I am just another statistic of #metoo. When I was younger I was assaulted by a trusted family friend to my parents. I never came forward until later on when I was angry with my parents for putting me in that situation, (it was not their fault at all I wanted to blame someone). However, as a Mom now it is my job to protect my kids from becoming just another number in sexual abuse, harassment, and assault statistics. So, in order to at least lessen the probability of it happening we have found ways to at the very least ensure our children are armed with the knowledge of what sexual predators are up to and willing to do in order to find their next victim.
If my parents had just had a conversation with me at a younger age about appropriate and inappropriate touch and established a relationship of faith and trust and told me that they would never be mad and always believe me about inappropriate behavior this situation could have been avoided but unfortunately in that time or maybe in our house in particular sexual talk was taboo and in itself inappropriate.
In this one area my husband and I have both agreed to be different, he is aware of what happened in the past and I have already began to reiterate with my children in particular my girls, (not that boys cannot be harassed or assaulted as well just that girls more often are) appropriate and inappropriate touch, who is allowed to see their private areas, and that no matter what if they come to us we will believe them. We have already started this conversation with our 3 year old.
In society we have taught our children so many other safety rules crossing the street safely, never take candy from strangers, watch out for the hot stove, etc. More often than not though we fail to teach them about body safety and good and bad touch until much later in life, many times too late.
We have all seen it over every social media platform Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and I know many are weary and disillusioned with the world as more and more stories of sexual harassment and abuse continue to pour in. The statistics and numbers are alarming to say the least:
- One in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.
- One in every seven victims of sexual assault are under the age of six.
- One in four victims of sexual assault under the age of twelve is a boy.
- 82% of all victims under 18 are female.
- Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
So with all of these alarming numbers what can you as a parent, guardian, or even trusted adult do to prevent sexual abuse and harassment to children? According to the US Department of Justice 10% of perpetrators were strangers to the child and 23% were children themselves. Unfortunately, we as parents think our kids will not become another number if we know where they are and who they are with. But, the scary truth is it can happen anywhere play dates, sleepovers, daycare, preschool, a relatives house. However, it is knowledge that is power, if we give our kids the knowledge it can stop them from becoming another victim.
We as the parents need to start the talks of body safety so much sooner. We all hem and haw that they are too young and we don’t want to scare them. But, there are ways to have the conversation without scaring the living daylights out of them and by doing so make them less vulnerable to become another sexual abuse victim:
- Talk about body parts early
Name body parts with the proper names early on. Do not name them cutesy names because you are too embarrassed to give them their proper names. I was actually guilty of this for awhile with my own girls calling their vagina a cookie not realizing that by naming it the improper name I was creating confusion for themselves and others they may have a conversation with such as their doctor. By allowing your children to become comfortable using the words and their meaning can help your child clearly be able to tell a trusted adult if something inappropriate has occurred.
2. Teach them that some body parts are private
By explaining to your child that some of our body parts are private we are informing them that they are not for everyone to see. This is one huge area you really need to emphasize because kids are so easily confused by who is actually allowed to see them naked. I myself have explained to my children mommy and daddy can see them naked only if they are comfortable with that, (they must give us permission as I do have older boys usually they go to their dad, and the girls to me because that is just how they feel comfortable when they need us to look at something). I have also explained the doctor is allowed to see them naked but only because mommy or daddy are in the room and they are getting checked out by the doctor. Seriously I had to explain to my 6 year old that even relatives should not be allowed to see them naked without permission because she literally was naming off people who were allowed to see her naked, I was like uh no (call me a paranoid mom).
3. Teach your child body boundaries
State without question that no one should touch their private parts and that no one should be asking them to touch their body parts. Many times sexual abuse begins by the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else.
4. Tell your child that body secrets are NOT okay
“This is our secret. If you tell anyone I will hurt them.” Explain to your child no matter what anyone says body secrets are not okay and that they should immediately tell you if someone wants them to keep a body secret.
5. Tell your child no one should be taking pictures of their private parts
Unfortunately, we live in a very sick and disturbed world now where pedophiles love to take and trade pictures of naked children online. Tell your children under no circumstances should anyone be taking pictures of their private body parts.
6. Teach your child how to get out of scary or uncomfortable situations
Many children, especially younger children are uncomfortable telling someone no especially an older trusted adult or a peer. Explain to them it’s okay to tell an adult they have to leave, if they feel uncomfortable or something feels wrong. Give them words to use to get out of these uncomfortable situations.
7. Create a code word only you and your children know and can use when they feel unsafe or want to be picked up
When your children get a little older, (I would even consider 4 or 5 old enough) you can give them a code word that they can use when they are feeling unsafe. It can be used at home, when there are guests in the home or when at a sleepover or play date.
8. Tell your children they will never be in trouble if they tell you a body secret
This is one of the reasons I became a victim myself. Children often don’t say anything because they feel they will get into trouble as well. In fact, perpetrators will often use this threat to coerce the child into submission. Explain to your child that no matter what happens, when they tell you anything about body safety or body secrets they will NEVER get into trouble.
9. Tell your child that a body touch might tickle or even feel good
Many times when we are explaining sexual abuse we talk about, “good and bad touch”, but this can be confusing because sometimes the touches do not feel bad or hurt. A more appropriate or clear term would be a “secret touch.”
10. Tell your child that these rules apply even with people they know and even with another child
If you ask a child what a “bad guy” looks like they usually describe a villain that may seem cartoonish like something out of a comic or cartoon. Explain that, “Mommy and daddy may touch them if they need wiped at a younger age, or to apply creams or medicine, but no one else should touch them there. No friends, aunts, uncles, teachers, coaches, etc. Even if you like them they should not touch your private parts.”
Unfortunately, not all discussions will prevent sexual abuse, but at least by informing your children you are adding a layer of protection, especially with younger children who are targeted due to their innocence and ignorance. Never stop having these discussions either, continue to reiterate them at any opportune moment bath time, potty time, when they run around naked.
What are some tips or ideas you use in your home with your own children to help prevent them becoming another victim? I would love to hear from you!