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.
Discussing Sexual Abuse With Teens
The discussion about sexuality and sexual abuse should start way before a child begins puberty. The following tips are provided with the understanding that preventative discussions have occurred with your child years earlier. If you have not discussed sexual abuse with your child, start today.
When it comes to sexual abuse, protecting teens is complicated. Teenagers seek relationships outside the family for friendship, security, and even advice. In addition, they may be confused or embarrassed about their own developing sexuality, which makes communication difficult and protecting them nearly impossible.
Be realistic and educate yourself.
Know that most abusers are known by the victim.
Realize teens are learning about sex. Often their sources may not be the best places to get the facts on sex. Sources include their friends, pornography, or firsthand experiences.
Learn more so you can help and inform your child.
- If your teen comes to you with a question and you respond by giving him or her a pamphlet of information, he or she may think you are not open to further conversation.
- Educational pamphlets can be helpful, many times for you as a parent. Creating open communication is a better way for teens to learn about sexuality and sexual abuse.
Do not put off discussions.
Before communication lines shut down or something happens, talk to your child.
Open the lines of communication and talk to your child about his or her personal rights and personal boundaries in an age-appropriate manner.
Help teens define their personal rights.
Believe it or not, many teens who get caught up in an inappropriate relationship with an adult (or even someone their own age who is an abuser) blame themselves. They do not know what their personal rights are or what kind of behavior to expect from adults. Teach your children that it is okay to say no and that they do not have to do anything they do not want to do. Often, kids think they are supposed to respect their elders and be nice, so they go along with things that make them uncomfortable because they feel obligated.
Teens should understand that:
- Their bodies are theirs.
- Past permission does not obligate them to future activity.
- They do not have to do anything they do not want to do.
- They should trust their instincts.
- It is not okay for them to engage in sexual behavior with adults.
- It is not okay for adults to take pictures or videos of them in sexual positions or unclothed.
- Regardless of how they dress or talk, it does not constitute permission.
- Pornography is not an accurate depiction of real life.
- They deserve to be spoken to with respect and never feel coerced.
- Alcohol and drugs may make it hard for them to maintain their boundaries and can cloud their judgment.
- Touching someone sexually while they are drunk is abuse.
- Adults should not discuss their sexual fantasies or share pornography with minors.
- No one has the right to touch them without their permission.
If they are in a relationship, they should also understand that:
- Both parties respect each other’s personal rights and boundaries in a healthy relationship.
- They should decline sexual relations with anyone who refuses to use proper protection.
- Not everyone is having sex. Many teens wait and that is perfectly okay.
Help them build up their self-esteem.
Often, low self-esteem is a pivotal factor in risky teen behavior. Teens who do not feel good about themselves or who are at odds with their family may turn to other adults for support. This type of behavior is extremely dangerous; this is exactly what abusers are looking for. They approach teens and take advantage of their low self-esteem, give gifts like liquor or drugs, further isolate them from the family, and attempt to become their ”friend.” In addition, teens that do not have money are also often a target and may be bribed with gifts or money.
- Encourage your teen to get involved in a hobby, sport, work, or art.
- Teach your teen how to earn money legitimately without having to give up his or her pride or self-worth.
- Teach your teen how to take care of himself or herself.
- Empower your teen to be in control of his or her own life rather than feeling like a victim.
- Give your teen responsibility.
- Communicate how much you value his or her independence, accomplishments, and ability to be responsible, while letting him or her know you are supportive and available.
Need help? Get help.
- Know that it is never too late to seek help.
- Talk to school administrators, counselors, teachers, and community outreach program representatives for assistance.
- Affirm to yourself that abuse is something that needs to be stopped, not ignored.
- Report abuse as soon as possible. Silence protects the abuser and shows the child that abuse is acceptable and may convey that it is his or her fault.
- Do not blame the child for the abuse.
- Seek counseling for abused children to help alleviate confusion, anger, and possible self-esteem issues.
- Seek counseling for you to learn how to get through the hurt and anger, and find ways to help your child and family connections heal.
The U. S. Department of Justice
The Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website (NSOPW)