Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
How can we PREVENT child sexual abuse?
The first step in working to protect children from sexual abuse is being proactive!
1. Open the lines of communication with kids:
- Talk to your children about sexual abuse in age-appropriate ways.
- Teach them about their bodies and how to respect them.
- Tell them that it is “against the rules” for adults to act in sexual ways or touch special parts of their bodies. Tell them that if someone makes them feel anxious, sad, angry, or confused that they can talk to you about it and you will listen.
Children often feel more comfortable telling someone other than a parent (often because the abuser is a trusted friend or family member), so be sure your children are aware of the professional adults in their lives such as guidance counselors, teachers or pediatricians to whom they could speak if something is bothering them.
2. Limit one-on-one time with other adults. This is one of the most effective ways to prevent sexual abuse. Carefully consider the safety of ANY activity where your child will be alone with another adult. This includes things like time spent with a babysitter, a sports practice with a coach or a one-on-one church activity. These one adult-one child events are where the majority of sexual abuse occurs. Remember that most abusers try to form trusting relationships with children AND parents first, so even someone you would never suspect could be an abuser. 90% of abusers are trusted family members, friends or acquaintances.
If you do allow your child time alone with an adult, plan to drop in unexpectedly. When scheduling the event with the other adult, confirm that the time will be spent in public places, and be sure to talk with your child when he or she comes back about their experiences. Limit these one-on-one experiences and you can dramatically reduce the risk for sexual abuse.
3. Insist on screenings and background checks.If your child attends a summer camp, daycare, church school or other program where he or she could be alone with adults at any time, ask about and insist on screenings such as criminal background checks, interviews and professional references. But also remember that just because an adult has passed a background check does NOT mean that sexual abuse is not a possibility. You should STILL take precautions when it comes to leaving your child alone with another adult!
4. Openly discuss your efforts with the adults in your child’s life. Make it known that you have talked to your child about sexual abuse, that your child is very open with you and that your child is well aware of the need for privacy and boundaries and knows that they have the right to stop any behavior that makes them sad, afraid, uncomfortable or angry.