Information is power. Understanding risk and what can create vulnerability helps you and your children take action against potentially harmful situations. By working together as a family and as a community, we can create an environment to better protect our children from being sexually abused.
Educate everyone in your family
Be sure that everyone in the family understand the difference between healthy sexual development and unhealthy, risky sexual behavior. This can help to identify red flags.
Recognize signs that a child may have been sexually assaulted or that an adult, teen, or child may be touching a child in a sexual way. Some behaviors may not involve touching at all. These may include:
- Someone exposing genitals to a child
- Asking the child to expose their genitals
- Showing the child pornography or other sexually explicit images
Teach children the proper names for body parts and what to do if someone tries to touch them in a sexual way. Stress and consistently reinforce to children that NO ONE has the right to touch their private parts (except in cases of medical reasons) and that they should not touch anyone else’s private parts.
Start talking with your family about sexual abuse
It may feel uncomfortable or awkward to talk to kids about sexual behavior, but adults must take the lead by opening the discussion so that children can understand what healthy sexual behavior is versus what abusive sexual behavior is.
This applies to all family members, from children to adults. Talk about appropriate and inappropriate sexualized behaviors in a way that they both understand and remember the information
Encourage questions during the discussion, or talk further about any of these issues in private, at a later time.
Set clear family boundaries
Family members should be clear on guidelines for personal privacy and behavior. Model respectful guidelines. Discuss these guidelines with other adults who spend time with or supervise your children. For example, we often, very innocently, encourage kids to give hugs or kisses to adults when they may not be comfortable doing so. Rather than force this type of affection, let adults and children know that other gestures, like handshakes, are acceptable also. Also, embolden children to let you know if they are uncomfortable around a certain adult or older child.
As a child matures, boundaries may change as well. Privacy may change in ways such as knocking on a bedroom door before entering the room of a teen.
Get safe adults involved
Research shows that having someone to confide in can play a key role in how well a child can cope with and recover from stressful events. It is imperative to identify one or more support persons for each family to talk to if there is a concern. Having a safe, reliable, and consistent adult for a child or adolescent to talk to is essential.
Know what resources exist and how to use them
Know who to contact to make a report if you know or suspect that a child has been sexually abused.
Make a list of resources you can call for advice, information and help and include the phone numbers. Start with our list of helpful resources.
Care enough to reach out for help
If you are concerned about the sexualized behaviors of a parent, cousin, sibling or other family member, care enough to talk with them. If you are concerned about your own thoughts and feelings towards children, help is available.
Make sure everyone knows that they can talk with you about any inappropriate behavior that may already have occurred; that you love them and will work to get them help.
Adapted from original content by Joan Tabachnick