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About Sexual Abuse
Did you know that...
  • 1 of every 3 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18?
  • 1 of every 5 boys is sexually abused before age of 18?
  • girls are usually sexually abused by a trusted family member?
  • boys are usually sexually abused by a trusted adult outside the family?
  • sexually abused children are from all cultural, racial and economic backgrounds?
  • with supportive adults and appropriate treatment, the effects of childhood sexual abuse can be resolved?

This information was put together by Dr. Marjorie Lipton, Clinical Director of The Journey Institute of Miami. She can be reached at (305) 740-8998.
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Myths vs. facts about child sexual abuse
Sexual abuse, a trauma surrounded by secrecy and shame, is hard to discuss. Here are some misconceptions that prevent dealing effectively with the trauma:

Myth 1:
Nonviolent sexual behavior between a child and an adult is not harmful to the child.
Victims of sexual abuse often experience feelings of shame, guilt and anger, even if there are no obvious outward signs.

Myth 2:
Sexual abuse victims are "damaged goods" and their lives are ruined forever.
While sexual abuse is very damaging, victims are not "damaged goods." Healing is easiest when people close to the abused person are supportive, the intervention is immediate, and appropriate therapy is provided to the child and the family. The recovery process is far more difficult the longer it is delayed.

Myth 3:
Sexually abused children often become offenders when they grow up.
While offenders sometimes report being sexually abused as children, very few victims grow up to become offenders.

Myth 4:
All offenders are male; all victims are female.
While most offenders are male, sexual abuse perpetrated by women is not at all rare. One out of five boys are sexually abused before the age of eighteen.

Myth 5:
The abuser is a weird or dangerous stranger.
Four of every five cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by someone known to the child, often a relative or family friend.

Myth 6:
Children may lie about being sexually molested.
Children usually do not have adult sexual knowledge unless they have been exposed to it.

Myth 7:
The reason some children are molested is because they are seductive or they wanted it to happen.
Seductive behavior is not the cause. The perpetrator is 100% responsible for the abuse.

Myth 8:
If the child did not want it, s/he could say "No."
Children are taught to respect adults and not to question them. The abuser uses a position of authority and power inherent in an adult/child relationship to bribe, coerce or threaten the child.

Myth 9:
Discussing sexual abuse will frighten or upset children.
Having information can influence a child's response to the initial approach of the sexual abuser. A child with some awareness can better protect him/herself, and an assault may be prevented.

Myth 10:
Sexually abused children are better off if they just forget what happened.
Children need to talk about traumatic or confusing experiences with people who can help them understand that it was not their fault. Not talking about it often maintains feelings of shame and guilt.

This information was put together by Dr. Marjorie Lipton, Clinical Director of The Journey Institute of Miami. She can be reached at (305) 740-8998.

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Symptoms/effects of child sexual abuse
Symptoms of Abuse in Children/Adolescents:

Injuries to mouth, vagina, penis, anus
Bedwetting and soiling
Sleep problems/nightmares
Excessive masturbation/sexually acting out behavior
Sexually transmitted diseases
Vaginal or penile discharge
Running away
Suicide attempts/suicide
Dissociation ("spacing out")
Inability to concentrate/focus
Academic problems
Substance abuse
Eating disorders
Gang-related activities
Sexual identify confusion
Aggressive behavior
Fear of people, places
Post-traumatic stress disorder

Symptoms in Adult Survivors:

Avoidance of sex/or compulsive sex
Substance abuse
Eating disorders
Sleep disorders
Chronic pain, injuries or illnesses
Suicidal thoughts/attempts
Flashbacks/memory fragments
Loss of memory
Dissociation ("spacing out")
Low self-esteem
Sexual identity confusion
Difficulty with intimate relationships
Academic problems
Feelings of not belonging
Post-traumatic stress disorder

This information was put together by Dr. Marjorie Lipton, Clinical Director of The Journey Institute of Miami. She can be reached at (305) 740-8998.

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Talk with your child about sexual abuse
  • Use vocabulary that your child will understand.
  • Teach your child the correct names for sexual body parts.
  • Be clear about the difference between healthy sex and sexual abuse (e.g., provide your child with an age-appropriate understanding of healthy sex; sexual abuse is touching that feels bad to the child because he/she did not want it, felt confused about it, and/or was tricked or forced into it.)
  • Define healthy sex as touching that both people want and only occurs between adults.
  • Explain to your child that while it is not likely that he or she will be sexually abused, it does happen to some children.
  • Explain to your child that the offender can be someone he/she already knows.
  • Explain to your child that even "nice" people sometimes do bad things.
  • Explain to your child that the offender may be a person who gives him/her something in return for the child doing something else, or it may be a person who threatens and/or frightens him/her.
  • Talk with your child about secrets. Explain the difference between a scary secret, which may involve something bad, and a surprise, which is usually good.

