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Learn to Listen with Your Eyes 
for the Signs of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Many adults expect children to tell us if they have been sexually abused but that is a difficult thing to do. As a matter of fact, I call you to the challenge - the next time you're in a crowd, I want you to pick a person and then go and open up a conversation where you tell them the intimate details of your last sexual experience. For them to fully grasp what you experienced, you'll have to tell them in as much detail as possible, including exactly what you did, what the other person did, how you felt, if you had an orgasm, if they used any devices. Now just for a moment, in the midst of visualizing yourself telling this story, I want you to picture that you are 6 years old and your last sexual experience was with your dad. Does this help you to begin to understand why children rarely tell?

As children carry the secret of abuse for months or even years, it can have significant impact on them physically, emotionally, and spiritually and this impact appears as Listen with your eyes smallvisible signs that we can see. This is why I am encouraging you all to learn to listen with your eyes!  Here is what you should be looking for. 

 

Physical Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Evidence of physical trauma: blood, swelling, or tears in the skin around the vagina, penis, or anus
  • Complaints of pain or burning during urination or bowel movements
  • Exhibiting symptoms of genital or urinary tract infections or STDs: offensive odor, itching, redness, rashes, blisters, or discharge in the genital area or the mouth and throat
  • Stress-related illnesses: chronic stomach aches or recurring migraine headaches
  • Self-mutilation: pinching themselves, burning themselves with cigarettes, puncturing themselves with pins, or cutting their bodies with knives or razor blades without intending to commit suicide

Emotional or Behavioral Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and signs of post- traumatic stress disorder
  • Extreme fear
  • Aggressive behavior toward friends and family
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, or activities they previously enjoyed
  • Fear of certain people, places, or activities
  • Excessive sadness, depression, or suicide attempts
  • Decreased school performance
  • Eating disorders, loss of appetite, gagging
  • Sleep disturbances, nightmares, and screaming
  • Regressive behaviors, bedwetting, separation anxiety
  • Numbing their pain with alcohol, drugs, or cutting
  • Perfection and signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Loss of memory of certain years or large blocks of time

Sexual signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Increased questions about human sexuality
  • Excessive masturbation or masturbating in public
  • Increased sexual play with friends, pets, or toys
  • Talking about or acting out specific sexual acts
  • Increased choice of sexually revealing clothing or covering up
  • Signs of promiscuity
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Depicting people in a sexual way in pictures


Although your good sense may tell you not to believe rumors, according to experts in the field, it is important to realize that rumors are a good source of information1 and what you hear from others along with signs of abuse in children are strong indicators that a child may be experiencing sexual abuse. Your response to seeing these signs can vary depending on your relationship with the child and how many signs you see.

At mimimum if you know the child, let them know what you see and that you're concerned for them. Tell them that if someone is making them feel scared or uncomfortable, it's okay to tell you or another a trusted adult. Tell them, they can even ask a friend to tell a trusted adult. Ask them to name five adults they could tell their deepest secrets to - parents, a teacher, a doctor or nurse, a friend's Mom, etc. Be sure to include people from inside and outside the family because you may not know where the abuse is happening. Help the child understand that they have choices and there are people around them who can help. 

While a single sign does not necessarily mean that abuse has occurred, if you see multiple signs, chronic signs, or major changes in behavior, it should be cause for you to suspect abuse has occurred.

Let’s look further into the word “suspect” so we are all on the same page. The definition of suspect is to “have an idea or impression of the existence, presence, or truth of (something) without certain proof.”2 It is not up to you to prove that abuse has taken place before reporting to authorities. You simply have to have an idea or impression that something has taken place.

Former Deputy District Attorney and author, Robin Sax, says, “Reporting your suspicion is not the same as making an accusation. You are just asking the authorities to investigate the possibility that there may be a problem.”3 While the law differs by state, all states designate professionals who work with children to be mandated reporters4 and the law requires them to report suspicions of abuse, not just incidents where they have facts or hard evidence. Our hope is that every adult would consider it a moral obligation to report abuse, even if they are not required by law.

You should not rely on proof to get an investigation, you should rely on the investigation to get proof.


