Ten tips to help keep your child safe from abuse.

small_399874246Statistics tell us
1. One in four children will experience sexual abuse by the age of eighteen.
2. 90% of abuse is by someone they know and trust.
3. 82% do not tell anyone.

How do we help our children to stay safe.

  1. From an early age ensure children know the correct language for body parts.You can continue to call them a nickname but if you are uncomfortable with the words penis, vagina, breasts, etc, so too will your child be. If anyone does subsequently touch your child or speak to them inappropriately, it will be more difficult for them to speak about it.
  2. Talk to children, even as young as three, about feelings. What feels good, hugging, kissing, tickling. Encourage them to own these feelings so that if they do not wish to be hugged, kissed  or tickled, that is okay. No one should be allowed to do anything to them they do not wish or feel like, even parents, grandparents other family and friends.
  3. Speak to your children about what parts of their body are private. Who should be able to see their private parts. Make sure you help them to understand that because parts are private does not mean they should be embarrassed or ashamed by those parts. Try to speak of their private parts in a normal voice, not dropping your tone or whispering!
  4. Children need to understand the difference between a good and bad secret. If they are told by a person  they trust “Do not  tell,”  the chances are they will not. It is better to have a general rule that you do not tell your child a secret. Speak to them about having a secret and whether they think it would be a good or bad one. Use examples, birthday present, breaking something, witnessing bullying etc. What do they think is a bad secret. Could they tell you? How would they tell you? What could they do if you did not really listen to them? What if someone threatened them if they told or called them a snitch?
  5. Speak to your children about “stranger danger”. But be mindful of the fact that this relates to the internet also. A stranger is anyone they have not met. Revisit this chat when your child gets older and begins to use the computer or has internet on their phone.
  6. As your child gets older revisit past chats. Remind them that they own their own body. Speak with them about the possibility of pressure being put on them to do things they may not be comfortable with. This pressure may be from a boy or girlfriend or by others in a group. The danger of drinking and the link between intoxication and becoming less inhibited
  7. Be very mindful of who your child is spending time with. Older children are likely to be abused by other older children who are still under the age of 18. It is not only adults who abuse.
  8. Have a plan in place for if ever they need to get your attention to talk with you. We all get busy and finding time to really listen gets harder and harder as our children grow up. Maybe it is a note on your pillow. Perhaps it is a key sentence agreed years before, “Mom I need to tell you something, please listen to me”.
  9. If your child tells you something you must listen. Maybe you find it hard to believe, or you feel your child is a drama queen. You still must listen and properly investigate whatever you were told before you decide to believe it or not.
  10.  If your child discloses abuse try to stay calm. If they are talking about abuse happening to another child, listen and seek advice from the appropriate child protection agencies. If your child is telling you it has happened to them, sit and listen quietly. This is a huge moment for your child. It will change your lives forever, but at last your child will not be carrying their secret alone. Again go to the appropriate agencies but do not rush. Your child needs you to be there for them. Listen and in time you may get full disclosure, because what they tell you initially may only be the tip of the iceberg.

photo credit: djwudi via photopin cc

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25 thoughts on “Ten tips to help keep your child safe from abuse.

    1. Yes I agree, and talk early and often so when your children are less talkative you have already addressed the issue. Talking about it doesn’t mean you are paranoid nor does it frighten your children if done gently.

  1. Thank you for this Tric. Amazing advice that I will follow as closely as I possibly can. I had heard some of this before but it was not as fully explained as you have done here. Now that I understand the thinking behind it, I can follow it better.
    I’ve already told them about private parts and they don’t have to hug people but I have some more work to do. Brilliant info. Thanks again 🙂

  2. Tric, when I was 8, I was molested by a cousin who was 14 over a period of 4 months. It happened at family gatherings where we were shuffled off away from the adults. When I finally gathered up enough courage to tell my mother through a written note, she crumpled up the note and told me never to tell anyone. My father was abusive, and she was afraid he would kill my cousin. I carried that feeling of unimportance and invisibility for decades into my adulthood. I still remember the smell of my cousin, and to this day I flinch when I see someone who reminds me of him or has his name.

    I’m over 60 now, and have forgiven my mom long ago – she only did what she thought at the time was best. I’ve dealt with the abuse on both counts. Yet I know if my mom had known about your list, she would have done them, and I would have had a very different experience as an adult.

    Thank so very much for posting this and saving other children from what I’ve experienced.

    1. I do think that apart from knowing that a childs greatest danger is someone we know, the other thing parents are largely unaware of is the danger posed by other children who are under 18.
      I’m sorry this happened to you, but thank goodness you have made a good recovery, and even managed to forgive and understand your mom.
      Education is vital as far as I’m concerned. Not scaremongering or over reacting, just knowing the facts and educating our children.

  3. This is all excellent advice. One more thing I think (no…I know) that children fall into the trap of thinking, is that if they tell someone what’s going on, then that someone will be hurt. Sometimes they’re not concerned about the offender, but they are concerned about the people who know the offender. In other words, the child should know that their safety is more important than the temporary hurt it may cause others.

    1. I agree. Along with that worry, is the shame, guilt and confusion a child can feel if the abuser is related to family or friends. The only way to tackle that is when speaking of secrets and why we keep them, good v bad.
      It’s not easy and no parent can be sure they have got through to their child, but we all need to try.
      I also think not reacting to disclosure is so very important, as usually a child is just testing the waters and not really telling all.Thank you.

  4. good advice, tric

    only thing I would add is that it is difficult to explain stranger danger to a child – a child’s concept of what constitutes a stranger may be quite different from ours

    http://lifewithmrsd.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/through-the-eyes-of-a-child/

    and don’t we give confusing, contradictory messages to our kids ?

    my sister and I were told not to go off anywhere with strange adults, yet at the same time we were also told if we ever got lost then to find an adult or a policeman and ask for help !

    1. Excellent point Duncan. I think your last commentor nailed it also. “Until our children are old enough to exercise their own judgement on strangers, it is up to us as parents to make sure they don’t have to”.

  5. Talking about it openly and often is great. So is using the correct body part is excellent. Make sure dads get in on this too. When my girls first got this kind of information they talked about it every night at the supper table; my poor husband almost died of embarrassment in the beginning but after a few months of “vaginas” and “breasts” he recovered nicely.

    1. Yes that is definitely the scariest of all, but at least you will not be in the 80% and your child will have someone to listen and believe them, which is the beginning of healing.

  6. Reblogged this on A Momma's View and commented:
    Tric, from My Thoughts On A Page, mentioned this post in a comment she wrote for a post of mine. I’m glad she did. I’m shocked about the high numbers of children being abused and about the percentage of the abusers who are know to those kids. It puts “Stranger Danger” into a new perspective… I think this post should be shared a s often as possible.

  7. All good points. Incest is a hard one especially when a child is told they will all bekilled if they tell. Really important for child to have a good rrelationship with non offending parent and know they can tell.

    1. Yes and I think as a parent we always believe we can keep our little ones safe, that we would ‘know’ if there was a problem.
      I had wonderful parents who didn’t know. Educating our little ones is the only way.

  8. A very good post. I dealt with abuse in children through fostering and some of the traumas these kids had to deal with were horrific. Secrets, self doubt, blame, shame and fear ‘if they told’.
    People are shocked that this is going on. They should be more shocked that this has been going on FOR YEARS and little was done as victims of family members were not believed. To shatter the trust of a child is unforgivable.

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