10 Tools to Minimize the Risk of Child Sexual Abuse
1 out of every 5 children is sexually abused before they are 18 years old. That statistic can be very scary to think about as a parent. At times, it might seem impossible to protect your child from all of the threats that face them.
But there are things you can do as a parent to protect against child sexual abuse. Here are 10 tools that will significantly minimize the risk for your child:
Use Your Intuition
The most important tool you have as a parent is your intuition. You know your child best, and you can spot things that seem wrong. When reflecting on a situation or someone’s behavior, consider the following:
- Does it seem odd?
- Does it make you feel uncomfortable?
- Does this odd behavior seem to happen too often?
- Has anyone else commented or noticed the same thing?
If the answer is yes to these questions, then trust your instincts and act appropriately. That means to confront the person with kindness and help them understand the boundaries you have set with your children.
Let Children Show Affection on Their Terms
Let your children show affection on their terms. Some children might really like to hug and kiss. Others might prefer hand fives or fist bumps. The important takeaway is to let your child show affection how they want to show it.
If your child feels uncomfortable giving affection to a particular friend or family member, do not force them. Forcing teaches the child that their opinion does not matter. Allowing a child to show affections on his or her terms teaches children that they have control of their body, and have the right to make decisions about how others treat them.
Give Your Child the Right to Say No
Teach your children that they have the right to say No. Teach them that if an adult wants them to do something that is uncomfortable or outside of the healthy boundaries you have discussed with them, then they should say NO loudly. Explain that doing this will not get them in trouble. Giving your children the opportunity to say No will help them speak up when something is uncomfortable or if someone tries to take advantage of them.
Have Age-Appropriate Conversations
Begin talking about healthy sexuality when your children are young. Be the first one who teaches them about sex. You don’t want your children to learn about sex from friends on the playground or to look it up on the internet.
Begin with the basics when they are young and mature the conversations as children get older. These frequent discussions will provide context for your children when they see or hear unhealthy examples of sexuality. Having these conversations will help build a trusting relationship between you and your child. Help them know that they can approach you with any questions or concerns they might have.
Use Appropriate Names
Be sure to teach your children appropriate names for body parts. Begin while they are young. Teach them that certain body parts are private and that no one should touch them. The goal of teaching your children the appropriate names for body parts is to help them communicate clearly to you or others they trust if someone violates the boundaries that were set.
Teach Safe Touch
Be sure to teach your children the difference between safe touch and unsafe touch. Safe touch leaves a child happy and gives a comfortable feeling, such as holding hands, warm hugs and appropriate kisses.
Unsafe touch leaves a child feeling unsafe, confused or uncomfortable. Examples of unsafe touch are touching private areas and forcing hugs and kisses. Discuss with your child often about what makes them comfortable and uncomfortable. Reaffirm to them that they never have to do anything that makes them uncomfortable.
Teach the Dangers of Secret Keeping
Be sure to teach your children that it is OKAY to tell you about secrets. Teach them that keeping secrets can cause them further harm. Perpetrators thrive on secrecy.
Let your children know not to keep secrets that make them feel uncomfortable or dirty. Always let them know that if they feel threatened that they can come to you and tell you. Teach your children that they will never be in trouble for sharing a secret with you.
As a parent, you need to monitor your child’s digital interactions. That includes interactions on their cell phones, tablets and social accounts. Many perpetrators target children online well before they try to make physical contact. Porn sites purposely target children, so be sure to use parental controls.
It is also important to teach your children about the consequences of sharing inappropriate material online. Teach your teen in particular that it is illegal to share or re-share nude photos of themselves or other teens. These are classified as child pornography and carry significant legal consequences if shared.
Be in the Know
Know about the outings your child is going on. If your child is not going to be with you, always know who the adult is in charge. Make sure there is an open-door policy at the events your child attends.
It is always a good practice to know who will be attending the outing. Will there be siblings, friends of siblings, adults, etc.? If you have any doubt, do not let your child go. As mentioned before, your intuition as a parent is your most important tool. Be sure to use it.
Sleepovers are an outing in which the risk of sexual abuse significantly increases. Be sure to be on alert when your children attend sleepovers, or you might decide not to have them altogether. If you decide to have sleepovers, make sure to be in the know.
Set Clear and Safe Boundaries
Always establish clear and safe boundaries with your children, and teach others your boundaries. Teach them to know what to do when someone tries to invade those boundaries. Run through different situations and possible reactions to those situations.
When your children start dating, make sure to set clear and safe dating guidelines. Be sure to teach them about what constitutes a healthy relationship. Always give them real-world examples of what is healthy and not healthy.
While protecting your child from child sexual abuse might be a difficult task, it is not impossible. Using these tools to the best of your capability will help maximize the likelihood that your child will have a safe and happy childhood. Nothing can be better than that.