1. Shakeshaft, Charol. “Know the warning signs of educatorsexual misconduct.” Kappan Magazine, February 2013: 8–13. Charol Shakeshaft, “Know the Warning Signs of Educator Sexual Misconduct,”KappanMagazine (February 2013): 13.
2. Google Search, accessed August 5, 2014, google.com/search?q=suspect+definitionandoq=suspect+d efinitionandaqs=chrome.69i57.2763j0j7andsourceid=chro meandes_sm=93andie=UTF-8.
3. “Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect(State Statutes Current Through November 2013),” ChildWelfare Information Gateway, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014): 1, gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/manda.cfm.
4. Robin Sax, It Happens Every Day: Inside the World of a Sex Crimes DA (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2010),135.
5. Diane Cranley, 8 Ways to Create their Fate: Protecting the Sexual Innocence of Children in Youth-Serving Organizations (Mustang: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, 2015), 340.

  • icon Care Leaders
  • icon Children & Youth Program Leaders
  • icon Church Leaders
  • icon Healing and Deliverance Ministers
  • icon Intercessory Prayer Ministers
  • icon The Church Body's Role

Twenty percent of the population has been sexually abused and that doesn't count the indirect victims such as siblings, parents, spouses, and children. That means at least twenty percent of your congregation are victims - maybe more as God often calls us in our deepest pain and despair. When survivors are struggling with the repercussions of their own childhood abuse they may turn to the church for help. Survivors may struggle with flashbacks, body memories, substance abuse, marital problems, physical health issues, or psychological issues including life threatening eating disorders, severe depression,or suicidal thoughts. Some may be diagnosed with serious mental illnesses and be needlessly placed on psychotropic drugs rather than addressing the trauma of child sexual abuse. So it is critical for care leaders to know how to recognize a survivor, assess their needs, and provide or refer them to the appropriate resources to keep them safe and provide the long-term care they need. 

The church may also be the first place a parent turns when they find out their child was, or still is being abused. This is an emotionally charged time for everyone involved so it is important to have pre-established plans for how you will respond ensuring the safety of the child, abiding by the law, and helping provide for the short-term and potentially long-term physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and financial needs of everyone in the family. These plans are even more crucial if the abuser is a family member. Care leaders may include care ministry directors, lay ministers, recovery leaders, church therapists, chaplains, prayer team members, and all other team leaders or people who have care ministry responsibilities.

We encourage you to learn more about recognizing signs of sexual abuse in children and in adults and to take our free on-line advocacy classes on supporting adult survivors and parents whose children have been abused.

 

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Church leaders who are responsible for programs that serve youth are an integral part of God's plan to prevent abuse that may happen within or through church programs. By virtue of building trusting relationships with the children in their care, these leaders are also a vital part of the rescue team - it is crucial that they understand how to recognize, respond, and report; observed, disclosed, or suspected abuse of any child in their care, whether the abuse allegedly occurred within the church or outside of the church. In fact, clergy and youth program leaders are considered mandated reporters in most states and may be subject to penalties for failure to report to law enforcement or their local child welfare agency.

We need church leaders who are responsible for children, to actively participate in the development and implementation of child sexual abuse prevention policies and procedures and ensure all staff and volunteers who serve youth are trained and monitored. Youth program leaders include children's pastors, youth pastors, heads of school, missions directors, camp directors, and any other person who has direct or indirect oversight of child or youth-serving programs.

We encourage you to learn more about preventing abuse as well as recognizing the signs of abuse in children and taking bold action. 

 

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Church leaders play a key role in the resolution of the child sexual abuse pandemic because all areas of prevention and restoration fall under their realm of responsibility. It is therefore crucial that leaders in the church understand the vision for all components of God's plan outlined on this site including Intercessory Prayer, Preventing Abuse, Reporting Abuse, Speaking From the Pulpit, Survivor Support, Offender Discipleship, and Healing Prayer. This will empower them to raise up those within their congregation who are gifted in each area, ultimately creating a broad and deep program that protects God's children, supports those who are impacted, and adheres to the law. Church leaders include pastors, priests, reverends, vicars, ministers, deacons, preachers, church council members, board members, missions directors, chaplains, overseers including bishops/cardinals, and all other church members in senior leadership roles, regardless of demonimation. 
 

Because child molesters want to spend time where children congregate,
your church is a target. 

 
If your church has a youth or children's program, child molesters will want to work or volunteer there. One researcher refers to youth-serving organizations as a "well populated hunting ground."1 We can't be naive to the enemy's schemes and how he will use people to hurt God's children. So it is essential that you implement informed best practices to ensure the protection of the kids in your care and we can help you do that.
 
