Minimize the opportunity for abuse to occur. 93% of victims are victimized by someone they know and love. Most often a child must be left alone with the perpetrator for the abuse to happen.
Talking openly about sexual abuse can break down the walls and lets your child know that they can come to you with tough issues. Unfortunately, 29% of parents to not discuss sexual abuse with children. Also, parents often fail to mention the abuse could be someone they know and love.
Many parents believe it is inappropriate to start discussing these issues with children at an early age. However, the earlier the better. By the time you think your child is ready, it could be too late. When children begin to start talking, you should be teaching them the “rules” of appropriate touching. Talk with your children about when it is okay for someone to touch their private parts and when it is not okay. Teach them that their body belongs only to them and how they should say ‘no!’ is someone touches them inappropriately.
Many parents are under the assumption their children tell them everything. That isn’t always the case, no matter how close you are with your children. Sexual abuse can be shameful and scary for children, especially if the perpetrator has threatened to hurt them or a family member. Demonstrate on a daily basis that you have the time to sit down and spend quality time with them. Ask specific questions about school and friends.
A child should be taught that it’s okay to say ‘no’, even to an adult. We probably all remember visiting family members and being asked to give them a hug and a kiss goodbye. Let your child know they don’t have to kiss or hug anyone unless they want to. This is teaching them they have choices and boundaries.
If your child should come to you and disclose sexual abuse, don’t panic! You may have strong feelings of doubt or guilt, but it’s important to remember that you have a child standing before you who is depending on your help. If you react with anger or disbelief, you may cause your child to shut down, change their story, or make them feel guilty. Believe your child and make sure they know it. Comfort them by letting them know they have your support. Praise them for disclosing the information to you because it takes a brave child to come forward. Seek the help from professionals.
THE "WHAT IF GAME"
Watch this two-minute video to learn about how playing the "What If?" Game can help start conversations about prevention. For more in-depth learning, tools, and practical guidelines to help adults prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, take Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children®. Visit the website below for more information.
-Talk with children when they are young and use proper names for body parts.
-Use real-life conversation starters.
-Tell children what parts of the body others should not touch. Use examples with situations and people in heir lives. Include that touching boundaries are for everyone – even parents, family members, older youth, cousins, babysitters and friends.
-Teach children that they have the right to tell anyone “NO” to unwanted or uncomfortable touch. Never force children to give affection.
-Explain that secrets can be harmful. If someone asks them to keep a secret, they should tell you about it.
-Speak and listen calmly. It’s important that the child feel safe and loved in all these discussions.
"I tell my daughters, 'Surprises make people happy. We don't want to keep a secret though because secrets can make people upset or unhappy...If anyone wants you to keep a secret, tell Mommy or Daddy.'"
Tiffany Sawyer, Director of Prevention Services Georgia Center for Child Advocacy