Empower Your Child

Teaching your child about sexual abuse empowers him/her to participate in his/her own body safety! 

  • Children, provided with accurate information at an early age, can learn to avoid or stop sexual advances. An unprepared child may be too confused or ashamed even to admit an assault has taken place.
  • Children as young as four years old can understand the basic concepts of safe touches, unsafe touches and confusing touches. Teach your children what touches are safe and what touches are unsafe. Discuss the fact that touches may be confusing at times, and they may not be sure if the touches are safe or unsafe. Give them examples of safe and unsafe touches.
  • Teach children the proper names of body parts. Just as you teach your children that a nose is a nose, they need to know what to call their genitals. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked, and for telling about sexual abuse. Teach your child about private parts of the body (parts covered by a bathing suit). Use coloring books or reading books with examples.
  • Give simple, easy-to-understand answers to questions about sex.
  • Teach your children that their bodies are their own. Explain to your children they have the right to say NO to anyone who might try to touch them. Do not instruct children to give relatives hugs and kisses. Let them express affection on their own terms. This will help them use their instincts and set boundaries. Emphasize that absolute obedience to an adult is not an obligation.
  • Children should be taught to say no when they receive an unsafe touch, to run away and tell a trusted adult, and to keep telling until someone helps them. Discuss with them whom they can trust. Play the "What if…?" game. Ask your child what she would do in certain situations. Problem-solving games, story telling, and role playing are ways to talk to children.
  • Tell your children that some adults they know, trust, and love (such as a friend, a relative, or a teacher) might try to touch them inappropriately or make them do things they do not feel comfortable doing. Often these adults tell children to keep what they are doing a secret. Explain that some adults may even threaten children by saying their parents will be hurt if the children ever tell the secret. Emphasize that an adult who does this is wrong and that they should tell. Try not to scare your children. Emphasize that most adults never do this and are deeply concerned about protecting children from harm.
  • It is important to remember that physical force is often not necessary to engage a child in sexual activity. Children are trusting and dependent and will often do what is asked of them to gain approval and love. Most abusers are known to and trusted by the victims and their families. Know the adults and children with whom your child is spending time. Be careful about allowing your child to spend time alone or in out-of-the-way places with other adults or older children. Make visits to your child's caretaker without notice. Ask your child about his/her time spent with the caretaker. Children who are isolated from parents and other family members tend to be most vulnerable to sexual abuse. As well, perpetrators have a tendency to target children who appear secluded or lonely.
  • Talk to your children every day and take time to listen and observe. Learn as many details as possible about your children's activities and feelings. Encourage them to share their concerns. Listen when your child tries to tell you something, especially when it seems hard for him/her to talk about it. Make sure your child knows it's OK to tell you about any attempt to molest him or touch him/her in a way that made him/her feel uncomfortable, no matter who the abuser may be. Let him know he/she can trust you and that you will not be angry with him/her if he/she tells you.
  • Use the words "sexual abuse" when talking with your child because if a child is victimized, they need to be able to tell you that they were "sexually abused!"
  • Children need to hear information more than once. Discuss the information with them in bits. For example you could discuss safe touch/unsafe touch the first day, discuss these again the next day along with some safety rules and do a revision of touch and rules the third day. Repetition allows retention. It is also a good idea to repeat the discussion once a year with them and reintroduce points that they may have forgotten. Good communication between you and your children is the most important way to keep them safe from sexual abuse. A trusting and loving relationship creates a climate in which children are not afraid to confide in their parents.
  • Children spend an increasing number of hours on the Internet. Learn how to protect your kids from online predators here.