Sunday, August 7, 2011

Covert (Subtle) Sexual Child Abuse

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD
Covert sexual abuse is more insidious than blatant sexual abuse. Thus, identifying it is more difficult because the sexual nature of the action is disguised. The sex offender acts as if she/he is doing something non-sexual, when in fact she/he is being sexual. The betrayal then becomes two-fold. The child is not only abused, but also tricked or deceived about the act. In this dishonesty, the child is unable to identify or clarify his/her perception of the experience. The unreal or surreal sense that accompanies any sexual abuse is intensified when the child is tricked into disbelief. Thus, the child doubts his/her perceptions and feelings and believes that there is something wrong with him/herself because he/she feels terrible.

To make matters worse, those around the child act as if nothing is wrong or there is collusion. For example: Uncle Lewie pulls his 3-year-old niece's bathing suit bottom down and everyone laughs. Or a game of tag is played and the person who gets 'tagged' gets his/her bathing suit pulled down, invariably the child is the only one who gets tagged and laughed at. The child feels humiliated or shamed as everyone laughs at his/her expense. Thus, the child feels inadequate or crazy that he/she feels bad, as if she/he is the one with the problem.

Adhering to the definition of Sexual Child Abuse (see definition below), sexual child abuse can be as subtle and insidious as:

" a person allowing the child to see pornographic pictures or movies

" a man hugging a child while pressing his hard penis against her"

" a man/woman giving a child a 'wet' kiss on the lips"

" a man/woman putting his/her tongue on a child's lips or into his/her mouth

" anyone, who has sexual intent; invading a child's privacy, such as entering the bathroom or bedroom without knocking, catching her unaware and indisposed"

" anyone 'playfully' pulling a child's swimsuit bottom down or pulling her panties down without implied permission or permission

" bathing a child when the child is old enough to bathe him/herself"

" any person touching or caressing the child in ways that are sexual"

" a man holding a child on his lap while he has an erection"

" a person who stares (ogles) at or makes provocative sexual comments about the child's body."

" anyone kissing the child in a way that is sexual for the giver"

" seemingly innocuous touching, wrestling, tickling or playing, which has sexual overtones or meaning for the other person"

" touching a boy's penis with sexual overtone or meaning, while changing his diaper or bathing/drying him"

" playing 'red light/green light' - If I touched you here (the person touches an erogenous area) would you say "Red light or Green Light? No matter the answer the person has transgressed a boundary and the child has experienced in-appropriate touch and therefore has been abused"

" any adult asking/instructing a child to touch him/her in his/her erogenous areas or genitalia"

" copping a feel in the child's erogenous areas"

" a man touching/patting a child's leg with sexual intent or meaning while driving"

" a man with sexual intent or meaning while seemingly unintentionally touching a child's chest/or breast

Women know how unnerving and icky it feels when a person ogles, touches, cops a feel or makes in-appropriate or unwanted sexual comments. Can you imagine how a child feels? While the child doesn't know the intent or ramifications, the child feels the person's sexual energy and doesn't know what is transpiring, therefore a copped feel, ogling or sexual comments are more profound for a child than an adult.

This list of subtle (covert) is not intended to be all inclusive-indeed, it can not be. In the 33 years I have worked with sexual child abuse survivors, I am not surprised to hear yet another insidious way a sex offender abuses a child. These covert sexual child abuse behaviors have been reported numerous times by my clients, who have all the classic aftereffects of sexual child abuse. Therefore, I am certain of the authenticity and validity of their report. I have no reason to believe an adult person would lie about such a childhood experience when there is nothing for them to gain by lying.

Sexual Child Abuse Definition: "Incest is both sexual abuse and an abuse of power. It is violence that does not require force. Another is using the victim, treating them in a way that they do not want or in a way that is not appropriate by a person with whom a different relationship is required. It is abuse because it does not take into consideration the needs or wishes of the child; rather, it meets the needs of the other person at the child's expense. If the experience has sexual meaning for another person, in lieu of a nurturing purpose for the benefit of the child, it is abuse. If it is unwanted or inappropriate for her age or the relationship, it is abuse. Incest [sexual abuse] can occur through words, sounds, or even exposure of the child to sights or acts that are sexual but do not involve her. If she is forced to see what she does not want to see, for instance, by an exhibitionist, it is abuse. If a child is forced into an experience that is sexual in content or overtone that is abuse. As long as the child is induced into sexual activity with someone who is in a position of greater power, whether that power is derived through the perpetrator's age, size, status, or relationship, the act is abusive. A child who cannot refuse, or who believes she or he cannot refuse, is a child who has been violated." (E. Sue Blume, Secret Survivors).

