Protecting Your Children Against Sexual Assault

 

Finding out that your child has been sexually abused is one of the most horrifying events for a parent.  There are many things you can do as a parent to help your child in the occurence of such circumstances.

Teaching a child what is inappropriate behavior from another person

First,  identify private parts of the body to your child and tell him or her it is not acceptable for another person to touch private parts without the child's permission.  One of the easiest ways to explain to young children the areas which are their private parts, is what is covered by a swimsuit.  Sometimes an explanation that a doctor may examine them is important, but also emphasize that a parent will be present when that would happen.

Encourage the child to let you know if someone touches inappropriately or makes him or her feel uncomfortable, scared or threatened in any way. Give the child suggestions of more than one person who she or he should inform about what happened. 

If a child notifies the first person that is suggested and that person does nothing, the child will often not tell another person.  Advise the child to keep on telling until someone does something about it. Emphasize the importance of letting an adult know about what happened.   Explain that reasons to tell are to get help for the child and to protect other children so that the abuser doesn't hurt anyone else.

Remind children not to keep secrets about touching or secrets that make them feel bad--no matter what the other person says.  Often an abuser will tell the child that something bad will happen if he or she informs anyone of what is happening.  The abuser may advise the child that if he or she tells, the child will be taken away from the parents and the abuser will go to jail, and it will be the child's fault.  This is powerful influence to ensure a child's silence.

And be aware that children are far more apt to be molested by someone they know, than they are by a stranger.  So as a parent, be aware of where your children are at and who is around them.

Stranger danger

Advise your children not to go with anyone or to get into a vehicle with someone they don't know, even if the stranger is nice, has something the child wants, or if the stranger says he or she needs help. Let the child know that strangers should not be asking children for help.

Teach children easy-to-remember phrases, such as "If you don't know, don't go."

While in a public place, if a stranger tries to entice a child to go with him or her, teach the child to scream and say, "You are not my mother (or father)," and then run away and to run back to the adult they are with and tell the adult what happened.  People are not overly alarmed by a screaming child who might be having a tantrum, but will pay attention to a child making a statement that the person grabbing them isn't a parent.

If the child is alone and approached, he or she should run to his or her home, a neighbor's house, or a nearby store or gas station where there are other people around to tell what happened.

Internet

It becomes especially important to monitor your children as they begin to enter late elementary and middle school ages.  All internet activities should be supervised, including what they are writing on instant messaging and in e-mails.  Web pages such as My Space and Facebook, and other similar sites also need close attention.  The computer should not be in the child's bedroom, but rather in a place in the house that is open and available for all to see.  Sexual predators have found the internet a prime source of contact with children and are powerful persuaders in getting a child to do something he or she would not normally do.