This information was put together by Dr. Marjorie Lipton, Clinical Director of The Journey Institute of Miami. She can be reached at (305) 740-8998.

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Choosing a therapist
There are many therapists and social service agencies in South Florida. While specific credentials are not required for therapists to treat incest and sexual abuse survivors, you have the right to ethical, competent therapy and a responsibility to your child and yourself to find the most appropriate therapist.

Among the best ways to find a therapist is to get a referral from someone whose judgment you trust (e.g., a friend, another survivor, co-worker, family member, etc.) It is important to feel "safe" with your child's therapist so that he/she can get down to the business of healing. Questions to ask a therapist might include the following:

  • What are your academic credentials? Are you licensed by the state?
  • What are the limits of confidentiality?
  • How much experience do you have working with children, adolescents and parents, and what training have you had?
  • Do you use special exercises such as role-playing, play, etc.?
  • What do you think sexually abused children need to work on in therapy?
  • Are there situations in which a child is responsible for the abuse?
  • What do you think about touching a client?
  • How long can I expect my child to be in therapy?
  • How do you feel about family therapy?
  • What would you do if my other children need therapy? Would you see them or refer them to another therapist?
  • Are you available in an emergency?
  • What are your fees? Do you accept insurance? Do you believe in recommending reading to parents? What are some recent books you have read in this area of sexual abuse?
  • Do you refer to groups, or run groups yourself?
  • Is forgiveness of the perpetrator and family reconciliation a goal of your therapy?

Just because someone is a professional therapist and can help others does not mean he/she can help your child and your family. You must decide for yourself whether this is a person you can trust to help you solve your family's problems. You have the right to keep looking for a therapist who will help you, until you find the right one.

Does he/she treat you with respect, support, understanding and caring? You should not feel that your child's or your experience is being minimized, judged or criticized. While sexually abused children and their families often have difficulty with trust, you should experience certain amount of warmth and connectedness to begin therapy.

This information was put together by Dr. Marjorie Lipton, Clinical Director of The Journey Institute of Miami. She can be reached at (305) 740-8998.

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Protecting children from sexual victimization
Model clear boundaries:
  • Respect physical boundaries of your child including bathroom privacy, dressing privacy, unwanted touching, and sleeping privacy. (Each child should have his or her own bed.)
  • Respect your child’s emotional boundaries, including accepting his or her feelings and opinions.

Accept and support your child’s right to say “No” to any unwanted touching:

  • Notice and be cautious of even seemingly innocent touching by a friend or relative who hugs or kisses your child in a way your child does not like.
  • Notice if your child is bullied by peers.
  • If your child complains about negative experiences, take him/her seriously.

Do not leave your child with others you do not know well:

  • Be careful of adults who spend time with your child if it is not part of their job.
  • Be wary of adults who flirt with your child.
  • Be aware of adults with whom your child acts uncomfortable or inappropriate.
  • Be wary of adults who abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Be careful of adults who physically abuse other adults or children.
  • Never allow an individual previously convicted of a sexual offense around your child.
  • Monitor and protect your child against any physical, emotional and/or sexual “acting out” by the other children.
  • If there are other children in the home, be vigilant about seductive and/or overly controlling and/or aggressive behavior.

This information was put together by Dr. Marjorie Lipton, Clinical Director of The Journey Institute of Miami. She can be reached at (305) 740-8998.

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Resource list for sexual abuse survivors

Children’s Psychiatric Center - David J. Markenson Unit
Terri Galindo, LCSW, Director
430 W. 66th St.
Hialeah, Fla. 33012
Phone: (305) 558-2480
Fax: (305) 558-0008
Hours: 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Monday-Friday; 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Satuday

Fees: Medicaid, sliding fee scale
Eligibility: Residents of Miami-Dade/Monroe counties under 19 years of age.
Languages: English and Spanish
Intake Procedure: Call for an appointment
Service Area: Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Children’s Psychiatric Center – North Dade Outpatient
Juan C. Gonzalez, PhD, Director
15490 NW Seventh Ave./Suite 101
Miami, Fla. 33169
Phone: (305) 685-0381
Fax: (305) 687-8747
Hours: 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Fridays; 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays

