A number of incidents in the last period drew attention on the reduced self-defending capacity that children have. Any normal parent would be terrified by the thought of a sexual assault directed at his child and would like to be able to equip the child with everything he needs to protect himself.
Unfortunately, there were and will always be sexual abusers in the world. We call it a sexual assault when an action that is directed at a defenseless person involves a sexual activity that is not wanted by the defenseless person which is forced to participate. When this aggression is directed by an adult against a minor we call it pedophilia. The older the child is, the more likely he is able to defend himslef more effectively, which leads us to the idea that those children in early childhood are extremely vulnerable.
First thing that parents can do in order to protect their children is to inform them. Despite any existing form of taboo regarding sex education, this one particularly should be done because it is a protective factor against both aggression and sexually transmitted diseases. Children need to acknowledge what their intimate parts are, how to use them and how to care for them.
Once this education is started, it is important, given the age of the child, to explain how the intimate parts are used, who is allowed to touch them, when it is normal to show the intimate parts, to whom we show them and in what contexts this is allowed. For example, we can explain to the child that it is okay to show the doctor the intimate parts if he asks to examine them for a diagnosis, but it is not okay to show them to a person on the street, to a stranger who came to visit us and so on.
Children need to be explained what sexual arousal is, what masturbation means, especially since they tend to touch their intimate parts and experience pleasure from early childhood. They must be able to recognize when a person is trying to reach their intimate parts in order to produce sexual arousal.
Another extremely important and perhaps most important of all is that there needs to be a person in the family with whom the child has a trusting and secure relationship so he feels safe and free to discuss absolutely any experience of him, no matter how shameful or horrifying. One thing that we all need to know is that pedophiles primarily attack in the family and when this is not possible, they begin to “hunt” on the street. As a result, most sexual assaults on children occur in the family. This is a very harsh truth and it makes us realize how deeply traumatizing this is for a child to be sexually assaulted in his own family. And what’s even worse is that he doesn’t have a person to call for help.
This situation is possible because in many cases the mother cannot accept that this is true. The idea that the husband or other person in the familly sexually assaults the child is unimaginable to anyone, and this predisposes the mother to an almost absolute denial. Such a situation is difficult to control from the outside, and the child is overwhelmed with helplessness, fear, pain and vulnerability without protection in front of those who should have protected and loved him.
More than that, there is a reason why these aggressions are possible. The deeply unmet emotional needs of children can predispose them to accepting any kind of behavior that involves attention directed at them, touching them and being nice, even if it is completely harmful and inappropriate. When a child feels neglected and untouched, then he becomes willing to accept any kind of connection, any kind of attention. Why is this happening? Because no child, no human being, in fact, is able to survive outside of emotional connections with others. And these emotional connections are made up of emotional needs that we all have throughout our lives, which need to be satisfied.
This scenario may be possible despite adequate education regarding the intimate parts and sexual activity due to the fact that the child will be forced to resort to emotional survival strategies when he does not receive touch, attention, care and value. This makes him to no longer take into account the quality of contact with the others as long as those listed before get to him.
Therefore, if we make sure not to neglect the child emotionally, if we inform him appropriately about the intimate areas and explain to him what intimacy means, how to choose the persons with whom to become intimate, when the intimacy is appropriate and when it is not and if we take precaution of what environments our childs is exposed to then everything should be fine.
When we represent the main attachment figure of the child it is very important to work with ourselves as much as possible to really be attentive to the needs of the child and to provide the necessary freedom and security so that the child feels he can communicate openly about everything. A child who lacks this type of relationship does not speak, becomes the victim who endures the abuse in silence, becomes the victim who does not ask for help. And, of course, he will develop as an adult who will remain a victim for all his life. An example are those women who stay in marriages where they are physically and sexually abused and don’t seek help. They do not seek that help out of fear, helplessness, the expectation of not being heard, of not being taken seriously or helped and protected after leaving the abusive relationship.
Often the victims defend their aggressors. This happens when the aggressors are the only stable relationships available to the victims. In this situation everything is complicated. A child who is left with only the father who sexually abuses him, for example, will defend the father if he has no one else to go to and feel understood, seen, heard, protected, loved and wanted. These patterns are getting chronic and after the end of the event that spans all the years of childhood and adolescence, to the surprise of many, the child who is now an young adult does not begin to enjoy a quiet and abuse-free life but will continue to have the same type of abuse in his life, from other people.
This happens because the relational pattern has already been formed, the trauma is severe, profound and can only be treated by psychotherapeutic help. There is nothing that psychiatric pills can do for the victims in this case. Maybe a little help could come from this direction, for a little stabilization in the case of overwhelming emotional reactions but the real help is the psychotherapeutic one.
In conclusion, all we can do is to inform the children of sexuality, satisfy their needs as much as we can, build a secure relationship and give them unconditional acceptance. And, of course, control the environments they are exposed to.