protecting our children from sexual abuse

Over the years and during dozens of seminars, I’ve had folks ask how they can help their children avoid being sexually abused.  The reality is, we can’t, but we can do our best to give them good boundaries and tools to use when they feel in danger.

Instead of writing a blog on the subject, I’m re-blogged a terrific post from Nicole Bromley, who tells it better than I could:

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Protecting Kids from Sexual Abuse: A Few Teaching Pointers

It is vitally important to teach your child key safety principles about their body, touch, abuse and communication from very early ages. There are so many teaching points to list here, but for the sake of sharing a few…here are is a good place to start.

Teach children:

to use the proper names of their body parts. Just as you teach your children to call their nose a nose, they need to know what to call their private parts. This knowledge gives children the correct language needed for understanding their bodies, for asking questions they might have, expressing concern about parts of their body, and for telling about any behavior regarding sexual abuse.

that they should tell you or a trusted adult immediately if someone is showing them something that makes them uneasy or talking to them in ways that make them feel uncomfortable. Teach them that things like this should never stay a secret (more to come on secrets), and that they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible

to set boundaries. Have a child practice moving your hand away from their body within a simple safe touch (like a shoulder or hand) and saying something like, “please stop.” This prepares children to set boundaries with a more uncomfortable or dangerous type of touch. Teach kids that it’s okay to say “NO” to touches or situations that make them feel uncomfortable. You might also consider having them practice interrupting a busy adult to say, “I need help.”

that no one is to touch them in their private areas—and that their private areas are the areas their bathing suit covers. Teach them that the “safety rule” is that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to in order to provide care (like a doctor)—and even in those cases, a parent of trusted caregiver should be there with them. Explain to the child that “you need to tell me if anyone—no matter who it is, or how much we love them—breaks this safety rule and touches you inappropriately.” Also explain kids that it is unacceptable for someone else to use manipulation, blackmail, coercion, control, etc to get them touch someone else’s body.

that they can come to you with questions or concerns at any time. It is never too late to tell you anything. Make it a practice of asking something like, “Is there anything you’ve been wondering or worrying about that we haven’t talked about lately?”

that their bodies belong to them and they can make choices related to the boundaries of their bodies.Let children know that it is okay for them to decline a friendly hug or kiss, even from a friend or family member they love. Making kids feel obligated to kiss or hug people when they don’t want to, sends the signal that they must use their bodies to make others happy or that they are responsible for the emotional state of others.If your child doesn’t want to sit on Uncle Joe’s lap and read a book, or if he doesn’t want to kiss Gramma or hug family friend Phil goodbye, don’t force the child. Teach your child multiple ways of greeting people, like high-fives and hand-shakes…or do like the Bromley’s and pass out fist-bump-explosions. 🙂

If a child does express negative reaction or concern about affection with a specific person, be sure to follow up on this! Make time to talk to them about it, ask questions, listen well and respond appropriately. This open conversation can empower a child in more healthy ways than you can imagine (we will discuss more of this soon).

Good communication on safety and the body may decrease a child’s vulnerability to sexual abuse and increase the likelihood that the child will speak up if they are being groomed for sexual abuse or if abuse has already occurred.

A few books for parents to read with young children on this topic, as recommended by our Facebook followers

My Body Belongs to Me

The Right Touch

The Ticket

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4 thoughts on “protecting our children from sexual abuse

  1. As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, I have many comments about this article, but can’t get my thoughts straight right now. First, thank you for posting this, to raise awareness – It is a good start. But I have many things to add for different situations and ages of children. Some children are abused very young, before they have an understanding of most of those things, so we need a way to protect them as well. I will elaborate in my own blog when I find the right words for these feelings.

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