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The Missing Children in Public Discourse on Child Sexual Abuse

The Missing Children in Public Discourse on Child Sexual Abuse

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Published by Jane Gilgun
This article shows that public discourse on child sexual abuse leads to policies and programs that focus on punishment and incapacitation of perpetrators, but neglects child survivors and their families. Survivors often have no one to talk to and families are on their own to figure out what to do. Survivors suffer needlessly. It’s time for the general public to press for much needed concern, legislation, and programs for child, teen, and adult survivors.
This article shows that public discourse on child sexual abuse leads to policies and programs that focus on punishment and incapacitation of perpetrators, but neglects child survivors and their families. Survivors often have no one to talk to and families are on their own to figure out what to do. Survivors suffer needlessly. It’s time for the general public to press for much needed concern, legislation, and programs for child, teen, and adult survivors.

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Published by: Jane Gilgun on Feb 07, 2010
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The Missing Children in Public DiscourseOn Child Sexual Abuse
 by Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSWUniversity of Minnesota, Twin Cities
This article shows that public discourse on child sexual abuse leads to policies and programsthat focus on punishment and incapacitation of perpetrators, but neglects child survivors and their families. Survivors often have no one to talk to and families are on their own to figure out what to do. Survivors suffer needlessly. It’s time for the general public to press for much needed change.
About the Author
Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is a professor, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota,Twin Cities, USA. See Professor Gilgun’s books, articles, and children’s stories on AmazonKindle, scribd.com/professorjane, and stores.lulu.com/jgilgun. This was an article published inthe NCFR Report in 2008
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The Missing Children in Public DiscourseOn Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse affects the quality of life of hundreds of millions of people in theUnited States and world-wide. Few conditions affect that many people. Yet, aside from hugemedia reaction and legislation meant to incapacitate perpetrators, child sexual abuse is one of themost neglected social problems in modern times. Survivors often have no one to talk to andfamilies are on their own to figure out what to do. The public discourses focuses on perpetrators,with the result that services and care for child survivors are inadequate.Few services exist in the United States and internationally. The general public remainsuneducated. What they know is informed by myths and misunderstandings with the result thatmost children believe sexual abuse is their own fault. Most survivors suffer in silence out of fear of the responses they will get if they talk about it. In many countries, victims are ostracized andeven killed. Family members protect perpetrators and punish victims out of fear of publicdisgrace and destitution. When peers learn that a child has been sexually abused, some bully andharass child survivors to the point where children have to transfer schools to maintain anysemblance of mental health.The lack of public will to provide services and wide-spread education protects perpetrators. As a result, child sexual abuse continues. I have been working in the field for almost 30 years and continue to hope that one day there will be a world-wide awakening to whatwe are allowing to happen to so many children.
Forms of Child Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse of children takes different forms: incest, child molestation by personschildren know, child molestation by strangers, pornography, child prostitution and trafficking,
 
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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.
Denial
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.”

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