Sexual violence at the hands of children is just as destructive as any violation by an adult.
It is hard being the victim of an older child. In the back of our collective mind, our society still thinks that it is less harmless to be violated by a child than by an adult.
I spoke to a woman who came to talk to meet with me wearing a restaurant uniform. She was so proud to be wearing it that she wore it everywhere. In her previous position, she usually didn’t wear much to work.
In her previous position, she was an exotic dancer.
Nothing wrong with that. She wasn’t hurting anyone. Or was she?
When Rebecca* was young she was sexually abused by a family favorite cousin for years. When she got the courage to tell her mother about it, she was instructed that this was a family matter.
Rebecca was fine with that. In her mind, she was from a good family. Something would be done.
She didn’t know that family justice meant Rebecca would be made out to look like the one who seduced her older cousin. With that kind of family reputation, the rules around Rebecca became strict. She had already caused one good boy to go astray.
Like many victims of sexual violence, Rebecca ran from her upper-middle-class family and lived on the streets. She told me she may not have had material luxuries, but she felt free. And sex work and exotic dancing made her feel powerful.
But, that kind of power can sometimes be a temporary high for some.
Rebecca found eventually began to turn to other addictions. Thus the changes in the work attire.
This is what it is
Sexual experimentation in early childhood development is normal. BUT it is is when both children willingly engage. Typically these children are around the same age, size, and don’t have large differences in mental or physical abilities.
Like when some children played doctor and we wondered what “that” was. Or, maybe when children played house and that parents role playing game went way a little past appropriate. Children are curious. They play house. They play doctor.
But, when one child is coerced or forced to go along with these “games” that should make us feel strange. As if something isn’t quite right. Because it isn’t.
If this were about lunch money, tennis shoes we worked hard to pay for, or glasses we would be at the principal’s office demanding a resolution.
This is worse.
This is a child’s body. This is a child’s mental health status.
Their self-esteem. Their physical health.
Their choices about in life.
Not just today, for an entire lifetime.
You know we have a lot of definitions of abuse out there. But bottom line, abuse is when one mistreats and violates another person. There may be coercion, pressuring, manipulation. There may be bullying.
There is the assertion of power and control.
Signs of a child abusing another
- Playing special “games” when adults aren’t around. Such as role playing like doctor, house, or other such games.
- Older child is the one that tells the story of what happened to adults.
- Older child is always the one who tells the story first to the adults.
- Older child wants to be alone with the child often. In the room alone, off playing alone, sleeping in the bed alone, etc.
- Older child offers the child bribes (dessert, treats, games, ability to spend time with older children)
- Older child does not listen when younger child/children say “no” or resist physical attention
- Inappropriate sexual boundaries. Doesn’t respect other children’s personal boundaries especially of a sexual nature.
- Getting other peers to join in bullying of younger child