Many kids have been told not to talk to strangers, but sometimes it’s the people they know who can hurt children the most. 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator and 68% are abused by family members. In America, 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 6 men report experiencing sexual abuse as children. I remember my mother teaching me that the private parts of my body were for me alone. She always said that if anyone made me uncomfortable by touching me, that I should report it to her right away, even if it was my father. Although this was my mother’s strategy, this is not the only way to keep kids safe. Here are some tips to prevent children from becoming victims:
- Establish firm guidelines around the use of technology. Keep interactions as public as possible and model safe behavior. This applies to websites, email, instant messaging, social networking, and cellphones.
- Teach children the proper names of body parts, including their genitals.
- Teach children the difference between touch that is okay and touch that is not.
- Explain the difference between a secret and surprise. Secrets can lead to unsafe situations whereas surprises are revealed within a short period of time.
- Acknowledge and respect a child’s right to privacy when requested. Let them know it is okay to say ‘no’ when they are uncomfortable.
- Encourage children to tell someone they trust if they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused about someone’s behavior towards them.
Sexually abused children tend to display more behavioural and emotional problems and have difficulties at school. Watch for poor grades, delinquency, disordered eating, suicidal behavior, substance abuse, and sexual risk-taking. Also look for physical warning signs such as redness, bruising, pain, sores, or infections around the genitals, anus, or mouth. Always report known or suspected sexual abuse; it is the only way to stop it.
“Understanding Child Sexual Abuse: Prevalence, Multicultural Considerations, and Life Span Effects.” Anneliese A. Singh and April Sikes. Surviving Sexual Violence: A Guide to Recovery and Empowerment. 2011.
“Prevent Child Sexual Abuse: Facts about sexual abuse and how to prevent it.” Stop It Now! 2008. http://www.stopitnow.org/sites/default/files/documents/files/prevent_child_sexual_abuse.pdf