Local News

Expert: Children blame themselves for sex abuse

Posted July 7, 2009 7:15 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2009 7:31 p.m. EDT

— Children who have been sexually abused by a teacher or other adult often will blame themselves for the abuse, according to a child psychiatrist.

"Probably more so kids than teenagers will blame themselves. They'll think that they were somehow responsible for what happened or they somehow deserved it," said Dr. Kerry Landry, who sometimes works with young sex abuse victims.

Those feelings of guilt can manifest themselves in aggression or acting out and could ultimately lead to other problems like post-traumatic stress disorder, Landry said.

"It gets in the way of social relationships. It certainly gets in the way of their ability to learn," she said.

Assistant Durham County District Attorney Jan Paul said the 10-year-old boy that former teacher's aide Gina Watring is accused of having sex with attacked his mother when she discovered a cell phone Watring allegedly gave the boy so they could communicate.

Paul told a judge Monday that the boy punched his mother, pulled a knife on her, threw a hammer at her and jumped from a second-story window in an attempt to run away after his mother confronted him about the cell phone.

"It doesn't surprise me that there was some aggression and some acting-out behaviors," said Landry, who isn't involved in the case.

Parents should look for warning signs that something may be wrong with their children, such as a drop in grades or suddenly acting out, she said. They need to get the student to talk to a professional the child or parent trusts, such as a guidance counselor or a pediatrician.

Children can grow past the abuse, Landry said. It usually involves professional help and constant reassurance from adults, she said.

"(Adults need to let them know) that they support them, that they want to help them through this, that this is not something that they are at fault for, this is something bad that happened to them, but it does not need to define them," she said.