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temple prostitution, forced child marriages, and rape in war. Sexual abuse that strangers commitgets the most publicity, especially if children are abducted, but more than ninety percent of allsexual abuse is perpetrated by family members, friends of the family, and other persons childrenknow. It is important to identify child sexual abuse wherever it occurs and not be blinded bymisleading assumptions.Whatever forms child sexual abuse takes, children experience an abuse of power, whereolder, stronger, and often more knowledgeable persons take advantage of them for their ownsexual gratification. Children need empathy, understanding, and education about what happenedto them. One of the most helpful words children can hear when they are sexually abused is thewords that a mother said to her child:
“I’m so sorry this happened to you. I love you, and I amhere for you.”
Parents must do whatever it takes to be responsive to the hurt their children haveexperienced.Perpetrators require clear messages that what they do harms children for their life times.There is no justification for the use of children for sexual and emotional gratification. It isexploitation pure and simple. Children require protection from those who would harm them. Non-offending parents, persons children know, and the general public all have parts to play in prevention and in helping children recover. Simply understanding that perpetrators takeadvantage of children, that sexual abuse harms children, and that perpetrators have full and soleresponsibility for children sexual abuse is a start.
Family members can have a hard time believing that someone they know, love, and trustcan sexually abuse. When ten year-old Ronnie learned from his mother that the uncle heidolized had sexually abused his own daughter, Ronnie ran into his bedroom, slammed the door,and yelled, “You’re lying to me.”