It’s important to have regular conversations with your children about various safety topics, though some safety conversations are easier to have than others. While it’s not the easiest discussion to have, talking to your children about sexual abuse prevention is a really important conversation. It can help them know how to deal with it if the situation arises.
Approximately one in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. Ninety percent know and trust their abuser and only on in ten will ever, in their lifetime, tell about their abuse. As a parent, you can help equip your children with the tools they need to survive situations that threaten their safety, including sexual abuse. Here are a few tips for talking to your children about sexual abuse.
Identify body parts
Help your child learn to identify their body parts. Lots of children are able to point out their eyes and nose, but they also need to be aware of their private areas. From an early age, teach your children the proper names of their body parts: penis, anus, vulva, vagina, etc. If an incident occurs, they need to be able to clearly state where they were assaulted. Another way to identify private parts is to use the swimsuit guide—if the swimsuit covers it, it’s a private area that no one else should touch.
Talk about safe and unsafe touch
Talk to your child about safe touch and unsafe touch frequently. A safe touch includes a hug, a high five, or a pat on the back. Make it clear that an unsafe touch is when someone other than a supervised doctor touches them within the swimsuit area. If that happens, they need to safely get help as soon as possible. About 90% of children who reported sexual abuse knew their abuser, so it’s important for your child to know to report unsafe touch even if it happens with someone they know well.
Keep communications open
Finally, let your child know that they can always come to you or another adult that they trust if they find themselves in this situation. Many abusers will tell young children to keep it a secret. If you keep an open line of communication between you and your child and you’re regularly discussing this issue with them, they are more likely to tell someone. Let your child know to trust their instincts and to notify you or an adult they trust as soon as an uncomfortable situation arises.
Awareness is a powerful tool in preventing sexual abuse. Talk to your kids regularly using these tips to help protect them.