PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL ABUSE
When you empower your child to say “NO” to unwanted touch
and teach them that they can come to you with questions and
concerns, you take critical steps to prevent child sexual abuse.
A child’s safety is an adult’s job.
Adults are the key to teaching children safety issues about everything: crossing a busy street, not talking to strangers, not opening the door when you don't know who is knocking, etc. However, one of the most important things to teach children are the safety issues surrounding sexual abuse. It's estimated that fewer than 30% of parents ever talk to
their children about how they can protect themselves from sex abuse. Please don’'t think that it couldn't happen to your family as all families share the same risks.
The best time to talk to your child about sex abuse is NOW!
Teach children accurate names of body parts and what parts of the body are private.
A simple way is to say, “Private parts are the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit.” Tell children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, OR if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.
Avoid focusing exclusively on "stranger danger."
Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know, love and trust. Imagine how difficult is for a child to say “no” to another family member, teacher, coach or clergy. People who abuse children look and act just like everyone else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy to gain access to children.
Teach children about safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.
Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways. (ex: politely refusing hugs) and to say no to touching others.
Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts.
Teach children to take care of their own private parts (ex: bathing, wiping after bathroom use) so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children to help.
Educate children about the difference between good secrets
(like surprise parties – which are okay because they are not kept secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay). Let children know that if someone is touching them or talking to them in a way that make them uncomfortable that it shouldn'’t stay a secret. Make sure the child knows they will not get into trouble by telling you this kind of secret.
Trust your instincts!
If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’'t do it. If you're concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions. Ask specifics about the planned activities before the child leaves your care. Minimize the opportunity by reducing one adult/one child situations.
Children should be supervised at all times by someone old enough to understand safety risks.
Children should not walk anywhere alone, should not wait for the bus alone or play in the yard alone if it borders a street where an offender could have access.
When getting a babysitter or daycare, get references from friends, family or neighbors.
Interview care-givers personally and observe their interaction with your child. Letting the potential care-giver know you have talked to your child about sex abuse can be a further precaution.
Do not send your child alone into a public bathroom until he/she is old enough to call out for help if needed.
If you son is getting too old to go into the women’'s restroom with you, stand near the men’'s bathroom doorway so you can hear your child. This gives a clear message that the child inside is being closely supervised.
Learn about the grooming techniques of offenders.
Offenders can trick families and communities as well as kids. Learn to recognize red-flag behaviors and to confront anything you think is questionable. Let your child know they can come to you if they have questions or if someone is talking to them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Pay close attention to any uneasy feelings you have about a person. Some call it a sixth-sense or intuition.
Monitor your children's internet access carefully and properly educate them about the risks they may encounter.
It is best to have the computer in a high-traffic area and for the parents to check children’'s online history regularly. Online, youth may encounter explicit material, child pornography and sexual predators, graphic images of violence, information about offensive or illegal activities, etc. It’'s very important to develop family rules around computer use. Teach them additional rules for texting and how sending an inappropriate picture of them to a friend (sexting) can never be retrieved and could damage their reputation forever.
Insist that youth-serving organizations train their staff and volunteers to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
Insist on screenings that include background checks, personal interviews, and professional recommendations of all adults who serve children. Ensure that youth-serving organizations have policies for dealing with suspicious situations and reports of abuse.
Know who the registered sex-offenders are in your own neighborhood by checking online at http://sexoffenders.oregon.gov or call the Oregon State Police at 503-378-372, ext. 44429 to get a list of offenders in your zip code. Remember that not all sex offenders will be registered so careful supervision is paramount.
Make it a habit to ask kids safety questions on a regular basis.
Children keep the secret of child sexual abuse for many reasons. Some children don’t tell because they are never asked. Besides having regular safety talks, make it a habit to check in with kids after any overnight visits, campouts, or other events. Provide opportunities for children to tell and plan to stay calm if your child reports something.