70-80% of sexual abusers are adult heterosexual males who are known to the child. However, this does not exclude other children and adolescence.
By fostering self-reliance and assertiveness in their children, parents help protect them against sexual abuse. Abandon the idea that “it can’t happen to me.” Sexual abuse crosses all socioeconomic lines, all religious and ethnic walks of life. Every child must learn safety information and survival skills.
- Have your child use proper terms for body parts. Substitute “penis,” “vagina,” etc. for vague descriptors like “’private parts” and “down there.”
- Let your child decide whether to be affectionate. Children have an uncanny way of identifying negative aura. They also take time to ‘warm’ to people. Don’t force them to hug Aunt Claire or Uncle Zeke, they might know something you don’t!
- Explain that no one should touch a child’s penis (vagina, etc.) or ask a child to touch his/her penis/vagina. This applies to family members too (explain possible exceptions such as a parent helping at bath time or the doctor if something is hurting).
- Tell your child she has the right to say “no” to any one including other children and adults who asks her to do something wrong. “It’s wrong for a grown-up to ask you to lie or steal; to touch you or ask you to touch them, in the ways we talked about. You should say of ‘no,’ then come and tell me.”
- Explain that no one should insist your child keep secrets from you. “If someone touches your penis/ vulva, and warns you not to tell me, it may be because it was wrong for them to do that. Secrets and surprises are different. Surprises (like the present mom bought dad for his birthday) can eventually be told.”
- Practice “what if” with your child. “What if the babysitter promised you could stay up later if you touched his penis?” “What if a someone came to the door while I was in the shower?” Rehearse specific words and actions. Help your child know what to do if s/he feels threatened – where to go and who they can trust if you (parents) are not around.
Teaching about sexual abuse isn’t easy. You worry about frightening the children, about what to say, how to say it. In addition to the general tips offered here, there are excellent resources available through your local Planned Parenthood, health department, physician’s office or sexual assault center.
Adapted from http://www.noplacelikehome.org/english.php?p=grade1