What is sexual abuse from a parent

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What is meant by sexual abuse?

In addition to the spectacular acts of violence that alarm and horrify parents and educators in particular, there are countless hidden and secretive sexual abuses.

A large proportion of all cases of abuse take place within the family, relatives or in close social proximity. This means that the child has usually known the perpetrator for a long time.

Basically, every sexual contact between an adult and a child is sexual abuse. Unlike adults, there is no consensual sex with children because children are inferior in a way - physically, mentally and linguistically - that there is no question of a free choice. The responsibility for sexual acts therefore lies solely with the adult.

How perpetrators act

Perpetrators use their power and position of authority to satisfy their own sexual desires or to market sexuality, as is the case with child pornography and child prostitution.

As a rule, these actions are enforced via a confidentiality requirement, which is often combined with threats. It is usually difficult to recognize the onset of child sexual abuse within the family. The difference between dealing naturally with nudity and consciously creating a situation with a sexualized background is not always clear. For example, every mother and father will see their child dressing, undressing and grooming. It will also happen in everyday family life that children will see their parents naked or little dressed, for example when changing clothes in the swimming pool.

Deliberately bringing about these situations with the aim of sexually stimulating oneself is something completely different. If attempts are made to kiss the child in an intimate way or to carefully touch them intimately or to harass them with looks and utterances, the limits are clearly exceeded.

Often these behaviors - described by victims in retrospect as the beginning of child sexual abuse - cannot be distinguished from positive and important physical contact between adults and children.

The adult's intention is important for the distinction. A clear no, or a statement that the child feels uncomfortable in the situation, must be accepted. However, children often do not even understand what is happening or do not dare to express their discomfort. Therefore, a perpetrator cannot plead that the child did not say “no”. Due to the trust originally gained, due to their dependency, inferiority, lack of experience or curiosity, a child can often not use their supposed freedom to say “no” at all.

How can I recognize sexual abuse in a child?

The closer the child is to the perpetrator, the less likely it is that the sexual abuse will be discovered.

The child's trust in someone close to him was destroyed. As a rule, the perpetrator obliges the child to maintain secrecy with benefits, gifts, bribes or threats.

Children who cannot talk about the sexual abuse, who fall silent with fear and helplessness, or children who do not believe or trivialize the abuse, can react with a wide variety of behavioral problems.

Well-known symptoms of sexual abuse include:

  • Sleeping, eating or speech disorders,
  • Rewetting or defecation,
  • self-destructive behavior,
  • social and school problems

On the one hand, these symptoms can indicate sexual abuse, but on the other hand they can also have many other causes.

How can I deal with suspected sexual abuse?

Parents who accompany their child in everyday life notice a change in behavior, a step backwards in development, a sudden fear of certain people, certain rooms or places.

It is necessary to investigate these changes, to seek further explanations and to seek advice from specialists in order to investigate a suspicion.

The risk of misinterpretation of observations or misinterpretation of statements made by the child is particularly high with arguing parents.

The difficulty in finding the truth is the result of conscious or unconscious influence on the child by third parties and thus the distinction between what is heard, imagined, and experienced.

If a child opens up to a person he trusts, he is basically to be believed. Attentive listening, not trivializing and avoiding reproachful why-questions (why are you telling me this only now? Why didn't you ...?) Give the child the feeling that they can continue to talk about it. The child needs time, comfort and understanding. Own reactions such as anger, disgust, horror or fear can exacerbate the psychological consequences for the child.

As a rule, the child involves the person they trust in secrecy. Whether and how the child can be protected from further abuse despite this secrecy and which ways can be worked out with the child to get out of this secrecy, to find solutions and help for the child, often overwhelm the person involved in trust.

Here you should be careful not to violate your child's trust. You can openly explain to your child that you are not sure what to do and that you want to get help about it. Depending on their age, your child can understand what anonymous or confidential counseling is. You can explain to him in advance what you want to do.

Without endangering the child's trust, she can get advice and help from the appropriate counseling centers. In this difficult situation, one of the most important ways of helping the child is to be accompanied by someone they trust.

Where can parents and persons seeking advice or affected persons turn?

Information, advice and help are offered by child protection facilities, education and family counseling centers as well as by the local district or city youth welfare office.

Important addresses of advice centers in Bavaria can be found on the Internet at www.gewaltschutz.bayern.de and in the brochure “Acting instead of Silence”. This brochure can be requested free of charge from the Bavarian State Ministry for Family, Labor and Social Affairs, Winzererstraße 9, 80797 Munich.

Parents seeking advice or concerned who do not want to turn to a counseling center can obtain confidential and anonymous advice via the parents' phone. This can be reached free of charge Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on 0800 1110550.

The website www.kein-kind-alleine-klass.de bundles information on counseling offers. This is an initiative of the Federal Government's Independent Abuse Commissioner. Both adults and children can find further information here.

The confidants of affected children and adolescents or concerned fellow citizens can also turn to these advice centers. In the case of sexual abuse, children, regardless of their age, are dependent on the awareness and assistance of their environment.

Contact the local district or city youth welfare office

The local district or city youth welfare office must also provide protection and help for children. If you suspect an acute danger to life and limb of the child or young person, call the police.

Everyone, especially children and young people in emergency situations, can contact the youth welfare office. The youth welfare office has a legal obligation to follow up on indications of a so-called child welfare risk. When deciding which aids and measures to take for the children and young people and their families, both parental rights and the child's best interests are taken into account. This can lead to so-called taking into care, i.e. the child is temporarily placed in another location.

The youth welfare office has many other options to support the family and ensure the well-being of the child or young person. The child welfare office can only take care of the child in acute emergency situations to protect the minor.

If the child is protected from further abuse, the primary task is to strengthen the parents' ability to bring up their children and to offer them help with their upbringing. Taking the child into care and making a decision against the will of the parents can ultimately only be made by the family court. The court, too, can only order measures that involve separation of the child from the family if the risk cannot be eliminated in another way, in particular through public assistance, through judicial orders or prohibitions.

Within the scope of the Protection against Violence and Children's Rights Improvement Act, a parent can apply to the family court for necessary protective measures.

The perpetrator can then be prohibited from

  • to get closer to the family home within a specified radius,
  • to go to certain places where the child stays regularly and
  • Establish contact with the child.

Neither the youth welfare office nor the family court are obliged to file a criminal complaint. The decision for or against a criminal complaint should be made in each individual case with a view to the best interests of the child. This usually means: not against the child's will.

If you suspect sexual abuse of children, you can also contact the police. As already written, the following applies in the event of an acute threat: Dial 110!

But you can also contact the police if you have any questions about a possible criminal complaint. The police can also recommend suitable counseling centers and victim support organizations to accompany and support you.

In the city and district of Munich, the police officers for women and children in Kommissariat 105 of the Munich Police Headquarters offer advice on victim protection, on the legal options for reporting reports by parents and on the rights in criminal proceedings under the telephone number 089 29104444 . In principle, the police officers must initiate the prosecution ex officio in the event of criminal offenses that have become known through the counseling. With this advice line, telephone contact can also be made anonymously.

Can children or young people get help themselves?

Children and adolescents seeking help who cannot or do not want to open up to a trusted person can find information and advice at the toll-free “number against Kummer” of the Child Protection Association, Monday to Saturday, 2pm to 8pm, phone 0800 1110333.

The federal conference for educational counseling www.bke-jugendberatung.de offers free online counseling for young people.

Every child and every young person has the right to turn to the youth welfare office on all matters relating to education and development. You can also receive advice there without the knowledge of the legal guardian if the advice is necessary due to an emergency or conflict.

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