It’s a Touchy Subject
Discussing the birds and the bees is typically uncomfortable and awkward with your children. However, parents are there to educate, nurture and protect their offspring and that includes having the uncomfortable conversation about how the body works. The sex talk should start much earlier than puberty because the harsh reality is that child molestation happens. Even more disturbing, the predator is typically someone you wouldn’t expect—most often a friend or family member.
Informing children about sexual abuse at an early age may help them to identify more clearly what is and is not appropriate behavior. Speak to your child in a manner in which they can plainly understand. Explain that no one is allowed to touch their privates or request they touch theirs. Encourage your little ones to trust their instincts and remove themselves from a situation that makes them uncomfortable. Many parents unknowingly send the wrong message to kids by forcing them to innocently hug and kiss family members. If your child refuses to show affection to people, respect their right to decide what’s comfortable for them and don’t worry about other’s potential hurt feelings. The freedom to say no and knowing they are in charge of their bodies gives a child the confidence they will need if faced with inappropriate behavior.
Make it clear that if any sexual situations arise, they need to tell you immediately, regardless of any threats made by the perpetrator. Learning that a child you love has been sexually molested may feel like a nightmare from which you will never wake up. For many people, the first impulse may be to find the molester and seek revenge, but your primary concern must be the welfare of the child. They will need an evaluation of their physical health immediately; evaluating and treating their emotional health may take years. You must make sure the child knows you believe them and are on their side, and let them know it's your job to protect them.
Should you learn or sense that your child has been abused, the following steps are suggested:
Talk with the child in private, and stress that it is essential they tell you exactly what happened. Remember that they depend on you to remain calm and listen, even if you want to jump up and hunt down the abuser right that minute. Tell them repeatedly that the molestation is the abuser's fault, not their fault—they can never hear it too many times. Be patient with the fact that they might be too embarrassed to tell you certain things, and tell them how strong they are for what they were able to reveal. Your job is to not make their experience of telling any more difficult than it already is. Remember that this is the hardest thing they’ve ever done.
Go to the emergency room or pediatrician if the abuse just occurred. Your doctor can collect a rape kit that can be essential in convicting the child's abuser. Gently insist to the child that they must not bathe or shower until they see the doctor.
Contact local law enforcement and Child Protective Services immediately. Once you've made sure your child is safe and healthy, your next priority should be to stop the abuser from molesting other children.
Let the child know that you respect their privacy and will not tell anyone what happened to them unless they want you to. If they would prefer you not inform their siblings, respect their wishes, unless you suspect that they too have been abused.
Get into therapy as soon as possible. Child Protective Services, your pediatrician or a clergy member can recommend a qualified therapist. Tell your child that going to therapy is just as important to their health as seeing their physician. Let them know that kids who have been abused do recover emotionally and go on to have healthy, happy, trusting relationships.Always trust your gut feelings and help reduce the chances of sexual abuse by keeping the lines of communication open with your children, periodically discussing it with them throughout the years. This can not only assist in preventing occurrences but also gives your kids the chance to ask questions and become comfortable discussing things of this nature with you. Try to never overreact when they confide in you, no matter how shocking. They should feel safe coming to you with problems and questions.
*Statistics retrieved from www.parentsformeganslaw.org
It is estimated that there are 60 million survivors of childhood sexual abuse in America today.
1 in 3 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.
Abuse typically occurs within a long-term, on-going relationship between the offender and victim, escalates over time, and lasts an average of four years.
Many child sexual abuse victims never disclose their abuse to anyone. Less than 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the police.
Children are most vulnerable between ages 7-13.
- 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker, 34.2% of attackers were family members and 58.7% were acquaintances and only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.