation and place a sexual meaning on the
action; belief system becomes affected by this fixed pattern of thinking.
Very manipulative in dysfunctional ways; may be superficially popular; feels socially isolated from the world
around them and from their families; feels that nobody understands them; lacking in empathy or true interest in other individuals.
Escape from stress through sexual fantasy or behavior; sexual acting-out; thoughts are dominated with deviant
These factors alone are meaningless; however, when they interact they create an environment and preparedness to sexually abuse.
Men are not the only offenders. Women can and do offend children as well. Because women are seen as being primary care-takers of
children, their offenses are often excused or unnoticed.
Sexual Abuse Indicators
Children who are being sexually abused may exhibit a variety of physical and behavioral symptoms. Although
these symptoms may indicate another problem, any or several of these signs could be significant to the sexually abused child; however, a child does not always exhibit these behaviors:
Unusual interest in and/or knowledge of sexual acts and language inappropriate for the child's age:
Seductive behavior or appearance
Excessive masturbatory behavior
Fears; especially of particular places, activities or people
An abrupt change in behavior or personality
Regressive behavior- bedwetting, thumb sucking, etc
Compulsive behaviors - constant bathing, eating, etc.
Over-compliance, extreme timidness, meekness
Sexual acting out
Promiscuous sexual behavior
Drug and/or alcohol use or abuse
Poor peer relationships
Inability to trust
Some children do not seem to have trauma associated with the assault. Do not assume that a lack of outward signs of the abuse means that
the evens was not traumatic. All children handle crisis differently, but whatever the child's coping skill, the event was significant and intervention is required.
Handling Sexual Abuse Disclosures
The trauma of children reporting sexual abuse is very real, and one of the most important factors in the child's recovery is the
reaction of the person they tell. Calm support by an adult can significantly reduce the trauma a sexually abused child has experienced. The BASER model provides an effective method for successfully
supporting a child who outcries.
Sexual abuse is often embarrassing and hard to talk about. It is very unlikely that a child will make up a sexual abuse
experience. Let the child know you believe him or her.
Acknowledge the importance of talking about the abuse and getting help. Let the child know you are glad they told you about
Tricks and manipulations are often part of the victimization process. Reinforce to the child that the abuse is not their
fault, and that they are not to blame, regardless of the circumstances.
A victim of sexual abuse often feels helpless and powerless. By affirming, supporting and educating him or her about
available resources, the child is empowered with some control over his or her life.
In Texas, all suspected cases of child abuse or neglect must be reported to child protective services and/or the local police
department. Contact the local
Police department. Contact the local Rape Crisis center for counseling referrals.
There are several techniques that can be used in conjunction with the BASER model that can help to make the interview non-threatening
for the child. It is important that the interviewer is honest with the child, and that he or she does not tell the child that the outcry will remain a secret. The interviewer should also be at eye level
with the child. so the child does not feel overpowered by the interviewer. Allow the child the time he or she needs to disclose the abuse. The child may become upset or confused, so it is important to
remain patient and calm at all times.
If there is any suspicion that a child is being abused, you are mandated by law to report those suspicions to the Texas Department of
Protective and Regulatory Services and the police. It is NOT the interviewer's responsibility to investigate the case. That responsibility lies with the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory
Services. A report should NEVER be made to the child's parents. The investigating agency will contact all parties involved.
Children who are experiencing symptoms of sexual abuse prior to disclosure will probably continue to have symptoms
following disclosure. The child is not going to magically" change simply because the secret is out. Many factors interact to create trauma in children. It is important not to make assumptions about
how traumatized the child actually is.
Important Telephone Numbers
Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-252-5400
National Runaway Line 1-800 621-4000
Child Abuse Hotline - Texas Dept. Of Human Services 1-800 252-5400
Governor's Crime Victim Clearinghouse 1-800 252-3423
Child Protective Services 817-649-5500
Crisis Intervention 817-336-3355
Day Care Licensing 817-921-5511
Tarrant County District Attorney 817-884-1400
Victim s Assistance 817-884-2740
Fort Worth Police Department
Sexual Assault Unit 817-877-8253
Victim's Assistance 817-877-8090
Arlington Police Department
Criminal Investigations 817-459-5300
Victim's Assistance 817-459-5340
Since 1974, The Women's Center of Tarrant County's Rape Crisis Program has been the leading advocate for victims
of sexual assault and abuse.
In addition to hospital. police, and court accompaniment provided by a trained staff of volunteers, professional counselors conduct both
individual and group therapy, as well as support sessions.
"Play it Safe"
Through this personal safety program for children, informational presentations regarding sexual assault and
abuse are provided by the Rape Crisis Community Education Department. If you are interested in scheduling a program, please call Rape Crisis.
WE CARE... WE HELP...Rape Crisis Program