7 Ways Teachers Can Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
While a parent may have the biggest influence on a child’s life when it comes to educating about healthy sexual development and reducing the risk of sexual abuse, many adults also play an impactful role—especially teachers. They have the potential to be an important safety net for kids who are at high risk for sexual abuse at home.
In the United States, each state has laws that require certain professionals (like teachers) to report suspicions of child abuse. Learn the laws in your state and see what your responsibility is, legally speaking. These, in addition to your school’s policies, will give you a good baseline on what to do when you have concerns that a child is being abused.
But what else can you do? Are there ways that you can recognize sexual abuse? Can you create a classroom environment that reduces the risk? How do you know what to say or when to say it in order to help a child? Below are seven ways that you can help reduce the risk of sexual abuse for your students:
Know the Facts
Simply arming yourself with accurate information can make a big difference in your classroom and school. When you encounter misinformation, you can step in and correct the inaccuracy. This will also help you reduce the stigma surrounding this topic and make it an appropriate topic to address with your colleagues.
Learn About Age-Appropriate Sexual Development
When you are armed with the knowledge of what’s age-appropriate for your students, it will make it all the easier to spot when someone is not at the same level. This in and of itself is not a sign of sexual abuse, but when it’s combined with other factors it may lead you to ask questions, report, or advocate for a child who is in need of your help.
Encourage Emotional Regulation
Some ideas are giving them “alone time” to think about what they’re feeling and how they can deal with those emotions in an appropriate way for the classroom (make sure this doesn’t feel like a punishment or it could exacerbate the problem). You could utilize our Wheel of Emotions and help them identify their feelings so they can talk about them, or you can ask them to write down what they’re feeling as an essay or a story, depending on their age.
Giving kids a safe way to experience and resolve their emotional responses is not only an important life skill, but research has also shown that it will help prevent them from being sexually abused or sexually abusing someone else.
Encourage and Support School Policies
Many places require teachers to go through training or receive additional education about sexual abuse. These can often be emotionally overwhelming and leave you feeling hopeless about being able to ever make a difference. One way you can supplement this training with more hopeful and actionable information is by utilizing our classes designed for community members.
Encourage Parents to Educate Their Children
Letting them know the importance of teaching their child assertive communication could be a good place to start. Or the importance of modeling healthy relationships. You could even start with talking to them about raising their child’s self-esteem. Whenever possible, encourage them to talk to their children openly and honestly about healthy sexual development, which may make all the difference in reducing the risk that the child will be sexually abused or will sexually abuse others.
Trust Your Intuition and Report Problems
If you know that sexual abuse is occurring, don’t hesitate to report it. There are many survivors of child sexual abuse who have a teacher to thank for stopping the abuse they were experiencing. If your intuition tells you that something is “off” with a situation or someone, the chances are it is and you should investigate further.
Be a Trusted Adult
Whether a student is being sexually abused or not, having an adult they feel safe with is important. Allowing them a space where they can be themselves and where they are encouraged to work through their emotions in a healthy way can make all the difference in their lives.
Together We’re Better
Child sexual abuse is an epidemic that impacts far too many families and communities. Together parents, teachers, and community members can make a difference. As we make it safe to openly discuss this topic, we can lower the number of children abused every year. Learn what to look for and speak up about this topic. It could make all the difference in the world to your students.
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