Posted on: November 10, 2011
The revelations of child sexual abuse by Penn State’s Assistant Football Coach, Jerry Sandusky, are terrible and heartbreaking. As shocking as this case is, it is not uncommon. The Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center responds to every report of child sexual abuse in the city of Chicago. Each year, this amounts to over 2,000 reports. Just like the victims in this case, over 80% of the children know their abuser.
Had this sexual abuse occurred at a Chicago university, the CCAC would have responded to the report, just as the children’s advocacy center in Pennsylvania is seeking justice for the children harmed at Penn State.
It is common for children to be afraid to report abuse that has happened to them. However, in this case, there were multiple adults who knew about the abuse and did nothing. This is something that we as a society need to change, both in Chicago and across the nation. All adults have a responsibility to learn the signs of abuse – like the five below – and to be vigilant in protecting children.
Symptoms of Anxiety – unexplained sleep disturbances; showing a new or unusual fear of certain people, places or locations; and having unexplained periods of panic or alarm.
Abnormal Sexual Behaviors or Symptoms – leaving ‘clues’ that appear to intentionally invite discussion of sexual issues, complaining of pain while using the toilet, resistance to removal of clothing at appropriate times, and asking an unusual amount of questions about human sexuality.
Changes in Personality or Mood – unusually aggressive behavior toward family members, friends, toys and pets; indicating a sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person; and withdrawing from previously enjoyable activities.
Sudden Behavioral Changes – wetting the bed again, experiencing a loss of appetite or other changes in eating habits, developing frequent unexplained health problems, and regression to behaviors too young for the stage of development.
Changes in Beliefs or Discussions – refusal to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child; discussion about a new, older friend; or suddenly thinks of self or body as dirty, repulsive or bad.
All adults have the moral and ethical obligation to report suspected child abuse, regardless of whether or not they have a legal obligation to do so as a mandated reporter. Here are some steps you can take to protect children:
Know the signs of child sexual abuse.
If you think a child is being abused, report it by calling 1-800-25-ABUSE or 9-1-1.
Support the CCAC and their first responder services to victims of sexual abuse and their families.
This article was authored by the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center. Learn about their work at www.chicagocac.org. To get involved with ICAAP’s child abuse, neglect, and trauma work, learn about our Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect (COCAN).