What Dads Need to Know About Sexual Assault in America

With all of the everyday issues we deal with as dads: playing referee to the kids' arguments, figuring out how to fit in that dentist visit before the week you've scheduled a family camping trip, coaching someone's sporting event, helping get homework done... it might seem unlikely and even unnecessary to find the space and time to consider sexual assault as a realistic everyday issue but the statistics tell us that sexual assault is becoming an everyday issue for our children - it's something we need to talk about with our kids, our families, and other dads.

It would be impossible to cover all of the complexities, facts, and resources related to sexual abuse in a single article. Our goal is to provide current information and resources to help educate and empower.

Let's start by looking at the numbers - the statistical likelihood that your child will be molested or sexually assaulted might surprise you.

According to recent data collected by The Center for Family Justice

1 out of 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18 years old. (Darkness to Light)

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12 and 44% are under age 18. (U.S. Department of Justice)

93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker. (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics)

Most perpetrators are acquaintances, but as many as 47% are family or extended family. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. (RAINN)

What to look for; signs of sexual abuse and assault:

As a parent, you know your children better than anyone else ever could, but do you know how to recognize the signs that point to sexual abuse or assault? As dads, we'd like to think they would come directly to us to talk about something as confusing and upsetting as sexual assault - but would your child come right out and tell you if they were sexually assaulted?

Myths and Facts: How Children Communicate About Sexual Abuse and Assault (from The U.S. Department of Justice):

Myth: If a child is sexually abused, she or he will immediately come and tell.

Myth: Children disclose immediately after the abuse and provide a detailed account of what has occurred.

Myth: Children are more likely to disclose if directly questioned by their parent or an adult authority figure who can help.

Myth: Disclosure is always a one-time event.

Fact: Disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children often avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser. As such, they often delay disclosure until adulthood.

Fact: A common presumption is that children will give one detailed, clear account of abuse. This is not consistent with research; disclosures often unfold gradually and may be presented in a series of hints.

Fact: Children might imply something has happened to them without directly stating they were sexually abused—they may be testing the reaction to their “hint.”

Fact: If they are ready, children may then follow with a larger hint if they think it will be handled well.

Fact: It’s easy to miss hints of disclosure of abuse. As a result, a child may not receive the help needed.

Where to go for help:

There are numerous resources both local, online, and nationally set up specifically to help children and families who are dealing with sexual assault or abuse.

ChildHelp.org recommends: If a child discloses that he or she has been abused by someone, it is important that you LISTEN to them most of all.

The site goes on to suggest that in the case of suspected sexual abuse, especially with small children, parents should ask ONLY four questions:
What happened?
Who did this to you?
Where were you when this happened?
When did this happen?

If the child is too young to communicate or choosing not to communicate -but you suspect sexual abuse, you can call ChildHelp at 1-800-4-A-CHILD to speak to a qualified crisis counselor.

More resources for families dealing with sexual assault:

Family Watchdog: Locate registered sex offenders in your community.

RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network

One in Four: A non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of rape by the thoughtful application of theory and research to rape prevention programming that has been shown to increase likelihood of bystander intervention in a situation where rape or sexual assault may occur.

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