Our Founder, Diane Cranley, has written 8 Ways to Create their Fate: Protecting the Sexual Innocence of Children in Youth-Serving Organizations which will guide you and your staff to create an environment where child molesters virtually cannot succeed without being caught and therefore won't want to work. It is based on eight simple best practices, that when implemented will significantly lower the risk of children being abused while in your care. Your proactive approach toward prevention is a partnership with God to protect the plans he has for his children. The side benefit is that it will also protect your church against lawsuits and potentially even lower your insurance rates and increase your coverage limits.  

Protecting the children in your care is your first responsibility! 

Beyond prevention, we are calling you to lead the charge across all areas of spiritual hardship created by this pandemic; from the perpetrators and those struggling not to abuse - to the children and adults who have suffered the transgression of sexual abuse and are now fighting for their freedom from oppression and captivity. Freedom and the restoration of all things is available through prayer and deliverance ministry and we can teach your staff and congregation how to pray and effectively bind up the broken hearted and set the captives free! 

Bind up the Brokenhearted - Set the Captives Free 

Please order 8 Ways to Create their Fate today to learn how to prevent abuse and visit the other topics on this site to find resources for support and healing.

 
 

1Kenneth V. Lanning and Park Dietz, “Acquaintance Molestation and Youth-Serving Organizations,” J Interpers Violence (May 2014): 1,3, doi:10.1177/0886260514532360

 
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"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy..." (John 10:10 NIV) and what better way to do it than to steal the sexual innocence of our children and make them believe it was their fault? Since most victims don't tell, the enemy spends the next several decades pouring salt on those open wounds, often giving the enemy strongholds through unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, and agreements with his lies. But Jesus proclaimed, “If you obey my teaching,” he said, “you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth. And the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 NIV) Claiming the truth and power of Christ's death and resurrection through facilitated prayer can demolish the work of the enemy in a survivor's life, bringing them full freedom and the abundant life God pre-destined for them before time began. Healers and deliverance ministers are the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth, to carry out his ministry of healing the brokenhearted and setting the captives free. There is no greater need for this work than in survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

We encourage you to learn all you can about healing prayer through us as well as other reputable resources.

 

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God's word calls us to not only pray for the saints but it urges us to pray for all people, without ceasing. God has anointed people in the body with the gift of intercessory prayer and these prayer warriors are at the center of God's plan for fighting the child sexual abuse pandemic in the spiritual realm. His word says, "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt 18:18 NIV) 

The Kingdom is in need of intercessors who are led to make this pandemic a focal point of their ministry, engaging in relentless prayer, and wielding God-given weapons that have divine power to demolish strongholds. Intercessors may already lead a team, feel called to start a team, feel led to join a team, or simply to pray individually. All of these roles are valuable and welcome in God's plan!

 

We encourage you to learn more about intercessory prayer over the child sexual abuse pandemic and use our prayer guide so that we are all praying in agreement.

 

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Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.           1 Corinthians 12:27(NIV)

The child sexual abuse pandemic has many facets and in order to overcome this destructive scheme of the enemy, God needs us to actively engage in all of them. We encouarge church staff and the body as a whole to understand their role in prevention and in setting the captives free. There is so much to be done but together we can and will overcome. Please click on the role or roles below that apply to you and learn how you can become fully equipped to join us in this kingdom work.

 

Make a commitment - our kids our counting on us all!

 

Your church and community needs saints who are willing to:

  • Pray daily for all aspects of this pandemic
  • Recognize the signs of abuse in children and give them permission to tell so they can start their healing early
  • Talk comfortably about abuse, even from the pulpit, so adult survivors will find safety in disclosing what may be a lifelong secret
  • Get trained on how to prevent child sexual abuse within the church and at home and invite others to become knowledgeable as well
  • Establish effective boundary policies within the youth and children's ministries to deter child molesters
  • Disciple registered sex offenders and those struggling with inappropriate sexual thoughts about children
  • Provide healing prayer and deliverance from the spiritual strongholds surrounding childhood sexual abuse

 

Please spend some time looking through the topics on this website to see how the Lord leads you to participate. We encourage everyone to get started by taking our free on-line training!

 

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