So rather than open our eyes to the realities we tell ourselves stories that serve to make us feel safer. Children may deal with this by accepting the abuse as normal - minimising it, or blaming themselves. But these signs are much more subtle than most parents realise. Other children may feel hurt and afraid but they may be good at masking these feelings, especially as they are also likely to be very confused. But the challenge for parents is to turn their backs on a false sense of reassurance and open their eyes to the truth.
Our messages about sexual abuse place an unrealistic amount of responsibility on our children to prevent or disclose their abuse. We need to have the courage to open our eyes and to live with a bit more fear, so that our kids can live with more safety. Which means challenging the reassuring assumptions that can blind you from the truth. Not every child will show signs of the abuse. But these signs are much more subtle than most parents realise. I can spot abusers This is a very unsafe assumption. Sex offenders can be young or old; single or married; male or female, a parent, grandparent, or have no kids of their own. Alamy By Dr Nina Burrowes Other children may feel hurt and afraid but they may be good at masking these feelings, especially as they are also likely to be very confused. What words would you use? Getty Images They may see the abuse as a new type of game from a person that they like. Do you think that only the children of neglectful parents are abused? It can be incredibly confusing to accommodate feelings of love towards someone who is also hurting you. Children may deal with this by accepting the abuse as normal - minimising it, or blaming themselves. Women's Life Forget 'stranger danger'. Some children will worry about getting in trouble. I would know if my child was being abused The simple fact is: We tell ourselves that our children can successfully avoid abuse by following a few simple rules: Others will worry about upsetting their parents, especially if the abuser is a member of the family. The 21st century guide to protecting your children from sexual abuse Parents have been telling their children to stay away from strangers for years. Alamy We tell lots of stories that make us feel safe, but these same stories can also put our kids at risk. Abusers are often liked, or even loved, by the children they abuse. If so, I have an uncomfortable truth for you: Signs parents should look for include sudden behaviour change, withdrawal, problems at school, nightmares, or reluctance to spend time with certain people. Here are some of those myths we need to ditch. We tell ourselves that abusers are all strangers, that abuse only happens in other families, that young boys who have sex with adult women 'got lucky'. These children may only recognise their experience as abuse years later when they look back and can see that they were being groomed and manipulated.
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