Magen, a new, local organization dedicated to helping children and families who have been affected by abuse, will be providing a series of public information announcements to help educate our community about child sexual abuse.
What can parents do to prevent sexual abuse?
While not all abuse can be prevented, these are things parents can do to make their children less vulnerable to sexual abuse, and to increase the chances that children will tell their parents if they ARE abused:
Teach children that some parts of their body are private. Tell them that other people should not be touching or looking at their private parts unless it’s you, your spouse or their doctor in order to take help them in some way (to see if they have a rash or injury, take their temperature, or other age-appropriate examples). If a doctor needs to touch them in those private areas, a parent should be there too.
Teach children that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, or if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell you as soon as possible.
Teach children should be told that it’s okay to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable. Show children that their “no” will be respected, whether it’s in playing or tickling or hugging or kissing.
For instance, if your child does not want to give Savta a kiss, let the child shake hands instead. And make sure, too, that Savta understands why this is important for the safety of the child. Tell children that if someone is touching them in ways that make them uncomfortable that they should tell you as soon as possible.
Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts, and to tell you about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse
Teach children the difference between a secret and a surprise.
Surprises, like a surprise birthday party, are fun and generate excitement in anticipation of being revealed after a short period of time. Secrets exclude others, often because the information will create upset or anger. When keeping secrets with just one person becomes routine, children are more vulnerable to abuse.
When "teaching" the ideas outlined above, it can be more effective to find natural opportunities to slip them into every day life, instead of presenting them as a lecture. One way to prevent children from feeling uncomfortable when addressing these topics is to tell them a story about something that happened to someone else (someone who kept a secret from her mother, etc.). This can be a great way to open communication about these issues and get to hear your child's thoughts and feelings. It is often easier to talk about someone else than about ourselves.
Finally, SHOW children that they can feel comfortable telling you things that are shameful to them. Children who are abused often feel that THEY have done something wrong and telling someone can be embarrassing and shameful. How do you respond when your child tells you he spilled his juice / lost his water bottle / forgot his homework / got in trouble at school? Supporting your child when they speak to you, even about something they’ve done wrong, makes it more likely that they will tell you if they are abused.