5 tips to protect the children in your life
1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18 in the United States. Children who are sexually abused can deal with the negative consequences of abuse for a lifetime. So, what can we do to prevent child abuse and keep the children in our lives safe?
1. Teach Body Safety
Let kids know that their body belongs to them and that they have the right to say no to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable. When discussing body parts, use anatomically correct names for body parts. Nicknames for body parts can teach children to be embarrassed about or ashamed of these parts. It can also be confusing and misleading. Using proper terminology opens a dialogue about body parts, and empowers children to speak about them when they have questions or concerns.
2. Speak Openly and Often
Start conversations with your children about bodies, body autonomy, and child sexual abuse early. Consistent conversations will help you establish yourself as a trusted adult. Children will know that they can come to you to discuss anything whenever they need it. These conversations will help remove the stigma around seeking out a trusted adult if a child needs help. The books below are great ways to start age-appropriate conversations with kiddos.
3. Secrets to Keep vs Secrets to Tell
Let children know secrets to keep are things that make you feel happy and safe and are okay to keep secret (for example, a surprise visit to grandma). Secrets to tell are things that make you feel scared, confused, or upset. They are things that you should talk to an adult about to get help. To help kids understand this concept you might explain that a secret to tell would be having an accident at school. You might feel embarrassed, upset, or confused about it, but you need to talk with an adult to get the help you need, and you’ll feel so much better when you do. Let kids know that they can talk to you about anything.
4. Respect Children’s Boundaries
Respect your child’s wishes when it comes to hugs or other displays of attention. If your child doesn’t want to hug a relative, do not force them to hug them. When you respect a child’s autonomy, you model consent. Hold other adults responsible; doing so lets potential predators know that you are watching and lets kids know that it’s not okay if other adults don’t respect their boundaries.
5. Learn the Signs, Believe and Report
Anxiety, depression, fear of going places with certain people, bedwetting, or regressing to childlike behaviors are all signs of child sexual abuse. Sometimes there are no signs. That’s why it’s so important to believe children when they tell you about sexual abuse. False reports are rare. If a child discloses abuse to you, report it by calling the Child Sexual Abuse Hotline at 1 (855) 323-3237.
In doing these five simple steps, we can prevent child sexual abuse and ensure that all children have happy, healthy, and safe lives.