Townsend, C., & Rheingold, A.A., (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: studies. Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light. Retrieved from www.D2L.org.
Talking to Your Children About It
About one in ten children will be the victim of sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. You can help prevent this happening to your child. Teach Your Children That Their Body Belongs to THEM!
Children as young as four years old can understand the basic concepts of safe touches, unsafe touches and confusing touches. These young children can also understand the definition of sexual abuse and are not afraid of the words that send a chill up the spines of adults. Use the words “sexual abuse” when talking with your child because if a child is victimized, they need to be able to tell you that they were “sexually abused!”
EXPLAIN TO YOUR CHILD THAT THERE ARE 3 KINDS OF TOUCHES:
A safe touch can be explained as touches that keep children safe and are good for them, and that make children feel cared for and important. Safe touches can include:
An unsafe touch can be explained to children as touches that hurt children's bodies or feelings (for example, hitting, pushing, pinching, and kicking). Teach children that these kinds of touches are not okay.
TEACH YOUR CHILDREN THE FOLLOWING SAFETY RULES:
It is not okay to touch someone else's private body parts.
It is not okay for someone to touch his or her own private body parts in front of you.
It is not okay for someone to ask you to touch his or her private body parts.
It is not okay for someone to ask you to take your clothes off or to take photos or videos of you with your clothes off.
It is not okay for someone to show you photos or videos of people without their clothes on.
1. When you are ready to sit down and talk with your child, take the time to do it right. Talk to your child in a quiet place, away from distractions. Try to maintain physical contact during the discussion, either by holding hands or sitting together on the floor or the couch. This makes them feel safe and reinforces the concept of “safe touch” with an adult they can trust. Don’t force an end to the conversation-a child may have ongoing questions and concerns. Keep in mind that you will probably have to have this discussion a number of times as your child gets older. Repeating your discussions every year will reinforce what they have learned and reintroduces points they may have forgotten.
2. Teach the “Safe Body Rule.” Rather than expect your children to judge a touch only by how it makes them feel (“safe” or “unsafe”), give them a solid rule that they can follow. Using the “Safe Body Rule”, teach them it is NOT okay for anyone to touch their private parts, or what is covered by their swimsuits. It is easier for a child to follow a rule and they will more immediately recognize an “unsafe touch” if they have this guideline in mind.
3. Use proper body names. Sexual predators often take advantage of the fact that we don’t speak freely with our children about sex and our bodies. By talking about genitals and age-appropriate sexual matters to children in a respectful manner, we stop teaching by exclusion that all these things are secret and not to be talked about. One of the most important goals of having this conversation with your child is to let them know that they SHOULD speak up if something happens and should not be embarrassed or scared to talk about their own bodies or of your reaction.
4. Ask them to talk about the subject. Research shows that children are much more likely to learn prevention skills when they actively participate in activities or role-play. Be sure to engage your child during your discussion. Ask them to give an example of a “safe touch” (hug from mom) and an “unsafe touch” (a kick on the playground.) Do a role-play by asking questions such as, “What would you do if.”
5. Explain your child’s right to say NO. Inappropriate touching-especially by a trusted adult-can be very confusing to a child. They are taught to trust adults, and can feel conflicted, scared and confused when this trust is breached. Because in about 89% of sexual abuse cases the abuser is someone the child knows, you need to tell your child that he or she has the right to say NO to ANY “unsafe touching” by an adult. Constantly reinforce the idea that their body is their own and they can protect it and take care of it. This concept can come up in a number of different circumstances (when a child has a “boo-boo” or is getting a bath).
6. Prepare them to react to a “secret”. Explain that if an adult does something your child thinks is wrong and then tells them to keep it a secret, they should tell you immediately. Giving children specific examples like this will help them feel more empowered to act if necessary. Role-play can be a valuable tool in this step as well.
1. Be aware of WHO is around your children. It is very important to know who is around your children on a daily basis at things like a playdate or a soccer practice, and for special occasions such as neighborhood parties or family gatherings. If a child’s behavior changes after being around specific adults, take note.
2. Always check references of babysitters, counselors, etc. Many states have public registries that allow parents to screen individuals for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing.
3. Pay attention to patterns you see in adults. Is an adult paying special attention to your child or taking an uncomfortable interest in what your child is doing? Take the time to talk to your children about this person and find out why the person is acting in this way.
4. Create circles of protection. Involve other parents or family members who are at after-school events or gatherings. Discuss the subject with them, creating circles of safe adults who will also watch out for children. You may also want to Invite your local law enforcement or child abuse prevention organization to a neighborhood discussion group to learn about the issue and to process people’s emotions
There are several measures you can take to help both you and your child prevent it from happening. Make a choice today to sit down with your child and start a discussion. Remain open to their thoughts, questions and concerns, and tell them that they should always speak up, ask questions and keep on talking until someone listens. The key to prevention is knowledge. TALK TO YOU KIDS TODAY AND ENSURE THEIR SAFETY TOMORROW!
National Sex Offender Registry: http://www.nsopw.gov/Core/Conditions.aspx
Covenant House Hotline: 800-999-9999
Crisis line for youth, teens, and families. Gives callers locally based referrals throughout the
National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse: 800-799-SAFE
24-hour-a-day hotline, Provides crisis intervention and referrals to local services and shelters for victims of partner or spousal abuse. English and Spanish speaking advocates are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Staffed by trained volunteers who are ready to connect people with emergency help in their own communities, including emergency services and shelters. The staff can also provide information and referrals for a variety of non-emergency services, including counseling for adults and children, and assistance in reporting abuse. They have an extensive database of domestic violence treatment providers in all
National Youth Crisis Hotline: 800-442-HOPE
Provides counseling and referrals to local drug treatment centers, shelters, and counseling services. Responds to youth dealing with pregnancy, molestation, suicide, and child abuse. Operates 24 hours, seven days a week.