Talking to your child before an assault happens is the best prevention. You can teach your child the difference between affection and abuse, between safe and unsafe touches. Your willingness to talk about sexuality and sexual abuse with your child can be the first important step in keeping them safe and healthy. Here are some other important things to keep in mind when talking to your child:
- Teach your child they are special and deserve safe touches every day.
- Find out what your child knows about safe and unsafe touches. By asking about it, you let them know it’s okay to talk about these things.
- Teach your child the correct names for all of his or her body parts. If you are uncomfortable with the anatomically-correct names for private parts, practice them before talking to your child.
- Keep an open line of communication about sexuality, and safe and unsafe touching. It’s not enough to talk about it once, and then never bring it up again. This is important for healthy sexual development.
- Let your child know you are open to any and all questions, and really listen to what they have to say. Encourage them to keep asking if they are confused about anything.
- Help your child to become aware of and trust his or her feelings. Let them know that it is always okay to say “No” to anyone who touches them in an uncomfortable or confusing way.
- Practice a “No Secrets” rule. Teach your child the difference between secrets and surprises. Surprises are okay (i.e. presents, parties, treats) because they are temporary and the fun is in the telling. Teach your child they have the right to tell someone (and to keep telling until someone believes them) about an unsafe touch. Kisses and touches should never be kept a secret!
- Make prevention information fun and interesting. Create “what if” situations that may be confusing or difficult, and ask your child what he or she would do. (For example, What would they do if someone asked them to play an undressing game?) Be sure to use situations that are examples of both safe and unsafe touching.
- Let your child know you will believe them—and mean it! If they come to you with a problem about touching. Many cases of child sexual abuse go unreported because the child is afraid he or she won’t be believed.
- Make sure your child knows that if unsafe touching happens, it is not their fault, and they will NOT get in trouble for telling—even if they weren’t following safety rules, or were doing something that was against the rules when it happened. A child is never to blame for the abuse.
- Give your child permission to make decisions about who touches them and how, even when the touch is a safe touch. For example, instead of saying “Give Aunt Paula a kiss goodnight!” ask, “Would you like to give Aunt Paula a kiss goodnight?” Be prepared to be okay with a “no” answer. You are teaching them to set healthy boundaries!
- Help your child understand who they can trust. Talk with them about this and listen to their input.
- Let your child know that safety rules apply to all adults, including family members.
- Instill a sense of strong self-esteem in your child to help your child avoid feelings of responsibility and guilt if they are victimized.
And remember: Children are best protected by giving them the knowledge and skills necessary for their safety!