Every child, everywhere, is at risk of sexual abuse.
Although we all want to protect our kids from sex crimes, subconsciously we believe that they are not at a large risk of sexual abuse because “those crimes happen to other children.” Yet the statistics about child sexual abuse are terribly alarming. 10 percent of all children (one in seven girls and one in 25 boys) will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime:
- Girls are more likely to experience sexual abuse – one in five girls and one in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. The statistics are probably worse because most child sex abuse goes unreported.
- The most vulnerable age is between ages seven and 13.
- Up to 20 percent of adult females (and 10 percent of adult males) have memories of sexual abuse incidents.
Most parents whose children have been victims of sexual abuse rarely suspect a thing. It obviously doesn’t help that most offenders are related to, or close to, the victims’ families. According to the evidence, only 14 percent of child abuse victims are abused by someone unknown to them. This makes the fight against child sexual abuse harder because it’s more difficult for family members or close friends to be perceived as potential offenders, and it’s also harder for abused children to speak out.
The hardest thing for parents is that there is no foolproof way to protect your child from sex crimes. Although no evidence to date suggests that educating your child about sexual abuse will stop abuse, there is proof that children can be taught skills and knowledge to help them identify risky situations and prevent abuse.
According to one study, children who receive sexual abuse education are six to seven times more likely to demonstrate protective behavior in simulated situations. Yet another study has found that children taught by their parents about sexual abuse are better able to recognize inappropriate touch requests and have better personal safety skills compared to those taught by their teachers alone. Naturally, the most effective approach is getting both teachers and parents involved.
Tips to protect your child before abuse starts:
1 | Get vocal about sexual abuse
It is not because we keep things away from our kids that those things go away. The best way to protect your kid from sexual abuse is to talk about it, and the earlier the better. Our kids need to be aware of what inappropriate conduct is, just as they need to know what inappropriate contact is. Sexual abuse also involves issues such as exposure and exposure to child pornography so they need to know about them.
It’s never too early to start talking to kids about inappropriate conduct. There is evidence that younger children learn more and better than older kids. It’s also important to bust the “stranger danger myth” with your child. Teach your kid what parts of their bodies are off limits to everyone – family and friends included.
2 | Overcome taboos
When children are taught about their genitalia, they have more positive feelings about these body parts. How do you refer to your child’s genitalia? Vulva, vagina, dick, penis, jolly stick, privates, genitals, fountain of love? Get comfortable saying those words around your child.
Naturally, you just don’t spill out the words in the middle of dinner – you find the right occasion and the right time to talk about them. As your daughter is taking her shower, you talk to her about her vulva and talk about all the body parts that no else but her can touch. You also teach her that if someone tries to touch her, she should tell them to “stop touching my vagina.” Many offenders do not expect children to be vocal about their genitalia so this could help stop them in their tracks. This might work because contrary to common belief, the majority of offenders are not “strongly motivated to offend” but rather take advantage of “easy bait.”
3 | Monitor online predators
The Internet has become a dangerous place for kids. An increasing number of predators are now using it to get into contact with children. Install parental controls. Talk to you child about these predators. Explain to your kids why it’s important not to disclose personal information on the Net.
4 | No “secrets” or “games” around genitalia
Teach your kid that he or she must share with you any secret or game that involves the genitals. To make it easier for your child to speak out, try using a “personal code.” For instance “something fishy happened” can be a code to tell you that he or she experienced inappropriate contact.
Kids also need to know that they will be listened to and that they will be believed. Very few reports of abuse are false. When you develop a positive and open relationship with your child, he or she is more likely to come to you so it’s important to improve how you communicate. Remember that when your child comes to you about a sexual abuse issue, how you react will determine how much he or she will disclose. Keep calm. Listen. Ask questions. Don’t respond emotionally.
5 | Adopt an open-door policy
Over 80 percent of sexual abuse cases occur in one-on-one situations and involve someone the family trusts. By adopting an open-door policy, you can drastically reduce the risk of abuse.
Leave the door open when your child is online in his bedroom. If your child has individual lessons, privilege open spaces. There is a reduced risk of abuse when potential offenders know they can be easily observed. Choose group activities whenever you have a choice.
6 | Talk after outings
When you ask your kid how his outing was, he’ll say, “fine.” Or “awesome.” Or “good.” But he won’t give you details so you need to know how to ask to make him open up and talk about how the outing really was.
Remember that the objective is to get the most information out of him without making it seem like a suspect interview. Ask specific questions. To get ideas of questions you can ask other than “how was your day,” check out the post 30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”
It’s also important to be attentive to your child’s reactions. Does he or she suddenly seem uncomfortable around certain people? Find out why.
While we might be able to teach our kids about sexual abuse, it is also important to teach them that the responsibility for preventing abuse does not lie on their shoulders. Kids should never be made to feel guilty for failing to prevent sexual abuse.
Additional resources to help: