According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before turning 18. Offenders are nine times out of ten relatives, neighbors, family friends, teachers, coaches or some other trusted person whom the child already has a trusting relationship with. Because of this, teaching children how to protect themselves can be very difficult and confusing. Simply telling children to stay away from strangers is not effective. Teaching children the difference between “good” touch and “bad” touch doesn’t necessarily translate to the kinds of offending that may be happening as some abuse may involve no touch at all.
Start early with children by teaching them the proper names for their body parts. This enables children to communicate more clearly to adults regarding any sexual situations. Rather than focusing on good or bad touch, focus more on privacy situations such as bathroom and changing clothes and private parts. If you have a child who still requires assistance with bathroom and dressing, discuss using specific names, who is an appropriate person to help with such activities. Allow your child to help identify who should be on this list and respect boundaries a child is looking to put into place. For example, if at family gatherings your child is hesitant about giving hugs and kisses respect that and honor their attempt to assert themselves.
A natural part of a child’s growth is their ability to function independently from parents such as spending time at friends to play or attending sleepovers. Prior to these events it is important to talk with a child to reinforce their ownership of their boundaries and establish a “game plan,” the best way to get a hold of a parent without having to be granted permission should they feel uncomfortable for any reason. Following events or activities in which a child was in someone else’s care it is important to take time to talk to a child one-on-one about their experience. Below are some helpful questions to ask upon a child’s return.
1.) What activities went on?
2.) Who was there (kids and adults)?
3.) Was there anything that went on that you didn’t like?
4.) Is this something you want to do again?
5.) Is there anything else you want to tell me?
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) has free, confidential, secure service that allows victims past and present to get help via its phone and online hotlines. 800.656.HOPE, rainn.org
National Children’s Alliance has nearly 700 advocacy centers nationwide and helps with the process of reporting and recovering from abuse. 800.239.9950, natinalchildrenalliance.org
Childhelp USA maintains a 24-hr National Child Abuse Hotline 800.4.A.CHILD, childhelp.org
Stop it Now! Offers a phone and an email Helpline dedicated to sexual-abuse prevention. Its Ask Now! Advice column features actual situations so people can seek guidance for their own concerns. Stopitnow.org