9 Ways to Teach Your Child to Speak Up About Sexual Abuse
Let’s face it; we can never fully shield our kids from potentially abusive situations, no matter how you monitor their movements and companies. Sexual abuse can happen during play dates, at school, in the home, during sleepovers, out in the backyard, on the playground, and in just about any place your kids might be. And to think that most child sexual abuse cases reported molestation from another child and a code family member.
Now that’s scary. But we can reduce the vulnerability of our children to sexual abuse by preparing them to handle such situations. This preparation includes straight talks about body parts and how to respond to an abuse situation. Some parents think such conversations are too soon and that sexual abuse is unlikely to happen to their kids, perhaps because they live in fine neighborhoods, go to nice schools, and live under a secure roof.
But it may surprise you to know that statistics on child sexual abuse cases do not favor children from good homes or excellent schools. Did you know that a significant number of reported childhood sexual abuse cases were older children abusing younger children? So it makes perfect sense to have these tough conversations with your kids. If you’re not sure how to start, here are 9 ways to teach your child to speak up about being sexually abused:
Talk about body parts early
Let your kids know their body parts early. Let them know the names of their body parts so that if anything happens, they’ll be able to speak up and tell you exactly which parts of their body are affected.
Let your child understand that some acts are wrong
Children are more susceptible to deception than teenagers, and we’ve seen children under the age of 5 suffering child abuse without even knowing that they are being abused. The abuse can be in the form of plays during playtime or outright molestation by an older adult. Help them understand that these acts — call them by names; oral sex, inappropriate touches, stroking other people's private parts — are not right, and also encourage them to report such situations to you.
Teach your child about privacy
Your child needs to understand that some parts of their body are private; anyone else, including their teachers, uncles, and close pals, cannot touch their private body parts. Also, teach them that they should, not under any circumstance, oblige anyone who asks them to touch their private parts. Child sexual abuse often starts with perpetrators asking the victims to touch them in sensitive areas.
Teach your child not to allow anyone to take pictures of their private parts
There’s something called sextortion. Pedophiles and sex traffickers employ this tactic to extort child sexual abuse material from kids. They often threaten them to expose the materials to their parents — and out of fear, the kids continue to supply sexually explicit materials to their traffickers. Teaching your children about this helps prepare them ahead of time for this kind of situation.
Teach your child not to keep secrets
Child sexual abuse and sex trafficking thrive in secrecy. One of the tactics used by perpetrators is encouraging their victims to keep secrets. Keeping secrets about sexual abuse allows the situation to fester, and it may grow into full-blown sex trafficking. In light of this, educating your child to be free to discuss any situation or occurrence that is even remotely related to sexual abuse or inappropriate touching of body parts can help you save your children from sexual abuse.
Teach your child how to get out of uncomfortable situations
Sometimes, your child may be trapped in situations that warrant the use of their wits to get out of. Preparing them to know what to say or how to act at such times and how to seek help from their immediate environment can also help. For instance, learning to say no to strange offers and unsolicited (suspicious) help can help them escape uncomfortable conversations that might lead to something harmful.
Teach them code words that they can use in threatening or unsafe situations
It’s advisable to have your children adopt code words to be used in unsafe situations when they need to be picked up and rescued from threatening situations. These code words should be known to you and them only.
Teach the child that speaking up will not cause them any harm
Children often think that keeping quiet about abuse is the best way to avoid embarrassment and stay safe. So you have to inform and assure them that you will be ready to help them out of any challenging situation. Teach them that whatever threats they’ve received from their molesters are false.
Teach your child that these rules apply to close family members and even trusted friends
Explain to your child that no matter how close or friendly an individual is, they cannot be allowed to defy these rules. Anyone who attempts to get their way with them must be reported immediately. Parents can be allowed to touch them in the case of cleaning them up or caring for them. But no one else should be allowed to touch them in their private parts or ask them to touch theirs instead.
Generally, the best strategy for fighting child sexual abuse is getting your child to speak up on time before the matter escalates. You can check out our tips on how parents can protect their kids from sexual abuse. Also, look out for thoughts on how to care for kids who have been molested by next week. Check here to see how we are helping survivors of child sex trafficking post-exposure.