Sexual violence is a very serious public health problem that affects millions of women and men. However, research done by the Crimes Against Children Research Center showed that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse. These children who are the victims of prolonged sexual abuse usually develop low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may also become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults.
Every year there is an opportunity for parents to learn how to talk to their children about this sensitive topic, during Sexuality Education Awareness Month in October, but year-round this is an issue that may come up for families. One organization that has helped parents by giving them tools to assist them in talking to children is Krav Maga Worldwide, a leading self-defense organization, which offers parents these tips on what to teach their children if they are involved in an attack and also tips for preventing attacks.
- Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old. This may seem very early but children under 12 are most at risk at 4 years old. Even if they can’t speak well, children at this age are busy figuring out the world. And they certainly understand and remember a lot more than adults usually realize.
- Share the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched. An age appropriate concept for a young child to understand is that nobody – including a parent or caregiver – should see or touch their private parts (what a swimming suit covers up) – unless they’re keeping them clean, safe, or healthy.
- Talk openly about sexuality and sexual abuse to teach your child that these topics do not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
- Inform your child about the tricks used by sexual predators. Tricks such as continued accidental touching, or an emergency trick where the predator tricks the child into thinking there is an emergency and the child must go with the predator.
- Teach children that they must trust their inner voice. Especially That Yucky Feeling We all have that feeling inside that tells us what feels right and what feels wrong or uncomfortable. Many children who have been sexually abused describe a feeling of discomfort as having a “yucky” feeling inside. You must teach your child to trust or honor their inner voice or that “yucky” feeling.
- 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.