Sexual predators are everywhere – on the Internet, in our neighborhoods, and unfortunately, in our families. Far too often, they’re harming the kids in our community when we’re not paying attention. The statistics are sickening: one out of three girls and one out of five boys are sexually abused by the time they reach adulthood. An astounding 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims are familiar with their perpetrator; 68 percent of that group is abused by family members.
What is child sexual abuse?
- Child sexual abuse may include any of the following:
- Any sexual activity forced upon a child by an adult or other child
- Inappropriate touching on the intimate parts of a child’s body
- Forcing the child to have sexual relations
- Making the child participate in non-touching activities, such as sexual phone calls or texts, or taking pornographic photos
What to teach your child?
As much as we try to shield our children from bad people, we can’t keep an eye on them 24/7, particularly when they’re off to school or on play dates with friends. This is why it’s vital to arm kids with the right tools to protect themselves. If you haven’t had a conversation about sexual abuse with your children yet, do it today. Get started with these tips from Childhelp’s Good-Touch/Bad-Touch curriculum.
- Teach young children to take care of their own hygiene. When your children are old enough, teach them how to take care of their own hygiene when using the bathroom and bathing. This way they will not have to depend on an adult helping them to clean their body parts.
- Use correct terms. The term “sexual abuse” may be uncomfortable for an adult to use with a child, but the child needs to hear a truthful definition. Don’t make up cute words to describe a serious action. Teach your children the proper words to describe their body parts. According to the website Goodtouchbadtouch.com, “Child protective services social workers will tell you that a child without the language to describe their victimization is a child whose case is weakened in the court system”.
- Talk about touching. Parents should define three kinds of touches: good touch, bad touch and sexual abuse touch. “Good touches” are those touches that make us feel happy, safe and loved, for example, hugs from a parent. “Bad touches” are those touches that hurt us, such as kicking, hitting and biting. Lastly, there is “sexual abuse touch,” defined as “the forced or tricked touch of private body parts.” Explain that a force is when someone makes you do something you don’t want to do or don’t understand. And that a trick is when someone lies to you, fools you, pretends or calls something a game, that really isn’t a game, so they can touch your private body parts or have you touch theirs. Let them know that even sexual abuse touching may confuse them if it feels good, but that it is indeed bad.
- Use the power of “No.” They hear ‘no’ from adults often, right? Tell kids that it’s acceptable for them to scream “No!” if an adult is harming them. Remind them that they should say no” to any adult, whether the offender is Uncle Johnny or the neighbor down the street.
- Follow their instincts. Even we adults often ignore our gut feelings. Explain to children that they should trust their feelings and ask questions anytime they feel uncomfortable. Share the importance of paying attention to our feelings in situations when we are feeling awkward or unsafe.
- Encourage them to speak up. Discuss with your child how important it is to report any abuse to a trusted adult. Let the child know that the subject may be difficult to talk about, but that the abuse will continue until they tell someone. They should know that this abuse is not their fault, so they should not feel ashamed to tell. Always make your child feel comfortable telling you what’s going in their world.
- Remind them often. It’s common for parents to start the conversation about sexual abuse when the child is about four years old. But do repeat the safety precautions every year to make sure the child hasn’t forgotten. Test with questions such as: “What would you do if an adult touches your private area?”
For more teaching tools, go to the Good-Touch/Bad-Touch web site.
Learn more about the warning signs of child sexual abuse.
If you know or think a child is being sexually abused, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1 (800) 422-4453. If you need help right away, call 911. Find an advocacy center in your state that offers support and services to victims of child abuse on the National Children’s Alliance website.