Children, irrespective of their background, age and religion, can be victims of abuse. It is something that can happen at any time and anywhere- even inside your own home! It has become a daily occurrence, reading news stories about little children being sexually abused. Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. The reality is that most of the time, the abuse is never reported because children are either afraid of their parents or they don’t know how to tell if they are being abused. We, as parents, teach children about street safety, water safety and so on. But we often forget to teach children that safety from abuse is equally important. The best way to keep children safe from abuse is by teaching them about it. Even toddlers, as young as three, can be taught these skills in order to prevent abuse.
Here are a few simple things that you can do for your children to keep them safe from abuse:
- It is very important to build trust in children so that they can come to us with their concerns. It is also crucial to be more involved in your child’s life and talk to them about their feelings, make them feel loved and assure them that they can come and talk to you anytime. Keep reminding them that you are there for them and they can speak to you about anything.
- Parents need to tackle issues such as sexuality and the human reproduction system with their children, because thanks to television and some social networks, it’s already being forced fed into them. Before children learn about it from the wrong sources, parents need to make them feel comfortable discussing their body parts and sexuality with them or with people they can trust.
- Whenever you talk to your child about body parts, use the correct terms for the body parts rather than using slang or baby language. Doing so will enable children to clearly express themselves when needed.
- We need to teach our children the difference between respect and trust. Teach them that while it is important to respect our elders, it does not mean that we need to trust all adults.
- Teach children that no one has the right to touch their private parts unless it’s for hygienic or health reasons and if they are touched by a person and it doesn’t feel right, they have the right to say NO!
- It’s sad but true that most of the time children are sexually abused by someone they trust or know. Teach children that touching safety rules apply not just with strangers but even with people they may know.
- Teach children that no matter what anyone says, never go anywhere with any person they do not know, without your knowledge.
- Children are curious and sometimes ask questions like “Where do babies come from?” You might not be comfortable discussing this, but remember that if you don’t answer their questions, they might get their answers from strangers, so always try and answer their questions.
- Teach children to love and respect their bodies. Read books that talk about their physical safety and discuss it with them.
- Children learn best through play so you can play simple decision making games with your children by asking them questions like: “What if someone asked you to break your family rules, would you do it?, “What if you and I went shopping and we got separated, what would you do?” or “What if someone we know touched you in an inappropriate way and asked you to keep it a secret, what would you do?” Remember your pre-teens and teens are still children; keep a track of what they are visiting. Teach them about the dangers of social networking and the danger of sharing personal information like phone numbers and photographs on social networks. At the same time, teach your child to speak up, especially when they suspect abuse of another child or when they witness abuse by their peers.
- Sexual abuse or abuse of any kind can only end when we raise our children to respect not only their own lives but to respect all life. Empathy and compassion are the two most important things we can teach our children.
Books for Children to teach them about Sex and How to Stay Safe:
Amazing You! Getting Smart about your Body parts, by Gail Saltz
What’s Happening to My Body? – Book for girls by Lynda Madaras
What’s Happening to My Body? – Book for boys by Lynda Madaras
My Body is Private by Linda Giard
God Made Me: The Safe Touch Colouring Book by Beth Robinson
The Right Touch by Sandy Kleven
Stranger Danger by P. Pancella
No More Secrets for Me by Oralee Wachter and Jane Aaron
Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept by Jaynsen Sanders
Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down by Joyce Hotton Crawford
I Said No! A kid-to-kid guide to keeping your private parts private by Kimberly King
The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers by Stan Berenstain
Bobby and Mandee’s Good Touch/Bad Touch: Children’s Safety Book by Robert Kahn
My Personal Safety Workbook developed by Tulir-CPHCSA
The Red Book, The Blue Book and The Yellow Book developed by TARSHI (An Indian NGO)
Videos for Children on Sexual Abuse:
KOMAL – A film on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) by Childline
Good Touch-Bad Touch: A video by The Puppetarians
Good Touch Bad Touch
Good Touch and bad Touch
ABCs of Safety
My Body Belongs to Me