What is sexual abuse?
Sexual abuse is when someone older than you touches the private parts of your body (that's the parts your bathing suit covers) or has you touch the private parts of their body. It can also be when someone older tries to get you to take off your clothes or touches you or kisses you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
How do I tell what touching is bad?
Everyone likes to be hugged or touched by someone they care for. But there are some kinds of touching that are not considered good for kids. Some of this kind of touching might feel good. Some of this kind of touching might feel bad or even hurt. If you aren't sure about a touch, talk to a trusted adult about it.
What kind of kids are sexually abused?
Any kid can be sexually abused. It can happen to boys or girls. It can happen to big kids or little kids--no matter how young or old, weak or strong. It is estimated that 1 in 5 kids is sexually abused.
Who abuses kids?
Most adults care about kids and never sexually abuse them. But some people have serious problems and think it is okay to be sexual with a child. Sometimes a sexual abuser is a stranger, but usually a sexual abuser would be someone you know.
It might be your parent, or step-parent, or a teacher, or a neighbor, or a minister or a friend of your parents. It might be someone in your family, or someone that you like a lot.
Why would someone do this?
Someone who sexually abuses a child has a problem, and needs help. People can do bad things--even nice people. It is sometimes hard to believe that someone we love or who is nice to us can sexually abuse us.
Is it my fault if this happens to me?
Never. Some kids blame themselves, but they shouldn't. Adults sometimes use tricks like telling you that you are bad and that this is why this happened. Also, the attention can sometimes seem nice. Maybe this person gives you really good gifts or money when he or she wants to touch you. Maybe this person is very gentle when he or she wants to touch you. Maybe it is the only time he or she is "nice" to you. But whether it is violent or gentle, it is very, very wrong and it must be stopped. No matter what, if you are being sexually abused, it is never your fault.
How can I stop it?
The best way to stop sexual abuse is to talk about it. Sexual abuse is against the law. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO KEEP IT A SECRET! Even if the abuse only happens once, or seems like it's over, it's important to tell. The person who abused you will probably try to do this to many other boys and girls.
There are many people who can help you and help the abuser, if you tell them what has happened.
What if I'm afraid to tell?
People who touch children in inappropriate ways may tell children that something bad will happen if they ever tell anyone. Maybe someone told you that you would be hurt if you told. Or that someone you love wouldn't love you anymore.
You may have been told things that scared you and made you very afraid. If the abuser is a family member, you may be afraid the family will break up if the secret is told. No matter what, it is important to tell an adult you trust about what has happened.
Will anyone believe me?
Yes. There are many adults who will believe you and who will help you. Some adults may not want to believe that you could have been abused. Some adults may tell you to forget about it. If this happens to you, find someone else to tell. Keep telling until someone listens.
What will happen to the abuser if I tell?
The abuser will get help. A person who sexually abuses children needs help. Most abusers can get counseling. If the abuser is someone in your family, you may see less of him or her for awhile. Because sexual abuse is against the law, some abusers might go to jail.
There are many different ways children can be sexually abused. The following stories give examples of some different kinds of sexual abuse:
- Denise was eleven and her chest was beginning to grow. Her uncle started "accidentally" touching her chest every chance he got. Later on, he would go into her bedroom and reach under the sheets and touch her chest. Denise pretended to be asleep.
- Hector was ten and loved playing soccer. His coach gave him a lot of attention and would give him rides after practice. The coach told Hector that there was a special game they could play. The game was fun except for the part where the coach had Hector hold and touch his private parts. Hector wanted to stop, but the coach said if he did, then he wouldn't get to play soccer anymore.
- Jenny was seven. She liked her mother's boyfriend because he always wanted her to dance with him, but he would kiss her and rub his body up against her and reach up under her dress when her mom was away. He said it was their special secret.
- Tyrone was fourteen. A twenty-five-old friend of his sister wanted to take Tyrone's picture. Tyrone thought it would be fun. Because it was a hot day, the photographer asked Tyrone to take off his shirt. Then she told Tyrone to take off his pants, like he was in an underwear commercial. When she told Tyrone to take off his underwear, he said no, but she told him that if he didn't she would show everyone the pictures of him in his underwear.
- Sarah was eleven and her stepfather was sexually abusing her. He said that Sarah's mom didn't love him, so he wanted Sarah to be his girlfriend. The abuse had gotten worse the last few months, but Sarah was too afraid to tell. Her stepfather said her mom would be hurt if Sarah told anyone. When her stepfather had sex with her, Sarah felt like she wanted to die.
There are some important things for you to remember if you are sexually assaulted:
- It's your body. No one has the right to touch you.
- You can say NO.
- Abuse is never your fault, even if you don't say no.
- Abuse always hurts. It can hurt your feelings or your body. Keep telling until someone listens. Even if the first adult you tell doesn't help you, someone will.
- Telling the right person is the way to make abuse stop.
- What happens next is not your fault. When you tell about sexual abuse, the abuser will probably have to get help. Things may be difficult for awhile, but the abuse will end, and you and the abuser can both get help.