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- What is Child Sexual Abuse?
- Sexual Abuse of Children Falls within the Following WV Statutes:
- Child Victims
- Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
- Child Sexual Abuse
- Signs of Possible Child Sexual Abuse
- Common Emotional Responses of Sexually Abused Children
- What Parents Can Do
- Supporting a Child When Abuse Has Occurred
- Disclosures of Child Sexual Abuse
- Mandated Reporting Requirements for Child Sexual Abuse
- Persons mandated to report suspected abuse and neglect
- Download the Brochure
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
For the purpose of this section, the term "sexual abuse" will refer to all sex crimes perpetrated against children including but not limited to sexual intercourse, sexual intrusion and sexual contact.
"Child" means any person under eighteen years of age not otherwise emancipated by law (WVC §61-8D-1).
Sexual Abuse of Children Falls within the Following WV Statutes:
- §61-8B: Sexual Offenses
- §61-8C: Filming of Sexually Explicit Conduct of Minors
- §61-8D: Child Abuse
- §61-8-12: Incest
West Virginia laws are very specific concerning child sexual abuse. The law considers such factors as the victim's age, the relationship of the offender to the victim, and the degree of force and violence involved.
Many children are sexually abused over a period of years. Long-term abuse in intra-familial situations may begin when the child is young and continue well into adolescence or even after the child leaves home.
In some instances, child sexual abuse may be restricted to fondling or genital touching; other instances may begin that way and escalate to penetration and/or intercourse after an extended period of time. Some children become adolescents before realizing that the sexual contact they have experienced is wrong and does not occur in most households. By this time, however, the child may have assumed feelings of guilt about the sexual activities and may be even more reluctant to reveal the situation to an adult or other family member.
Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
When an attempt is made to talk to someone about the abuse, many children are unable to communicate what is happening. Even when the child is quite verbal, the listener may dismiss the story or accuse the child of lying. If no action is taken to protect the child from further abuse, the child may not initiate the subject again.
Some children believe that something bad will happen if they break the secret of abuse. Often the offender uses threats to keep the child silent. The offender may tell the child that no one will believe the story if she/he tells or the offender may physically threaten the child or his family. No matter how a child discloses the abuse, it is important that the child has placed trust in you. Don't try to decide for yourself whether or not the allegations are true. Don't try to investigate. Child Protective Services and your local law enforcement are trained to do that.
Let the child know you are glad she/he told you. If you are a mandated reporter, tell the child that the law requires that you report it. WV Code §49-6A-2 states that when any mandated reporter has reasonable causes to suspect that a child is neglected or abused or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect, such person shall immediately, and not more than 48 hours after suspecting this abuse, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the WV Department of Health and Human Resources. In any case where the reporter believes that the child suffered serious physical abuse or sexual abuse or sexual assault, the reporter shall also immediately report, or cause a report to be made, to the State Police and any law enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint. (See Mandated Reporting Requirements for Child Sexual Abuse below for more details.)
Reports of suspected child abuse and neglect are made by calling Child Protective Services' 24 hour hotline at 1-800-352-6513.
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional and can include:
- Sexual touching and fondling of a child's sexual body parts
- Forcing a child to touch another person's sexual body parts
- Exposing a child to adult sexual activity or pornographic material
- Having a child undress, pose or perform in a sexual manner
- Taking pornographic pictures of a child
- Voyeurism ("peeping" into bathrooms or bedrooms to watch a child)
- Exposing oneself to a child
- Attempted or actual oral, anal or vaginal penetration
- Making fun of or ridiculing the child's sexual development
- Masturbating in front of the child
- Forcing the child to engage in sexual activity with animals
Signs of Possible Child Sexual Abuse
- Repeated physical complaints with no known cause (e.g., stomach ache, headache, etc.)
- Sleep disturbances or nightmares
- Excessive clinging or crying
- School problems
- Running away
- Hostility or aggression
- Suicidal thoughts/behavior
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Change in eating habits
- Fear or dislike of particular adults or places
- Withdrawal from family, friends or usual activities
- Frequent touching of private parts
- Sexual behavior inappropriate to the age of the child
- Drug or alcohol problems
- Physical symptoms involving the genital, anal or mouth area
- Any dramatic change in behavior or development of new behaviors
Common Emotional Responses of Sexually Abused Children
- of the abuser
- of getting into trouble or getting a loved one into trouble
- no one will believe them
- for not being able to stop the abuse
- for believing they "consented" to the abuse
- for "telling"—if they told
- for keeping the secret—if they did not tell
- about the abuse
- about their body's reactions
- because of their changing emotions
- because they may still love the abuser
- at the abuser
- at other adults who failed to protect them
- at themselves
- about being betrayed by someone they trusted
- because they have trouble talking about the abuse
- because they feel alone
What Parents Can Do
It is important for parents to discuss sexual violence with their children without scaring them. For younger children let them know the difference between "safe", "unsafe" and "confusing" touches. Many abused children are confused because the "unsafe" and "confusing" touches can feel pleasurable.
Parents can help by:
- Teaching children the proper names for sexual body parts. Many children are not able to tell about the abuse because they don't know the words to use.
- Teaching children the difference between safe, unsafe and confusing touches. Talk about appropriate touches and physical affection.
- Telling children that it's okay to say "no" to touches or behaviors that make them feel uncomfortable.
- Reminding children that safety rules apply to all adults, not just strangers.
