Jennifer Wooden Mitchell and Rosemary Wooden Webb – Co-Presidents of Child Lures Prevention/Teen Lures Prevention Educational – outline five reasons to talk to your children about sexual abuse.
Start conversations young, using anatomically correct names for private parts. Begin when changing baby’s diaper and continue these talks through grade school, middle & high school and right into college, military training and/or the job force.
Recommended video for children ages 2-9 : My Body Belongs to Me by Jill Starishevsky
Establishing that sexual abuse is against the law – and not their fault – teaches children that they have a right to stand up to, and report, anyone who attempts to sexually abuse them. Children also have a right to privacy (make it a Family Rule to knock on closed doors and ask for permission before entering) and to say “No” to anyone who tries to abuse them – even important authority figures – without getting into trouble for doing so.
To effectively teach the concepts of law and personal safety, say to your child: There are 4 VERY important rules I want to tell you about the private parts of the body.
When children can identify trusted people in their lives, it makes it easier for them to ask for help when needed. Help your child identify two Trusted Adults (preferably one inside the home, one outside the home) whom they can talk to about anything.
Tell your child they can tell you, or another Trusted Adult, anything and you will help them. Give children specific words to use, such as “I need to talk to you about a safety problem. Can you please listen?”
Secrets play a significant role in child sexual abuse. Keeping secrets – even seemingly innocent ones – is unsafe because secrets often lay the groundwork for future abuse. Talk with your child often about secrets, and remind them there are no secrets, ever. Surprises? Yes, but surprises are eventually told.
Keep in mind, too, that when your child tells you about a mistake they have made (like spilling a sugary drink or drawing on the wall), they are gauging your reaction to broken rules or a crisis situation. Try to set an example that you can be trusted to stay calm, help them and support them in a positive way.
Recommended video: Tom’s Secret
Trust your instincts, and teach your child to trust his or her gut feelings. Let them know that if they have an uncomfortable or funny feeling about a person or situation, they don’t have to wait until something happens – they can tell a Trusted Adult right away.
The same holds true for parents and guardians. When reflecting on someone’s behavior, ask yourself: Does it seem odd? Did it make me feel uncomfortable? Does it happen too often? Has anyone else commented on it? Trust your instincts. If you suspect sexual misconduct, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453.