Q COSTA RICA – On average, every day in 2016, five children in the country; authorities received more than 2,000 calls of alert.
Of the 109 that were received directly by the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (PANI) – Costa Rica’s child welfare agency – to its 1147 hotline, only 13 ended up in the courts for sexual crimes..
Can a child victim of sexual abuse be recognized?
“Unfortunately an ordinary person cannot detect sexual abuse at first, and we cannot go through life with the paranoia that any uncle or any friend can be an abuser, because there are also women abusers,” said Laura Chinchilla, a psychologist at the PANI.
The psychologist further explains that the situation is worsened if, unfortunately, there is a sexual abuser in the extended family or the group of friends, as it is almost impossible for an unprepared person to detect it.
However, there are signs that a parent can consider”
- Fear. A child who has been a victim of abuse may be scared of some particular location, person, or physical appearance. For example, men with beards or women with long hair.
- They may cry when they are dropped off at daycare or are uncomfortable and evasive with adults and caregivers.
For the expert, any drastic behavior change needs to be examined. For example, a little boy who starts wetting the bed (or restarts again) needs to be looked at. A teenager who used to be lively and suddenly changed his/her attitude and starts locking themselves in their room indicates that something is happening.
“You have to be alert and see if there is any use of drugs, sexual abuse or a family problem,” said Chinchilla.
Parents need to encourage and strengthen communication and dialogue with children from a young age:
- Teach them that no one can touch them without their consent.
- They need to develop relationships based on trust and affection: If the child is afraid of his/her parents, he/she will be scared of telling them what is happening.