The scourge of child abuse

By Connie Valentine

Did you know April is both National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Child abuse is something nobody wants to talk about. Child sexual abuse is something absolutely nobody wants to talk about. But child sexual abuse is happening all over the place.

It happens to at least a quarter of the population in the United States. That means every fourth person you talk with at a party has been sexually abused as a child. Every fourth person at your workplace. Every fourth person in your neighborhood. Women and men.

The fallout from child sexual abuse is profound. Frequently, there is no medical evidence even of penetration, since children’s bodies heal quickly. But there are psychological symptoms that can be life-threatening.

Some symptoms include fear, anger, depression, compulsive behaviors, eating disorders (bulimia or anorexia), obesity, promiscuity, alcoholism, drug abuse, sleep disturbances, enuresis, encopresis, regressive behavior, self-destructive or risk-taking behavior, impulsivity, distractibility, difficulty concentrating, refusal to be left alone, fear of the alleged offender, fear of people of a specific type or gender, fire-setting and cruelty to animals (more characteristic of boy victims), pseudomaturity, running away, suicidal attempts, self-mutilation, criminal activity, problems relating to peers, school difficulties and sudden noticeable changes in behavior.

Negative effects of child sexual abuse can stay with the victim into adulthood. Adults sexually abused as children commonly experience depression, high levels of anxiety, self-destructive behaviors such as alcoholism or drug abuse, anxiety attacks, situation-specific anxiety disorders, insomnia, and problems in relationships and in sexual functioning.

Most of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by males, and most are family members and friends of the family.

In response to this epidemic, the Incest Survivors Speakers’ Bureau was formed and began holding conferences to let the public know the extent and severity of child sexual abuse.

The 20th annual Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Conference will take place in Davis on Saturday, April 5, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Veterans’ Memorial Center, 203 E. 14th St. The conference is free and registration is optional, but continuing education credits are available at cost to those who do wish to register.

The title of this year’s event is “Childhood Trauma: Focusing on Solutions.” Wendy Murphy, an author, professor and former sexual abuse prosecutor, is the keynote speaker. She will discuss the current dilemma for children who are sexually abused and not protected.

The afternoon panel will examine the need for a trauma-informed community to prevent retraumatization of the child victims and to assist survivors to heal.

For more information, please go to www.issb.us.

Child sexual abuse is a scourge that creates an unstable and traumatized population. This is your chance to make your stand and say it is not OK to sexually abuse a child.

— Connie Valentine is a Davis resident and a founder of the Incest Survivors Speakers Bureau.

Special to The Enterprise

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