Children at risk: what can we do?

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.  – Edmund Burke

I know that many of you long to make a difference for victims of trafficking!  I am so thankful for those who ask, “What can I do?”   My answer today may not be glamourous, but it could not be more important.

Start with children.

Are you aware of families in your community that struggle?  Do you suspect that a child in your Sunday School class or neighborhood might be suffering the trauma of abuse?

KTUU, a television station in Anchorage, Alaska, recently ran an excellent series called “Stones in A Backpack”, highlighting the ways that childhood trauma contribute to ‘the burden of teen prostitution’.   Click here to link to the site.

Abuse and dysfunction in a child’s family lower her self-esteem, contribute to problems in school, and ultimately make her much more vulnerable to other predators…and commercial sexual exploitation.  It’s one of the major contributing factors to teen prostitution and child trafficking in Western society.

How do we prevent this harm?  And how can we respond to children who have already been victimised?

I believe the first step is education.  Not for the children, but for us.

Child sexual abuse is such a horrifying evil thing that we would like to pretend that it doesn’t exist.  But “child sexual abuse is not rare.  Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.” (The National Child Traumatic Stress Network)

Signs which may indicate abuse include*:

  • an increase in nightmares and/or other sleeping difficulties
  • withdrawn behaviour
  • angry outbursts
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • not wanting to be left alone with a particular individual(s)
  • sexual knowledge, language, and/or behaviors that are inappropriate for the child’s age

So – what can you do if you suspect a child might be the victim of sexual abuse or exploitation?

Keep the CHILD in focus, not the abuse.  The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology offers recommendations.

What to Say
If a child even hints in a vague way that sexual abuse has occurred, encourage him or her to talk freely. Don’t make judgmental comments.

  • Show that you understand and take seriously what the child is saying. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have found that children who are listened to and understood do much better than those who are not. The response to the disclosure of sexual abuse is critical to the child’s ability to resolve and heal the trauma of sexual abuse.
  • Assure the child that they did the right thing in telling. A child who is close to the abuser may feel guilty about revealing the secret. The child may feel frightened if the abuser has threatened to harm the child or other family members as punishment for telling the secret.
  • Tell the child that he or she is not to blame for the sexual abuse. Most children in attempting to make sense out of the abuse will believe that somehow they caused it or may even view it as a form of punishment for imagined or real wrongdoings.
  • Finally, offer the child protection, and promise that you will promptly take steps to see that the abuse stops.

What to Do
Report any suspicion of child abuse. If the abuse is within the family, report it to the local Child Protection Agency. If the abuse is outside of the family, report it to the police or district attorney’s office. Individuals reporting in good faith are immune from prosecution. The agency receiving the report will conduct an evaluation and will take action to protect the child.

Continue reading this article here.  More guidelines and advice are available from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Help is possible, and hope is only as far away as the nearest person who cares.  Recognize the signs of abuse…and find the courage to ACT.  You can combat trafficking by fighting for the future of children in your own community!

*Learn more by reading the Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet, which can be accessed through this link.

The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder discusses the impact of child sexual abuse here.

You can find more resources to deal with child abuse from the National Children’s Alliance here.

The Endangered Child Initiative provides more information on the connection between abuse and commercial exploitation (here).

ECPAT International provides news and ways to combat child pornography, prostitution, and trafficking.  Click here to go to their homepage.


~ by Jennifer Roemhildt Tunehag on April 29, 2011.

2 Responses to “Children at risk: what can we do?”

  1. Great suggestions, Jennifer! Thx for pointing us toward the children in our midst. We have such a tragedy in our own backyard in the U.S.

  2. Thank you! Thank you!

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