Fees: Medicaid, sliding scale
Eligibility: Resident of Miami-Dade/Monroe counties, under age 19.
Languages: English, Spanish and Creole
Intake procedure: Call for appointment
Service Area: Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Children’s Psychiatric Center – Sunset Unit
Deborah White, PsyD, Director
9380 Sunset Drive/Suite B-120
Miami, Fla. 33173
Phone: (305) 274-3172
Fax: (305) 274-0841
Hours: 9 a.m.–8 p.m. Monday-Friday

Fees: Medicaid, sliding scale accepted
Eligibility: Residents of Miami-Dade/Monroe
counties, under 19 years of age.
Languages: English and Spanish
Intake Procedure: Call for appointment
Service Area: Miami-Dade and Monroe counties

Provides individual, family, play and group therapy, children’s and parents’ groups, behavior modification, therapeutic tutoring, individual treatment for sexually-abused children, suicide prevention and community outreach services. Services provided in outpatient clinic, school and home.

Citrus Health Network – Treating Adolescents Coping with Trauma (TACT) Program
Kimberly McGrath, Psy.D. Program Director
4175 W 20th Ave.
Hialeah, Fla. 33012
Phone: (305) 825-0300
Fax: (305) 826-3039
Hours: Weekday evenings

Fees: Medicaid, sliding scale.
Eligibility: Adolescent males and females, siblings and parents
Languages: English and Spanish
Intake Procedure: Call for information
Service Area: Miami-Dade County

Provides a survivor group for adolescent males and females who have been sexually abused. There is also a non-offending caregiver group, a sexual abuse group for siblings of sexually abused children, and an adolescent group that run simultaneously.

Jackson Memorial Hospital – Rape Hotline and Treatment Center
Gretchen Betlem, RN, Administrator
1611 NW 12th Ave.
Miami, Fla. 33136-1094
Phone: (305) 585-5185
Fax: (305) 585-7560
Hours: 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Fees: None
Eligibility: Anyone in need of services (no age limit).
Languages: English, Spanish and Creole.
Intake Procedure: Within 72 hours of assault. Walk in or call for an appointment.
Service Area: All areas.

Provides medical evaluation and treatment for victims of sexual assault and offers crisis & long-term counseling for sexual assault victims and their significant others.

The Journey Institute
Kathleen Langford, LCSW, Executive Director
2650 SW 27th Ave./Suite 303
Miami, Fla. 33133
Phone: (305) 443-1123
Fax: (305) 443-0063
Hours: 9 a.m.–8 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Fees: Services are free for the children's program. There is a sliding fee scale for the adult survivor program.
Eligibility: Children, adolescent and adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse and sexual assault and non-offending caregivers.
Languages: English, Spanish and Creole
Intake procedure: Call for intake appointment.
Service Area: Miami-Dade county.

Provides individual and group counseling for children, adolescents and adult survivors of sexual abuse/sexual violence. Provides 14-week psychoeducational/support groups for caregivers of sexually abused children. Services are available in Opa-Locka, Hialeah, downtown Miami, Kendall, Homestead, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables and South Miami. Community awareness and education also provided.

Kristi House
Contact person: Dawn Thompson, Assistant Executive Director
1265 NW 12th Ave.
Miami, Fla. 33136
Phone: (305) 547- 6800
Fax: (305) 547-6814
Hours: 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.

Fees: Services are free.
Eligibility: Children 1 to 18 years of age who have been sexually abused or who have allegations or suspicion of sexual abuse.
Languages: English, Spanish and Haitian Creole
Intake Procedure: Call for intake appointment
Service Area: Miami-Dade

Provides individual and group therapy and case management services to sexually abused children. Support services also provided for families including education and prevention strategies, and collaboration with all the agencies and entities involved in the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child sexual abuse victims.

University of Miami Child Protection Team
Contact Person: Catherine Grus, PhD, Director
1150 NW 14th St./Suite B-212
Miami, Fla. 33136
Phone: (305) 243-7550
Hours: 8 a.m–5 p.m. Monday-Friday

Fees: None
Eligibility: Victims of sexual abuse ages 4 to 18.
Languages: English, Spanish
Intake Procedure: Call for appointment. A psychological evaluation will be conducted during initial visit.
Service Area: Miami-Dade

Provides individual therapy to children who been sexually abused.

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