As stated in Florida Statute 39, “sexual abuse of a child” means one or more of the following acts:
- Any penetration, however slight, of the vagina or anal opening of one person by the penis of another person, whether or not there is the emission of semen.
- Any sexual contact between the genitals or anal opening of one person and the mouth or tongue of another person.
- Any intrusion by one person into the genitals or anal opening of another person, including the use of any object for this purpose, except that this does not include any act intended for a valid medical purpose.
- The intentional touching of the genitals or intimate parts, including the breasts, genital area, groin, inner thighs, and buttocks, or the clothing covering them, of either the child or the perpetrator, except that this does not include:
- Any act which may reasonably be construed to be a normal caregiver responsibility, any interaction with, or affection for a child; or
- Any act intended for a valid medical purpose.
- The intentional masturbation of the perpetrator’s genitals in the presence of a child.
- The intentional exposure of the perpetrator’s genitals in the presence of a child, or any other sexual act intentionally perpetrated in the presence of a child, if such exposure or sexual act is for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification, aggression, degradation, or other similar purpose.
- The sexual exploitation of a child, which includes allowing, encouraging, or forcing a child to:
- Solicit for or engage in prostitution; or
- Engage in a sexual performance, as defined by chapter 827.
Florida Statute 827, Abuse of Children, provides criminal law. Florida Statute 39, Proceedings Related To Children, provides civil law with the intent of protecting children.
School personnel become aware of suspected Sexual Abuse (VIDEO CLIP) in a variety of ways. Physical indicators of sexual abuse may include:
- Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
- Bruises or bleeding near the genital area, such as inner thigh
- Difficulty in walking or sitting
- Odor coming from the genital area
- Venereal disease
- Frequent urinary or yeast infections
- Pregnancy at a very young age, such as 12 years or younger.
Behavioral indicators of sexual abuse:
- Direct or indirect statements of sexual abuse
- Writing about sexual abuse in journals, notes, or other classroom products
- Drawing pictures in class that seem to depict sexual activity
- Unwilling to “dress out” for physical education class
- Bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual behavior or knowledge
- Engages in sexualized play which may include issues of force
- Sexually provocative toward peers or adults at school
- Masturbates compulsively (visible, frequent, disturbing, distracting)
- Exhibits withdrawal, fantasy, or unusually infantile behavior
- Poor peer relationships, as not permitted to socialize outside school
- Crying with no provocation
- Fear of or seductiveness toward males
- Adolescent anorexia, suicide attempts, and/or running away from home
- History of setting fires
- Sudden drop in school performance.
These indicators have been reported in sexually abused children. However, most indicators, when considered alone, are not diagnostic of abuse. These indicators are a compilation from case examples in Broward County, the Child Abuse Source Book, the federal Child Welfare Information Gateway, and from Cynthia Crosson Tower: The Role of Educators in Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse and Neglect, 2003.
In the 2017-2018 school year, 10 percent of the reports made by Broward County Public Schools employees to the Florida abuse hotline involved suspected child sexual abuse.
National estimates of the incidence of sexual assault on, sexual violence toward, and sexual exploitation of children reveal that as many as 1 out of 4 children may be victimized. Because sexually abused children often live with the perpetrator’s threat of harm to them or their family, they fear exposing their abuse. When children do talk about sexual abuse, listen and believe them.
It is very common for children to recant their allegations or change their story once an investigation commences. They are fearful of the repercussions to them and family members. Many victims later say they only wanted the abuse to stop, and the resulting legal and family turmoil is difficult to bear.
Florida Statute Mandates That All Known Or Suspected Child Abuse Must Be Reported to the Abuse Hotline: 1-800-96-ABUSE
The child abuse designee at your school, by School Board policy, is the person with whom you should communicate regarding suspected sexual abuse. Due to the complexity of the civil and criminal laws related to sexual abuse, another source of expertise is the school resource officer.
At the district level, contact Nina Hansen, program manager for Child Abuse Services, at (754) 321-2492. Questions regarding criminal law may be directed to the School Board’s law enforcement agency, the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) at (754) 321-0725.
The primary referral agency in Broward County for sexual abuse victims and their families is the Sexual Assault Treatment Center (SATC), operated by Broward County government. SATC specializes in the fields of sexual assault and child abuse, and provides a safe, non-threatening environment for victims and supportive family members.
SATC services include:
- Crisis/Intake Unit- operates 24 hours a day to provide immediate crisis counseling to victims of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and adult survivors of childhood incest. Forensic medical examinations are conducted for the collection of evidence and other needed services are scheduled. SATC has been recognized this year as a nationally accredited Child Advocacy Center.
- Sexual Assault/Abuse Counseling-counseling is provided to children and adults who have been victimized by the crime of sexual assault. Individual, group, and family therapy, as well as art and play therapy for children, are available at no cost to the client. Referrals are accepted from any source.
TO REPORT CHILD ABUSE, CALL 1-800-96ABUSE