Tips: How parents can empower their children against sexual abuse?

Having “The Talk”


Teaching them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching will go a long way in protecting them from predators. As early as age 3, children should understand that parts of their body are private and that it's not okay for just anyone to touch them.


Ease into it by explaining how certain parts of their body, those covered by a swimsuit, are private. No one should touch them there except for Mommy and Daddy (or primary caregiver) when they're being cleaned—and the doctor, too, but only if Mom or Dad is there in the room.


Use real names for body parts. Avoid calling your child’s private parts by made-up names. “It makes kids think that there is something weird or shameful about their bodies, and they’ll be less likely to tell you if someone touches them,” says Sharon W. Doty, author of Keeping Them Safe: Protecting Children from Sexual Predators and Evil in Our Midst: Protecting Children from Sexual Predators.


Think beyond “stranger danger.” Instructing your child to never talk to strangers is good advice. But the truth is, 80 to 90 percent of abuse is committed not by strangers but by someone the child knows well—and possibly loves.


“Don’t keep secrets. Sex abusers almost always manipulate the children they molest through secrets. They’ll tell kids, “This is our secret. You can’t tell your mom because she’ll be very mad at you.” Remind your child frequently that no adult should ever ask her to keep secrets. And that includes you.


Teach your child that any secret which makes them feel uneasy is a bad secret and its okay to break it. Any secret that makes them feel bad or sad or frightened is a bad secret and its okay to break it. Tell your child that any secret that they can't tell you is a bad secret and its okay to break it. Be consistent! Children do not have to keep any promise that makes them feel bad inside.

Teach your child the difference between a secret and a surprise: A surprise is something you will be allowed to tell at a later stage; a secret is something you're asked to never tell. 


Saying "NO!" From an early age, children are taught allegiance to adults and to "Do as you're told!", and certainly very young children can find it difficult to differentiate between rules they have to follow, and rules they don't have to follow. 

Teach your child that they have the right to say NO! As the majority of child abuse is based on coercion rather than force, teaching your child to say NO! strongly and forcefully really can make a big difference in many situations.


Children will need practice how to say "NO!" in this way, and so its a good idea to practice this with them. You can make a game of doesn't have to be frightening for them.....but it could help to give them the confidence to say "NO!" if someone tries to abuse them. 


Obviously there are times that children are not permitted to say "no" and this is where the difficulty and confusion can occur. Make it clear to children that they have the right to say "no" to anyone who wants to touch their private parts. Make it clear that they have the right to say "NO!" loudly even if this is an adult and that they will not get into trouble. Tell children to trust their feelings and if something doesn't feel okay - then say "NO!". 

You could play the "OK NO! game" with them where you come up with some scenario's and ask them if it is okay to say "NO!" in these situations. Ask them to explain their answers. For example:

Is it okay to say NO if your mum asks you tidy your room?
Is it okay to say NO if your dad asks you to brush your teeth?
Is it okay to say NO if your uncle asks you to sit on his lap and you don’t want to?
Is it okay to say NO if your teacher touches your penis?
Is it okay to say NO if an adult pats you on the head?
Is it okay to say NO if an adult tickles your vagina, even if it feels nice?
Is it okay to say NO if an adult asks you to do something you feel is wrong?
Is it okay to say NO if an adult asks you to keep a secret from your parents?
Is it okay to say NO if an adult tells you to put your seatbelt on?
Is it okay to say NO if your teacher asks you to pull down your pants to smack you if you've been bad.

Making this into a game and checking it out with them regularly can help - and they can practice saying "NO!" at the same time. For older children, you may want to change this into the "WHAT IF...?" game - whereby you can make the scenario's more complex which reflect the situations they may be confronted with. 


Believe your child. Establish a relationship of faith and trust with your kids. If you’re constantly questioning what they say, they may be more reluctant to tell you if something has happened to them. Don’t discount what they say. If children say “I’m scared,” don’t respond with “Don’t be silly.” Ask what they’ are scared of and how scared they are. Help them understand their instincts.



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