7 Ways Teachers Can Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
A parent or guardian has the biggest influence on a child’s life in preventing sexual abuse from happening. Teachers, however, can also have a huge impact, as well as be an important safety net for children who are at high risk for abuse at home.
Let’s start by saying that in the United States each state has laws that require certain professionals to report suspicions about child abuse. Learn the laws in your state and see what your responsibility is, legally speaking. These, in addition to your employer’s policies, will give you a good gauge on what to do when you have concerns that a child may be abused.
But how do you recognize sexual abuse? How do you know what to say and when to say it? How can you help prevent something from happening in the first place?
Below are 7 ways that teachers can help prevent sexual abuse for their students:
1. Know the facts
Children are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know and trust than they are a stranger. Some studies suggest numbers as high as 90% of abuse is perpetrated by someone the child knows. Many times the abuse happens within the child’s own family. There is no stereotypical child who will be abused. Abuse effects all races, religions, socio-economic levels, and ages. If you don’t think it’s happening in your school, we encourage you to reconsider. 1 in 5 children will be sexually abused by age 18, and it can happen anywhere children gather.
2. Learn about age-appropriate sexual development
Children of different ages have healthy and typical sexual behaviors that they can and will display. Learn what’s “normal” for each age. Recognize that sexual abuse can happen between children if one is exhibiting unhealthy sexual behaviors and forcing those behaviors on another child.
3. Watch for red flags
There are behavioral and physical indicators that a child is being sexually abused. Watch for these and be alert to the possibility that the child is being abused or at risk for being abused.
4. Create policies for your school
You can reduce the risk of abuse by putting policies in place that dictate appropriate interactions between adults and children. Additional education for teachers about sexual abuse is also an excellent way to prevent it from happening to the children in your care.
5. Educate parents
Many parents don’t discuss healthy sexual behaviors with their children. Encourage the parents of your students to engage with their children about what’s appropriate and inappropriate for the classroom.
6. Address problems
Like the adage you hear in the airport, “if you see something, say something.” If a coworker or student are exhibiting behaviors you find questionable, speak up about it.
7. Be a trusted adult
Some of the children in your classroom may not be safe at home. No matter what their family looks like, no matter how much money they make or where they live, a child might be sexually abused. Create an atmosphere of trust with your students. Let them know that if there are problems in their lives, that they can talk to you about them. Stress to them that secrets won’t keep them safe. Whether they are being sexually abused or not, your students will appreciate having an adult they can trust in their lives.
Together parents, guardians, and teachers can defend the innocence of our children and lower the statistic that 1 in 5 children will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Learn what to look for and speak up. It will make a difference.