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Subtle signs of sexual abuse in children

All parents need to know

All parents need to know
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Weekend Plus Desk :
In a shocking turn of events, Pope Francis, who is the 266th and current Pope of the Catholic Church, recently apologised for the ‘irreparable damage’ caused by sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy in Chile.
While conscious citizens around the world are working tirelessly to bring this heinous crime to a stop, unfortunately, child sexual abuse is not easy to spot. What happened behind the closed doors of the Catholic churches in Chile is an example of this. This can happen to anyone and anywhere, in fact, the cases of child sexual abuse in India are on the rise.
According to Dr Sanjay Garg, Senior Consultant, Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital at Anandpur in Kolkata, India has the world’s largest number of child sexual abuse cases.
“In India, every second child is being exposed to one or the other form of sexual abuse and every fifth child faces critical forms of it,” said Dr  Garg.
Why victims avoid talking about their experience
It is not easy to spot victims of sexual abuse, especially minors, because many abusers manipulate children and create a situation that looks like consensual. Dr Garg further explained that children often don't talk about sexual abuse because they are scared, they think it is their fault and most of them are convinced by their abuser that it is normal or it’s a ‘special secret.’ “They may also be bribed or threatened by their abuser or told they would not be believed. Sometimes the child may care for their abuser, if they are family members or friends, and worry about getting them into trouble. The child may not even know that what is happening to them is wrong.”
What parents need to do
It is one of the most difficult and saddest experiences for parents to discover that their child has been subjected to sexual abuse. In situations like this, it is very normal for any parents to lose their temper or go into shock or denial. But they should keep patience a be sensitive because the child needs their support and care more than ever during such times. Unfortunately, a lot of parents sometimes are not even aware that their child is a victim. What is more terrifying is the fact that a lot of child abuse victims are molested by close family members or family friends because of which he or she might feel very uncomfortable to take another family member into confidence.
“Adults need to be aware to be able to recognise the signs of sexual abuse in children since victims of abuse often display signs that go unrecognised,” said Dr Garg, who explained the following subtle signs that minors often display.
Changes in behaviour or mood
Victims of sexual abuse often seem withdrawn. Parents should be careful if a child becomes aggressive or starts avoiding company of other people. Sometimes, an otherwise carefree and cheerful child may become clingy and start crying for his parents’ company often. Other changes of behaviour include having difficulties sleeping or wetting the bed.
Avoiding the abuser
Parents should be careful if a child starts disliking a person he or she was fond of earlier. The child may even show symptoms of extreme fear in the company of that particular person and try to avoid being alone with him or her. This is common among children who are repetitively abused by a family member or friend.
Sexually inappropriate behavior
Often parents scold their child if he or she behaves in sexually inappropriate ways or starts using sexually explicit language. However, this might be a subtle sign that the child is a victim of sexual abuse and he or she is simply mimicking the abuser’s language and behaviour.
Physical problems
Some victims often suffer from various health problems including soreness in the genital and anal areas, and sexually transmitted infections. Parents should be careful if they see bruises in unexposed parts of the child’s body and he or she fails to explain the reason behind these.
Problems at school
Sexually violated children undergo such mental turmoil that it becomes very difficult for them to concentrate on their daily activities. As a result, they might develop learning difficulties or concentration lapse, and their grades in school might start dropping. This is a very subtle sign that needs to be addressed by parents in a very sensitive manner.
Sometimes children start dropping hints and clues that the abuse is happening without revealing it outright. Some victims are so confused and scared that they might think twice before approaching an adult for help. Under such a situation, the child may make feeble attempts to express his or her turmoil and leave it to the adults or parents to understand the rest.

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