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Protecting Our Kids from Sexual Abuse

by Carolyn Byers Ruch

honestly

November 12, 2013

Protecting Our Kids from Sexual Abuse

We hear the statistics, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually violated by their eighteenth birthday. It’s enough to cause panic. We’re tempted to hide under the bed or race for the closet, dragging our children with us. Maybe if we hide from childhood sexual abuse, it won’t see us.

Fear can paralyze. This is a real threat in the world, but there are steps you can do to stand up to the threat and protect your children, and to help them protect themselves.

Teach your children the proper names for their body parts.

Use bath time as teachable moments. Don’t make up silly names for their penis or vagina. This equips your children and informs them. Perpetrators target clueless children.

Instruct your children that no one is allowed to touch them where their swimsuit covers,

... and that they are not allowed to touch others where their swimsuit covers. Those areas are special and private. Calmly explain to them that they should tell you if someone touches them (no matter whom) or wants them to do the touching. This teaches your children appropriate boundaries and red flags. Perpetrators avoid knowledgeable children.

Empower your children to take ownership over their own bodies.

Don’t force your little ones to hug and kiss people if they don’t want to. Help them understand that their bodies – hugs and kisses – belong to them and are theirs to give. Children need to be taught to be respectful, but that they can say “no.” We spend so much time teaching our kids to be obedient; we forget to teach them that there is a time to be disobedient. Most often perpetrators are authority figures in our children’s lives, people they are taught to obey. Our children need to know how, and when, to say “no.” This helps your children feel empowered to make the right choice. Perpetrators avoid empowered children.

Discourage secrets in your family.

“We don’t keep secrets in our family. You can tell me anything.” Instead, encourage surprises. “We’re going to have a surprise party for grandma. We’re not going to tell her about it until we have the party. Then you can tell grandma everything.”  Childhood sexual abuse relies on secrets. A perpetrator must convince your child to keep a secret in order to accomplish their goal. This creates open communication. Perpetrators avoid children who won’t keep a secret.

We can’t be with our children, every second of every day. And we can’t hide them in a closet away from the world’s dangers. But we can be wise, fearless mothers who teach our children well, empowering our children to understand that they can talk to us about anything.

Carolyn Byers Ruch of the Founder and Executive Director at Rise and Shine Movement. 

What are other ways you help teach your kids and give them awareness about their bodies?

Related topics: Parenting, Fear, Development

Share your thoughts

Those are MY Private Parts by Diane Hansen is a great book for young children that has pictures children have drawn and puts it into terms kids can understand, my daughter just turned three and we read this book to help her understand.

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Thank you for sharing this wonderful resource. And more importantly, thank you for reading it to your daughter. She is blessed.

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Another take. When my daughter was little, she had no "filter" for her words--she would ask about who was a boy or girl/man or woman in public, and use body parts to ask! You cannot always shush a curious kid in the line at Target--and even if you have explained what is appropriate, remember, this is a 3-year-old. We have always used "code" words for penis and vagina, while also teaching them the actual word, but not stressing it. It saved me and my children from embarrassment many times. And thank you for your article--it is SO important to get info. like this out to parents in our day!

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You are welcome Mary. Our children do embarrass us sometimes don't they? But you are a courageous mother by not allowing fear of embarrassment stop you from using the proper words. As I say to my MOPS moms at my presentations, "Your embarrassment will not compare to your child's feelings of shame should something happen and they can't tell you." And as one of my survivor friends says, "How could I explain something for which my ten-year-old vocabulary had no words?"

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Absolutely amazing!! I can not stress this enough to new moms or to any parent for that matter. Being a survivor of this myself and now having a child, it is SO important to teach our children right from wrong right away in life. I HATE when parents use the term "cookie" to describe a body part, using the correct terms I feel is one of the most important things a parent can/could do!!

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Yes it is, Christiana. When we use the correct terms, we teach our children that we aren't afraid of difficult topics--that they can talk to us about anything. Children are masters at taking our emotional temperatures. They sense when we are uncomfortable about the basic names of our body parts and make up silly names. And if they detect that we are uncomfortable, they will be uncomfortable. We need to remove any obstacle our of their way. So they can run. So they can tell.

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This is all great, but there are many important ways we parents must protect our kids by taking responsibility for their safety. There is no body safety program in the world that can adequately prepare a child for the grooming and psychological control involved in grooming, and it's dangerous to make it seem like teaching body safety alone is going to keep our children safe. http://themamabeareffect.org/minimize-opportunity.html http://themamabeareffect.org/1/post/2013/11/do-you-know-how-to-identify-grooming.html http://themamabeareffect.org/1/post/2013/08/the-abcs-of-keeping-abuse-a-secret.html

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Thanks for sharing this! I've been looking for a book/resource for starting this conversation with my 3-year-old!

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You are so welcome, Candy. Begin the conversation. Continue the conversation. Your children will be blessed.

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Those are MY Private Parts by Diane Hansen is a great book for young children that has pictures children have drawn and puts it into terms kids can understand, my daughter just turned three and we read this book to help her understand.

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Be sure to visit Carolyn's http://www.riseandshinemovement.org/ website. You'll find lots of helpful free resources including her picture video book.

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A very important message! It's time to bring this topic out into the light, so we can protect our kids. This isn't about a one time talk. It needs to be an on-going conversation. Well said! Christy

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Thank you, Christy! And your are so right--it is an ongoing conversation.

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