- Teaching children not to keep secrets about touching, no matter what another person says. Encourage children to tell immediately if someone touches them or behaves in a way that is not okay.
Supporting a Child When Abuse Has Occurred
- Stay calm. Don't panic or overreact.
- Believe the child.
- Assure the child that she/he is not to blame for what has happened.
- Do let the child know it was very brave to tell you.
- Let the child know you are glad she/he told you.
- Protect the child immediately from the suspected offender.
- Report the abuse at once to the Department of Health and Human Resources, Child Protective Services (1-800-352-6513) and the police.
- Refer the family to the local rape crisis center.
- Get a medical exam even if the child appears to be without injuries.
- Connect the child with a counselor who can provide support.
- Children only report sexual experiences they have encountered.
- Children are not responsible for assaults against them.
- Most children are afraid to tell their parents what happened.
Disclosures of Child Sexual Abuse
For a child, disclosing sexual abuse is especially difficult. A child may be embarrassed about what is happening to her/him, or simply lack the vocabulary to express it. While some children may tell you privately and directly about the abuse, more commonly the child will disclose the abuse in the following ways:
"Daddy wouldn't let me sleep last night."
"My babysitter keeps bothering me."
"Mr. Jones wears funny underwear."
Gently encourage the child to be more specific without suggesting more than she/he is willing to tell. When making a report, you don't need to know exactly what form the abuse took, merely that there is a strong likelihood that abuse did indeed take place.
"My friend's daddy likes to play doctor."
"My dolly doesn't like Uncle Jim anymore."
By removing her/himself from the act, the child can feel safer in disclosing the information. Encourage the child to tell you more. It is likely that the child will explain what she/he is talking about.
Disclosure If You Promise Not To Tell
"I have a secret but if I tell you, you have to promise not to tell anyone else."
Some children believe that something bad will happen if they break the secret of abuse. Often the offender uses threats to keep the child silent. The offender may tell the child that no one will believe him if he tells or the offender may physically threaten the child or his family. No matter how a child tells you about the abuse, it is important that she/he has placed trust in you. Don't negotiate and promise not to tell to get the child to disclose. You can promise that you will believe and support her/him. Let the child know you want to help and that you are glad she/he told you. Don't try to decide for yourself whether or not the allegation is true. Don't try to investigate. Child Protective Services and your local law enforcement are trained to do that. Let the child know you want to help.
Mandated Reporting Requirements for Child Sexual Abuse
WV Code §49-6A-2 states that when any mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is neglected or abused or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect, such person shall immediately, and not more than forty-eight hours after suspecting this abuse, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the Department of Health and Human Resources: Provided, That in any case where the reporter believes that the child suffered serious physical abuse or sexual abuse or sexual assault, the reporter shall also immediately report, or cause a report to be made, to the State Police and any law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint: Provided, however, That any person required to report under this article who is a member of the staff of a public or private institution, school, facility or agency shall immediately notify the person in charge of such institution, school, facility or agency, or a designated agent thereof, who shall report or cause a report to be made. However, nothing in this article is intended to prevent individuals from reporting on their own behalf.
Reports of child abuse and neglect pursuant to this article (WV Code §49-6A-5) shall be made immediately by telephone to the local WV Department of Health and Human Resources, Child Protective Service agency and shall be followed by a written report within forty-eight hours if so requested by the receiving agency. The WV Department of Health and Human Resources maintains a twenty-four hour, seven-day-a-week telephone number to receive such calls reporting suspected or known child abuse or neglect (1-800-352-6513).
A copy of any report of serious physical abuse, sexual abuse or assault shall be forwarded by the WV Department of Health and Human Resources, to the appropriate law-enforcement agency, the prosecuting attorney or the coroner or medical examiner's office. All reports under this article shall be confidential and unless there are pending proceedings with regard thereto shall be destroyed thirty years following their preparation. Reports of known or suspected institutional child abuse or neglect shall be made and received as all other reports made pursuant to this article.
This law, WV Code §49-6A-6 requires only a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse for a report to be made. Any person, official or institution participating in good faith in any act permitted or required by this article shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability that otherwise might result by reason of such actions.
All reports are confidential with one potential exception: a Family Law Judge can ask who the reporter was in certain circumstances (WV Code §48-9-209 (10)(e)).
- (1) A parent who believes he or she is the subject of activities by the other parent described in subdivision (5) of subsection (a), may move the court pursuant to subdivision (4), subsection (b), section one, article seven, chapter forty-nine of this code for the Department of Health and Human Resources to disclose whether the other parent was the source of the allegation and, if so, whether the Department found the report to be:
- (A) Substantiated;
- (B) Unsubstantiated;
- (C) Inconclusive; or
- (D) Still under investigation.
- (2) If the court grants a motion pursuant to this subsection, disclosure by the Department of Health and Human Resources shall be in camera. The court may disclose to the parties information received from the Department only if it has reason to believe a parent knowingly made a false report.
Persons mandated to report suspected abuse and neglect:
- Any medical, dental or mental health professional
- Christian science practitioner
- Religious healer
- School teacher or other school personnel
- Social service worker
- Child care or foster care worker
- Emergency medical services personnel
- Peace officer or law-enforcement official
- Humane officer
- Member of the clergy
- Circuit Court Judge
- Family Law Judge
- Employee of the Division of Juvenile Services or Magistrate
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