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Preventing Child Sexual Abuse
Listen and Talk With Your Children
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. This is not only challenging, but also difficult, especially for working parents and parents of adolescents.
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.
Explain to your children they have the right to say no to anyone who might try to touch them.
Tell your children that some adults may try to hurt them 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.
Tell your children that some adults they know, trust, and love (such as a friend, a baby-sitter, a relative, or a teacher) might try to touch them inappropriately. Try not to scare your children. Emphasize that most adults never do this and are deeply concerned about protecting children from harm.
Safety Rules - Start Early
Children are taught how to cross the street, not to play with matches, and water safety. Precautions about sexual abuse can and should be included in these general discussions.
Information can be introduced as early as age two. Even young children can understand concepts related to abuse.
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.
Teach your children what touches are good and what touches are bad. Discuss the fact that touches may be confusing at times, and they may not be sure if the touches are good or bad.
Teach children a basic working vocabulary for parts of the body.
Begin discussions slowly and clarify the child's understanding of words. Children's concepts can be very different from adults. Answer questions fully for the age level of the child.
Problem-solving games, story telling, and role playing are ways to talk to children.
At a minimum, children should be taught to say “no,” to run away and tell a trusted adult, and to keep telling until someone helps them. Discuss with them whom they can trust.
Observe Physical and Behavioral Signs
Children who are too frightened to talk about sexual molestation may exhibit a variety of physical and behavioral signals. Parents are responsible for noticing symptoms of abuse. Any of these signs are significant:
Finally, do not blame yourself. Sexual abuse is a fact in our society. Many individuals who molest children find work or are involved in community activities which give them access to children. The vast majority of abuse occurs in situations where the child knows and trusts the adult. Remember: a community and national consciousness is needed before we can stamp out sexual molestation.
If You Think Your Child Has Been Abused....
Choosing a Preschool, Child Care Center or Day Care
Although the vast majority of this nation's preschools, child care centers, and day care centers are perfectly safe, recent reports of child sexual abuse in these settings are a source of great concern.