GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

November 26, 2012

Little boy's exposing himself may signal abuse

:Dear Abby: I am writing to you in response to “Not on My Watch” (Sept. 19), about the little boy who repeatedly exposes himself to other children. While correcting this behavior to protect the other children is something the parents and other concerned adults in this child’s life should be doing, there may be more going on here that needs to be addressed. Children who have been victims of sexual abuse can exhibit overtly sexualized behavior that goes beyond typical curiosity or age-appropriate sexual development.

There are several issues happening with this boy that bother me. The repeated exposure of his private parts to others is the first. While this behavior is not unusual in young children and can be a normal part of sexual curiosity, the compulsive continuation and frequency of his behavior raises red flags. He also mentioned keeping a “secret.” This is a common tool used by people who abuse children. The manner in which he interacted with “Not on My Watch’s” daughter sounds a lot like an interaction between an adult abuser and a child — something he may have been mimicking.

Young children who are sexually abused may not have the developmental or verbal capabilities to disclose what is happening. Often it is through behavioral or emotional signs that we discover the abuse.

While it is important to protect the children this boy interacts with, the more appropriate response to this situation would be to calmly explain to him why his behavior is inappropriate, along with a discussion to find out if he has witnessed this behavior in others or if he has “secrets” with anyone.

If he discloses something during the discussion, it should be immediately reported to the local child protective services and/or police. And if his behavior continues, it would be best to seek professional intervention.

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