Child sexual abuse: how to prevent and detect it

Talking about child sexual abuse is not easy. But it is urgent to raise public awareness about this issue of the utmost importance and need in order to protect the rights and health of children. In Spain, 25% of children have been victims of child abuse by their caregivers (Save the Children, 2019) and in Europe one in five is a victim of sexual violence (Council of Europe, 2014). All these figures are unknown by the general population.

Therefore, the Official College of Psychology of Madrid, through its Working Group on Child Abuse and Abuse, organized last Thursday the I Conference “Advances and new challenges in child abuse and sexual abuse”, in which they participated , among others, Alejandra Pascual Franch, General Coordinator of the Federation of Associations for the Prevention of Child Abuse (FAPMI) and Félix López Sánchez, Professor of Sexology Psychology at the University of Salamanca.

Within the framework of the prevention of child sexual abuse and abuse, Alejandra Pascual recalled the “La Kiko Rule” campaign, consisting of a set of awareness materials aimed at parents, mothers, families and caregivers so they can explain to children and girls where other people cannot try to touch them, how to react and who to contact for help.

“The Kiko Rule” is simple: children should not allow other children or adults to touch parts of their bodies that are usually covered by their underwear. And they should not touch other children and / or adults in those areas. It also helps explain to children that their body belongs to them, that there are good and bad secrets, and ways of playing good and bad.

“It’s about empowering them,” Alejandra Pascual recalled. «Children are not responsible for their own protection but they must be given tools so that they can ask for help and not remain silent», since with children there is an «abuse of power in which silence and guilt”.

In total there are five important aspects that are worked on in the didactic units of this campaign:

1. Your body is yours: children are taught that their body belongs to them and that no one can touch them without their permission.

2. Good way of playing – bad way of playing: it is taught that it is not right for someone to look at or touch their private parts or to be asked to look at or touch the private parts of another person

3. Good secrets – bad secrets: the sexual abuser earns the confidence of children, so it is vital to teach them the difference between good and bad secrets, and create a climate of trust.

4. Learn to ask for help: minors cannot defend themselves but ask for help. That is why they are taught to identify the reference adults.

5. Let’s talk with mom and dad

Kiko also has its own story, also available online, for all those interested.

Another prevention initiative is “Make it Safe”, which addresses the use of ICTs in a safe and responsible manner by children and adolescents in schools, and, on the other, It aims to extend the good use of ICT to parents, mothers and other members of the educational community.

How to detect abuse
“We must not lose sight of online sexual violence that costs a lot to detect,” Pascual recalled. “On the Internet, we act differently and children are believed to interact with an equal” (“grooming”).

«I think that in sexuality we have gone from repression to freedom without education. That is why its effects, ”said Félix López Sánchez, Professor of Sexology Psychology at the University of Salamanca during his speech. According to the expert, although much has been improved in the detection of child sexual abuse, there is still a long way to go.

«There is still a low detection and complaint. Between the incidence and prevalence there is an abyss. There is a lot of alarm but little efficiency, ”said the expert, who insisted on the need to get away from topics and“ sexophobia ”.

“You have to talk,” López Sánchez insisted. «The child must be educated and protected. And it happens that what can not be named is what has more names, ”he recalled, referring to the lack of explanations that children lack when naming, for example, sexual organs.

Therefore, the professor advocates a new approach, giving sex education a “good treatment” where child sexuality is included and “avoiding the abuse of freedom and sexual and loving ethics.”

It is urgent to do it because, in fact, «sexual abuse is increasing in adolescents and is increasing by adolescents themselves. There is a serious problem, ”he said.

But there is another factor that is beginning to be noticed: women begin to be aggressors. «Women are incorporated because freedom has reached women. But freedom has to be accompanied by ethics, ”he stressed.

For the expert, prevention is essential to prevent abuse and “depends on prevention that happens only once.” According to López Sánchez, “it is key that the first abuse is reported or detected to stop those who commit it.”

To do this, you have to get the victim to tell. «The attacked person must know that he is not guilty and it must be said that this secret cannot be kept. You have to find out who to turn to and how ». In most cases, minors who have suffered sexual abuse have told a friend who has kept their secret.

Family, educators, pediatricians, family doctors, forensics, psychologists, etc. they must also be attentive to «the sudden and inexplicable changes of the child. If you don’t want to go to school now, it’s for something. If I used to go out to play and not anymore, something happens, ”he recalled, because if the child does not give explanations and adults do not find them, something happens. «Look at the child’s face. Look at it well because a child’s face does not hide a very dangerous experience. ”He concluded. .

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