Talking to Your Child About Sexual Predators

We receive many messages from the media, talk shows, television and the Internet regarding the existence of childhood sexual abuse. Unfortunately, there is not an equivalent amount of information on how to talk to your child about sexual abuse and how to prevent it. Most parents never think about talking to their child, and it is very common to be uncomfortable while talking to your child about this topic. Why not give your child all of the information they need to protect themselves?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) it has been estimated that 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18 years old. It is never too early to speak to your child about sexual abuse as long as long as it is appropriate. A victimless child is an informed child. Even if your child does not tell you about any sexual abuse at the time of the conversation, you are building trust and laying a solid foundation for future conversations.

Things to do to before you start:
* Create a safe environment and let your child know how much you love them before you start.
* Pick the time and place very carefully. A safe environment that is quiet, well lit and ventilated, and comfortable keeps the child and yourself from being physically uncomfortable.
* Start spending special time with one child at a time to build trust and wait to speak to them a minimum of three outings.
* Make plenty of time to talk without any disruptions. Be sure that these conversations do not last a long time but just enough time to ask prepared questions.
* Make sure your child knows they are not in any trouble and that they can always come to you to speak about anything at all.
* If it is easier, have the parent of the same sex speak with one child at a time to get the child to speak more openly and honestly. Especially if the other parent/partner is the abuser/offender.
* Use language, gestures, or illustrations that is appropriate for their age in regards to sexual anatomy and sexual acts.
* Using dolls with anatomical genitals, and crayons and paper to color and draw for younger children is appropriate in aiding effective communication.
* Communicate openly and do not tell your child that they may be wrong or they should not say what they are saying.
* Listen, stay calm, be supportive, do your absolute best at not displaying your emotions, using words and gestures very carefully. Practice this conversation prior to having it with your child.
*  Seeking the help of a child psychologist, or other licensed mental health providers prior to or during the conversation is wise.
* If you feel too uncomfortable, you can have a health professional speak to your child about basic sex education.
* Be careful not to suggest events that may have not happened or names of people who may have not done anything.
* Let your child know that it is OK to break a promise and how it is OK to not keep a secret.
* Let them know that they should come to you if somebody ever makes them uncomfortable and that sexual advances from adults are wrong.
* Let them know that sexual abuse can be touching and non-touching behaviors.
* Let them know that it is OK to tell anybody “no” and that nobody has the right to touch them in a sexual or violent manner. Teach them the difference between places that can be touched and those places that cannot be touched.
* Teach them that some parts of their bodies are private and so are the private parts of others. That it is not OK to for another person to touch their private parts, it is not OK to touch another person’s private parts, and it is not OK for someone to ask to see their private parts or show their private parts to you or anybody else.
* Find other parents with children close in age and prepare a play time in a safe place where there could be a joint effort to talk to all of the children at once using teaching tools(such as videos, books, etc.), and the help of a trained professionals to speak to the children.
* Explain to your child that you are happy that the both of you can speak about anything and how much you love them.
* Never walk away from your child when they are speaking, keep eye contact with them the entire conversation, and let them know how proud you are of them.
* Be sure to ask them if they have any questions or concerns in and especially about the topics of sexuality and sexual abuse.

Be interested in your child’s activities and get involved, know who their friends are, friend’s parents, coaches, teachers, and anybody else your children are around. Be sure to check in with them often in regards to sexuality and sex abuse.

There are many resources available to assist you in speaking with your children and learning about child abuse and parenting. There are also professionals you can speak to, websites to research, books to read, and support groups to participate in. Knowing and understanding what sexual abuse is may just help prevent your children and your entire family from years of heartbreak and suffering at the hands of another person. Approximately 15% of sexual assault victims and rape victims are under the age of 15 years old.  Know the warning signs of sexual abuse.

Lastly, if you suspect any abuse is happening, be sure to act on it and get help immediately. Do not wait to get your child help, and do not let them have any contact with the suspected abuser. Take your child into the hospital or pediatrician for a medical exam, and seek help from the authorities and mental health professionals for your child and your entire family. The bottom line is not to be afraid to ask for help, and to know that you are not alone.

About Elizabeth Rojas Brooks

Elizabeth Brooks completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Southern California, and is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology. Because of her own background, Beth has developed a level of compassion and understanding for the less fortunate, the wounded and the misunderstood. Her journey to recover from her own past has led her to pursue her passion – helping others who have had similar experiences. Beth’s goal is to work in the area of violence and abuse prevention and addiction recovery. She also has a special desire to assist our service men and women who are struggling with post-traumatic stress syndrome.

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