Talking to your kids about sexual abuse
Warning your kids about predators who sexually abuse children is enough to make your heart hit the floor. Your mind doesn't want to go there, but talking openly, though temporarily uncomfortable, will help keep your child safe.
It's hard for kids to grasp the difference between affection and sexual abuse, says Caffee Wright, a certified juvenile sex offense counselor and author of When Touching Hurts, a book to help children understand inappropriate sexual touching and boundaries.
According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 44 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 18. Ninety three percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
Education is the key to protecting children from sexual abuse. Talk to children on their level. Broach the subject in a safe environment and without instilling fear. Many times when kids are abused, it occurs in such a manipulative manner, they don't always recognize what's happening, says Wright.
Wright's ways to empower your kids
Teach your children that their bodies belong to them no one should look at or touch their private parts (even if they ask first). They also need to know that they should never touch someone else's private parts.
Explain that your kids need boundaries so they can define their personal space. If it helps, they can place a hula hoop around them for a concrete visual of a personal boundary.
Wright's tips for parents
- Don't let your children go to public bathrooms alone.
- Instead of dropping children off for activities outside a home or building, escort them to the door. Become involved in your child's activities because sometimes abusers use these opportunities to approach children.
- Spend quality time with your children and listen to them often. If they feel comfortable talking to you it will be easier to open up even about painful experiences.
- Remain calm and maintain emotional control when your children want to talk. You need to model control.
- Sexual abusers are often people kids know so it's important that you tell your child that he or she doesn't have to hug or kiss people that they don't want to -- even relatives.
- Use the correct terms names for their genitalia. You don't use fake names for knees, arms or hands, so why make up silly terms for their genitalia? By using the real names, kids will understand that their body is okay and they'll be more likely to have a discussion without feeling embarrassed.
- Share examples of safe touching. For example, a hand shake, a high five or a hug from someone you love can be safe but if they feel that a touch violates their boundaries or if they don't feel good after being touched, then they need to tell someone. It's okay to tell.