If one fully understands, accepts and uses this detailed description of sexual child abuse and incest, one is armed with information to protect children from this insidious crime that impacts 62% of girls and 31% of boys by age 18. Another little known statistic is the most frequent sex offender. Research by David Finkelhor and Diana Russell reveals 80% of children are abused by family members. 19% are abused by someone the child knows-teacher, neighbor, family friend, playmate or playmate's sibling, playmate's parent/ grandparent, coach, school janitor, bus driver to name the most frequent known and trusted sex offenders. Government statistics report 1% of all children, who are sexually abused are abused by strangers.

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD, author, "If I'd Only Known...Sexual Abuse in or Out of the Family: A Guide to Prevention, specializes in: Mind, Body, Spirit healing and Physical/Sexual Abuse Prevention and Recovery. As an inspirational leader, Dr. Neddermeyer empowers people to view life's challenges as an opportunity for Personal/Professional Growth and Spiritual Awakening.
http://www.drdorothy.net

Replies to This Discussion


Very nice and informative article!! Unfortunately, it is all too true. I also see abused children as well as all of the mental health disorders as I am a children's therapist. Just finished my children's book, I Promised Not to Tell, which is targeted for children and prevention. Should be out in August. I will check out your website. Isn't it a shame that the abuser is usually a family member. I find that over and over again and I detest having to call to report suspected abuse, even though it absolutely has to be done. Thanks for the great info.
Hi Kara: Thanks for you kind comment. Indeed, I am as dismayed as you with regard to how we as a society have chosen to ignor the obvious and use lipservice as a prevention strategy. Megan's Law is lipservice, it can only protect a few children some of the time. There is a far more effective strategy. If I'd Only Known...Sexual Abuse in or out of the Family: A Guide to Prevention. http://www.gen-assist.com/store.html The book every parent/caretaker needs to keep children safe. Seven compelling parent approved and child tested techniques to thwart would-be sex offenders at home and anywhere sex offenders are. Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading your book. If you would like I would be glad to give you a testimony. Best Regards, Dr. Dorothy Kara T. Tamanini said:
Very nice and informative article!! Unfortunately, it is all too true. I also see abused children as well as all of the mental health disorders as I am a children's therapist. Just finished my children's book, I Promised Not to Tell, which is targeted for children and prevention. Should be out in August. I will check out your website. Isn't it a shame that the abuser is usually a family member. I find that over and over again and I detest having to call to report suspected abuse, even though it absolutely has to be done. Thanks for the great info.
Dr. Dorothy, I like that! First, I would love it if you would write a testimony. I will probably have the galley proof back in the next week or two and I will forward to you. I really appreciate that. It is a book for young children. Secondly, would you mind sending me the jpeg of your book cover with order info. to post on my website. Your book is perfect for the info. that I will be posting under the abuse section on my website and will be a great resource to parents. I am working on the associates program with Amazon and will have books posted under Family Resources on my website and would like yours there too!! Prevention is really the key. Let me know. Have a great week! Blessings, Kara
Dorothy, this is an excellent article containing important information for anyone who is around young children. I do have one request. Since this is an anxiety twitter, it might be nice to give a brief content advisory, upfront,to help avoid triggering. Thank You! Keep up the good work!
Hi Tangerine: Thanks for your comments regarding my article, Covert (Subtle) Sexual Child Abuse. What would you like as a brief content advisory? The title is blatantly clear. If you have a suggestion please send it to me. Thanks, Dr. Dorothy tangerine said:
Dorothy, this is an excellent article containing important information for anyone who is around young children. I do have one request. Since this is an anxiety twitter, it might be nice to give a brief content advisory, upfront,to help avoid triggering. Thank You! Keep up the good work!