Information For Parents And Guardians
Sexual abuse is a difficult topic to discuss with others, especially children. Conventional wisdom about what to say to children has changed in recent years and may be counterintuitive.
This section contains the latest information about the preventative discussions to have with your young children and teenagers, as well as what to do if you suspect he or she has been sexually abused.
Talking to Your Child About Sexual Abuse
When you empower your children to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse.
Talk to your children about sexuality and sexual abuse in age-appropriate terms. Talking openly and directly about sexuality teaches children that it is okay to talk to you when they have questions.
Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
Teach children that some parts of their bodies are private.
- Let children know that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless they need to touch them to provide care. If someone does need to touch them in those private areas, a parent or trusted caregiver should be there when it happens.
- Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them OR if someone tries to show them his or her own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
Teach your child boundaries and that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make him or her uncomfortable or scared.
- Teach your child how to say “no” when he or she is uncomfortable or scared and that he or she should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
- Respect a child’s boundaries in play, teasing, and affection.
- Assure your child that it is okay to get help, even if someone he or she cares about might be upset or embarrassed.
- Know that telling a trusted adult can lead to a slightly embarrassing situation for you, your child, and those involved.
- A child who then says he or she does not want to give a relative a hug or kiss can create tension. Do not force the child to give the relative a hug or a kiss, because it is sending the wrong message to the child and teaches the child to ignore his or her confusing or uncomfortable feelings to the point where he or she does it anyway. Work with your child to find ways to greet people that do not involve uncomfortable kinds of touch.
Talk openly about sexuality and sexual abuse to teach your child that these topics do not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
- Abusers rely on the child’s likelihood of not telling an adult.
- Assure your child that he or she will not get into trouble if he or she tells you this kind of secret.
Do not try to put all this information into one big “talk” about sex.
- Talking about sexuality and sexual abuse should be routine conversations.
- Use everyday issues to begin conversations to help avoid a big “talk” about sex.
Be involved in your child’s life.
Be engaged in your child’s activities.
- Ask your child about the people he or she goes to school with or plays with.
- If your child is involved in sports, go to games and practices. Get to know the other parents and coaches.
- If your child is involved in after-school activities or day care, ask him or her what he or she did during the day.
Know the other adults that your child might talk to.
- Children sometimes feel that they cannot talk to their parents.
- Identify and tell your child who the other trusted adults are in his or her life.
Talk about the media and technology.
If your child watches a lot of television or plays video games, watch or play with him or her.
- Ask him or her questions about technology you do not understand.
- Many TV shows show sexual violence of different kinds.
- Some video games allow the user to engage in sexual violence.
- Discuss the Internet, the child’s surfing habits, and online safety tips.
Use examples from TV or games that you have watched or played together to start up conversations about sexuality and sexual abuse.
Make time to spend with your child.
Let your child know that he or she can come to you if he or she has questions or if someone is talking to him or her in a way that makes him or her feel uncomfortable or scared.
- Make time to talk to your child when he or she comes to you with concerns or questions.