Beginning at age 7, a little boy was sexually abused by an across-the-street adult male neighbor. Before the abuse started, the perpetrator groomed him and his parents, offering to babysit while his mom ran errands. Grooming is a word to describe how a perpetrator gains trust.
The perpetrator had two daughters roughly the same age. Nobody in the neighborhood knew about it. Nobody knew what to look for. The perpetrator was also abusing his oldest daughter - the little boy's second grade classmate.
Around the time their son was coming into puberty, the little boy began having nightmares. He began acting out in school, lying, smoking, cutting himself with a knife and fire setting.
He and his parents had been "groomed" by his perpetrator. That is the process of gaining the trust of ones caregivers to get access to the victim. His parents took him to a play therapist and later placed him into in-patient psychiatric therapy with other troubled youth. After he was behind locked doors for a while, and felt safe from his abuser, he told what had happened.
Because he had always been so "protected" by his parents, nobody in his family could believe him.
Once a person has been a victim of child sexual abuse, it's common for them to attempt suicide, have failed relationships and marriages, abuse drug and alcohol, and jail stints. Left untreated, they can become a perpetrator themselves.
So here are 10 things you should know about child sexual abuse.
1. In the mind of the abuser; they are normal. Your sex life is strange. Because they think their actions are normal, and even justified, they are harder to catch and not at all ashamed of what they are doing.
2. Perpetrators will seek out positions that give them access to children.
3. Abusers are deliberate, deceptive, and extremely patient.
4. Child sex abusers often have a preference for a victim type - so don't be fooled if a certain perpetrator doesn't seem interested in all children of any sex or age.
5. The term pedophile refers to those who have a preference for prepubescent children.
6. Many child sex abusers were abused themselves and never came forward for counseling to help them understand that that type of sex was not normal.
7. One sign of child sexual abuse is fire-setting and self-mutilation or cutting. Counselors say it's because the child cannot understand the pain inside so the cut themselves to experience pain that they CAN understand.
8. To mask the pain they feel a victim of child sexual abuse may turn to drugs or alcohol. They will also prefer to run with other troubled kids or those with low self-esteem - because it's easier for them to fit in with them.
9. Perpetrators will threaten death to a victim's parents or siblings if them a victim tells of their abuse.
10. Most child abusers are known to their victims. So always intensely question those folks say they really, really, really, want to spend some time with a child in your care.
I know all of this because the victim described in this piece is my son.
Parents please: Whether it's a baby sitter, coach, priest, youth minister, whomever; ALWAYS be suspicious. It can happen to you just as easily as it did to me. So educate yourself on the subject and do everything in your power to stop this from happening to someone you love.
Trust me, once it happens; lives are never the same.