Victims of child sexual abuse affected far beyond youth
CHILD abuse is arguably the darkest feature in our society and is often a hidden crime.
According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics, between 2014 - 2015, 323 cases of sexual abuse against children were brought to the attention of child services.
The true figure will never be known as it cannot account for the number of children who have to suffer their unreported abuse in silence.
Dr Anne Butcher is a senior post doctoral research fellow within CQUniversity's Queensland domestic and family violence research centre and said the effects of sexual abuse can have long standing effects on a child, invading every aspect of their lives.
"Children can become withdrawn, they start to under perform in school and they withdraw from being their normal usual selves,” Dr Butcher said.
"Long term effects are evident in them not reaching normal milestones, not achieving in school, there is a range of emotional and psychological problems that occur as a result of sexual violence.
"Often it affects their future and can steer some of them into offending behaviour, many of the young people who are in detention centres and adults in the prison system are people who have been abused or neglected.
"Without professional help and support to assist them to deal with that they may not continue to develop as their peers would do and in the same normal healthy way.”
If a child has experienced sexual abuse, professional help and a solid support network will give them the best chance possible of continuing to succeed in life.
"It's essential for children who've experienced any form of abuse or neglect to have the best type of therapeutic care that they can,” Dr Butcher said.
"That would include someone who has a degree of expertise in the area of working with children or adolescents...
"I think that's essential but it's only one part of what's needed.
"What's more broadly needed is some consistency and support by parents or parental figures.
"And the fact it can be acknowledged that it's not the child or the young person's fault...”
There's a number of behaviours children may exhibit if they have been the victim of sexual abuse and while these alone don't indicate abuse they can act as signposts for people who care about the child.
"The child might become sullen, withdrawn, not participate in their normal activities, not seem to be quite themselves,” Dr Butcher said.
"They may start to have dreams and nightmares, they may begin to wet the bed.
"Generally a child becomes withdrawn and their normal ability to participate in school or home seems to diminish somewhat.”
Dr Butcher said letting children know what behaviour is acceptable within certain situations can help them understand how to set limits with people in their lives.
"I think it's always important to age appropriately talk to children about anyone else approaching them,” she said.
"So it might be setting some boundaries around who is okay to do certain things.
"Like it might be okay for the doctor to examine you and putting it into context.”