MJ: Do children categorically fall into the same types of behavior within the same age range when they have been exposed to or have been through sexual assault? As in children between this and this age will often exhibit signs of X; children from this age to this age you can look for X, and at what point is therapy a consideration? Can a child be too young to “be in therapy”? If a parent believes their child has witnessed or been exposed or experienced child sexual abuse, what credentials should they look for in a professional therapist?
Percell: Children are little sponges. They soak up knowledge from an array of sources at unbelievable rates. I have found that all children advance (grow) through pretty much the same stages at pretty much the same years of age. I know many persons are excited to share what their little Johnny or Jane did today, but, truthfully, so did everyone else’s little Johnny and Jane. Of course, this takes nothing away from individualism; that is a given.
I do not know if there would necessarily be a difference In the behaviors between a child who has witnessed a sexual indiscretion and a child who has been the victim of such. I say this because, again, children are little sponges. They soak up everything, and, like a sponge, will spill everything if properly wrung out. The important point is that the child be reared properly to know and understand love, comfortability, and communication. Many children are shy by nature, but, again, I will not get into individualism or mitigating variables; there are simply too many.
Children might not talk about sexual abuse seen or encountered because they do not understand it. I am not a big proponent of the ‘they think it is their fault theory’. Often, a child has no concept of fault or where to place blame to come to that type of conclusion, in my opinion. A few signs that one might look for include:
having an inappropriate "special secret" with someone
inappropriate little gifts (bribery) or fears of being believed when speaking
unusual care for someone out of the ordinary (as a protective act)
severe and unusual behavioral changes
avoiding or fear of the abuser
inappropriate sexual behavior or maybe even language
physical issues such as unusual and / or out of the ordinary soreness, bruising, or injury
problems concentrating or learning
dropping hints and / or leaving clues of seeing abuse or being abused