Thank you Jenni.
Talking to Kids About Abuse
Children as young as four years old can understand the basic concepts of good touches, bad touches and confusing touches. These young children can also understand the definition of sexual abuse and are not afraid of the words that send a chill up the spines of adults. Use the words "sexual abuse" when talking with your child because if a child is victimized, they need to be able to tell you that they were "sexually abused."
Child protective services social workers will tell you that a child without the language to describe their victimization is a child whose case is weakened in the court system. Remember, you are not putting the responsibility on the child. Instead, you are helping the child to understand the problem and identify safe people who will support them.
Children need to hear information more than once. This way, your child will "own" this information. Repetition allows them to retain what they have learned. A one-time discussion is soon forgotten.
Also, repeating your discussions every year will reinforce what they have learned and reintroduces points they may have forgotten. Let's not rule out the possibility that, in the course of your discussion, a child may exclaim: "Hey! That's happened to me!" While a parent can never be fully prepared for such a disclosure, you may want to know how to respond to a child who discloses abuse, before you begin your talk with your child.
This synopsis is offered here to help you discuss this very difficult topic with your children so that they will have the tools they may need to stay safe from sexual abuse.
- Teach your child that they are special and have the right to know everything they can about being safe.Discuss of all the safety rules they have learned and explain that there are some more safety rules to learn.
- When teaching your child about sexual abuse, talk about 3 different types of touch: good touch, bad touch and sexual abuse touch. "Good touches" are those touches that make us feel happy, safe and loved. Good touches can make us feel warm inside or can make us feel like a smile. Emphasize that most of the touch we get is good touch. Good touches are so important! "Bad touches" are those touches that hurt us; they feel like an ouch. Some examples are kicking, hitting and biting. "Sexual abuse touch" is defined as "forced or tricked touch of private body parts." The key words are forced and tricked. A force is when someone makes you do something you don't want to do or don't understand. A trick is when someone lies to you, fools you, pretends or calls something a game, that really isn't a game, so they can touch your private body parts or have you touch theirs. Explain that sexual abuse is confusing because it doesn't necessarily hurt; the touch can feel good. And that is confusing to children.
- Use the words "sexual abuse" to eliminate unnecessary confusion. The effort to call sexual abuse by another name (such as inappropriate touch) is counterproductive--leading to more confusion for children. After all, we can be assured that the sexual abuse offender of our children will not call what he/she is doing sexual abuse.By giving your child the correct language, you give your child the power.
- Teach your child that their body is their own and that no one has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or in a way that they don't like.
- Teach your child that they have the right to trust their own feelings and to ask questions when they feel uncomfortable or confused by someone's behavior. Talk about times when they may have had an anxious feeling (forgetting homework, losing something, frightened by a loud noise, etc.). Discuss the importance of paying attention to our feelings in situations when we are feeling uncomfortable.
- Teach your child that they have the right to say "NO!" to sexual abuse. Teach them that they can say "NO!" to anyone who might want to sexually abuse them; even if the offender is an adult; even if the offender is someone they know.
- Teach your child that it is very important to tell a trusted adult if someone sexually abuses them or hurts them in any way. Teach your child that they can tell another person if they are not believed. Discuss and identify trusted adults in their life.
- Teach your child that it is okay to break promises they might make about sexual abuse. Children do not have to keep any promise that makes them feel bad inside.
- Teach your child that if sexual abuse happens to a child, it is NEVER the child's fault. Older children (4th grade and up) may come up with ways in which it could be the child's fault; explain that sexual abuse is against the law and children are not responsible when someone breaks the law and sexually abuses them.
- Teach your child that a person who sexually abuses a child can be anyone. Most children, even adults, think that offenders are usually strangers. Children need to know that they have the right to say "NO!" and tell even when the offender is someone they know, like, love or even live with. (In 90% of cases the offender is someone the child knows.)
- Let your child know that it is never too late to tell about sexual abuse.
- Let your child know that if sexual abuse happens to them, they are still lovable and that you will always love them no matter what.