With the increasing knowledge of the extent of child sexual abuse, many parents wonder how they can safeguard their children. The best way to protect your child is to educate them about their bodies and their right to say no. An important follow on from that is that your child learns that everyone’s body should be respected and touching without permission is not acceptable. Your child also learns that No means no. This is important not just in childhood but through the teenage years and into adulthood. Boys learn to respect the bodies of girls and also learn to seek permission. Girls learn they have the right to say no. Children also learn self respect and respect for others.
- The first thing to teach your child is the correct names for body parts. This is important for children to be able to feel comfortable about their bodies and also respect their bodies. This allows your child to expect others to respect his or her body as well.
- Teach your child the parts of their body that are private body parts. One suggested way is to explain that what is under their swimmers as well as their mouth is private.
- Instruct your child that no one can touch their private body parts. Reinforce to them that their body belongs to them.
- Explain to your child that they must never touch another person’s private body parts even if an older child or adult asks them to.
- Discuss with your child feelings they may have that may tell them they are uncomfortable or frightened in a situation (early warning signs). These may be sweaty palms, a racing heart, feeling sick and many more. Instruct them to always act on these feelings.
- Teach your child to shout “STOP” or “NO” with their hand held out if anyone tries to touch them on their private body parts or in any way they do not like.
- Teach your child to tell a trusted adult straightaway if they are touched on their private body parts, in any way they do not like or their early warning signs are activated.
Sadly in this world children are often let down by the very people who are supposed to protect them. This is often referred to as the second trauma of sexual abuse. There is the trauma of the sexual abuse, then the trauma of the trusted adult who fails to support the child. Always take what your child tells you seriously. Do this even though it may be uncomfortable for you to hear it.
- Teach your child to not give up if a trusted adult fails to support them or acts as though they do not believe them. Teach your child to keep telling people until someone listens and acts.
- Explain to your child that keeping secrets that make them feel uncomfortable or bad is wrong. Teach them to only keep happy surprises. If it makes them feel uncomfortable or bad then they need to tell someone. Advise them they will not get into trouble for telling someone.
- Encourage your child to always be strong, to be brave and to ALWAYS speak out.