How do I keep my child safe from abuse?

small_399874246Sometimes something triggers a memory and it’s very difficult to put it behind you. Life goes on as normal, but all the while you are fighting an invisible battle to return from the past. It might be a newspaper article, something you watch, or read or maybe something as simple as a smell. 

So today, as I’ve had a bit of a day like that, I think it apt that I repost a post I first wrote in 2014. In it I give my top ten tips for helping to keep your child safe from abuse. I do so in the hope that it may help keep children safe and to remind all parents that...

Yes it could happen to your child and statistics tell us that if it does they will probably not tell you. The best way to keep them safe is to educate yourself and listen to the statistics in order to ensure your child never becomes one of them.

Statistics 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, they will not have the words to help them describe what happened, and will find it more difficult to tell you.
  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, including parents, grandparents other family members 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. Many do not consider internet ‘friends’ to be strangers nor do they wish to believe their ‘friend’ may be an adult male pretending to be a child.
  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 boyfriend or girlfriend or by others in a group or online. 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 now.”
  9. If your child tells you something…listen. Maybe you find it hard to believe, or you feel your child is a drama queen. Perhaps you have many questions you want to ask. First you must listen and then 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.

Yes the thought of this ever happening to your child is terrifying, but by reading this post, educating yourself and your child and accepting the fact that 90% of  the danger comes from family and friends you will have already lessened your child’s chances of being abused.

photo credit: djwudi via photopin cc
photo credit: Inner Demon via photopin (license)

29 thoughts on “How do I keep my child safe from abuse?

  1. Well said, Tric. Abuse wears man faces, not just physicl and giving yourself and your children the tools to recognise inappropriate behaviour and be able to communicate is a big step towards safety.

    1. Thank you Sue. Who knows if it’s any help but I think anything that makes it harder for an abuser is better than nothing and awareness definitely makes it harder to be taken in.

  2. Excellent post Tric. One of my daughters has three small boys. They came home from daycare one day just before Mother’s Day announcing they had made her something but it was a secret. Her alarm bells starting ringing because she had tried not to encourage her boys to use the word secrets..she even suggested to the day care people not to use the word secrets in telling them not to tell their mother’s about the gifts they had made.
    A very good friend of mine published her memoir of her childhood abuse about eighteen months ago. It is a brave and compassionate piece of work and in it she makes similar points to what you make in this post. For me the point about listening to your child I think is most important. So often we read about child abuse being not recognised by parents as they refused to believe the words of their children. I was certainly brought up in a period when the priests could do no wrong.
    Thanks for sharing this Tric and I hope it gives hope to someone out there who maybe suffering in some way.

    1. Thank you Michael. I agree being able to speak with your child is so important but not always easy and definitely not easy for them if they have a secret to tell.
      I think the important thing to remember is that the people who abuse our children are well able to manipulate our children and many great parents miss the signs. But knowing it might happen helps keep us aware.
      Thank’s again. Appreciate you taking the time to comment as this isn’t my usual type of post!

  3. This is a really good post. Those statistics scared me though, I had no idea abuse is so high. Although when I started to really think about it I realise I knew of things happening to several people and those are just the ones that I knew about, I’m sure there are countless others. A friend of mine is a social working in Ireland and she told me that there are some really awful things she encounters.

  4. Thanks for sharing this Tric. I’ve read similar points before and been to talks but I find I need reminders like this. I think the point about revisiting the issues with your children every so often is a great one. It is easy to think “ok, we’ve talked, they know it now” but as they grow and their surroundings change, they need to be reminded of the dangers and the signs of abuse.

    1. Thanks Fionnuala. I’m glad it was helpful. I find many are very frightened by the topic, but it’s necessary and can be spoken off with very little drama.

  5. I would like to add that young children, especially, are not particularly verbal. They do seem to have an instinctive sense of what feels right and wrong. For instance, if they decide they don’t like someone, or some situation, or refuse to hug when expected to do so, this can say more than words.

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