Understanding the psychology behind child abuse


BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– According to the CDC, about one in four girls and one in 13 boys are abused sexually as a child. Why is that number so high and what makes people abuse?

Richard Chambers Jr. is behind bars after sexually abusing a child for many years.  But what leads people to approach a child in that manner? Wanting to learn more, 59News spoke with the Executive Director of Just for Kids Inc. Child Advocacy Center Scott Miller, who assisted in handling more than three hundred child abuse cases in 2020.  He said more often than not, abusers do not know any better.

“Oftentimes abusers have been abused,” Miller “So, its what they know having grown up with it and so they don’t see it as wrong because its something that happened to them.”

Miller explained every case is different depending on the nature of the relationship the abuser and victim have, as well as the type of abuse. However, almost all cases have a common denominator.

“It’s always about power and control,” Miller added. “Adults who are looking for that power and control and so, unfortunately, an easy target for them is a child.”

Miller said an open dialogue and teaching your children proper anatomy at a young age allows them to identify when inappropriate encounters are happening and speak up earlier instead of allowing prolonged abuse. Also, having family euphemisms for private parts can be misunderstood by other adults and mandated reporters.

“The family and parents saw clues in their midst it was kind of the monster in their midst because it was someone they loved who was doing something horrible to the child,” Child Law Services Executive Director Cathy Wallace said. 

While we are understanding the psychology, how can you spot the signs of abuse? Scott Miller provided some answers. He said in children some warning signs are changes in behavior like unexplained emotional outbursts or becoming reclusive. 

When asked about abusers being personal with their victims, Miller said there are key things to look for to prevent putting your child in a compromised spot.

“Asking questions,” Miller said. “How does someone react when you say, ‘Hey, ok you want to give my child drum lessons. Is it ok if I stop in during the lesson?’ and if they hesitate that could be an indication that there’s a problem.  There may not be but it could be an indication.

Just for Kids Advocacy Center hosts a Stewards of Children training,  a nationally recognized program to help spot and prevent abuse.  For every one adult trained, 10 children are prevented from being abused nationally. 

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