How to Protect your Child from Sexual Abuse

The best way to protect every child from sexual abuse is by infusing awareness about the heinous crime of sexual abuse. November 19 is marked as an International Day for Prevention of Child abuse and neglect. At this juncture let us expend some time in learning to teach about child sexual abuse and empowering our children with the knowledge of preventing sexual abuse in the simplest manner.

Child sexual abuse is a form of child maltreatment or child abuse ensuing in grave life-long physical and psychological consequences such as depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, low self esteem, social isolation, addiction to drugs or alcohol, inability to maintain sexual relationship in adult life, etc. It is a global problem growing at a rapid pace.

Positive parenting skills will aid in preventing sexual abuse of children before it actually happens. Unfortunately many parents have no idea how to broach a sensitive or sometimes embarrassing topic such as sexual abuse to their children. They are not to be blamed as parenting is the only area where people with least or no training at all get to do the job. The irony is that in spite of this lacking parents are expected to know and to do everything right and be perfect role models for their children. Hence it is essential that parents understand about child sexual abuse and the traits of its perpetrators better in order to educate and protect their children.

To begin with parents should teach children about their body parts. Some suggest that it is essential to teach children the exact names of the body parts. But what is important is that the child must get the message we are trying to deliver and not be diverted by memorizing names of body parts. As children grow up they can learn the exact names.

Parents must emphasis that some parts of the body such as the chest, bottom and the part between the legs are private parts and should not be touched or looked at by anyone but your parents, doctors, and nurses when providing medical care. Now most children will ask if it is alright for doctors and nurses to touch the private parts. Be prepared to tell them clearly that they can do so in the presence of parents only for administering medical care and nothing more.

Parents can explain that if any person like uncle, neighbor, teacher, an older child, baby sitter, etc., makes an attempt to touch the private parts it is a “bad touch” and such behavior is unacceptable. In the event of such advances the children must say “NO” to the abuser and flee from the place at once. Such happenings need not be kept secret and must be confided to parents or a trusted adult immediately. As it has turned out in many cases, exploiting the innocence of children, sexual abusers tell the children to keep the matter of abuse as a secret.

We tell children from childhood to obey all elders. So, now it is time to teach them while most elders are nice, there are some who may try to hurt kids by touching, or seeing children’s private parts or in some cases make the children uncomfortable by showing the child their own private parts. Such behavior is inappropriate and the children are not obliged to obey or succumb to the orders of such elders. Parents need to understand that physical contact is not necessary merely exposing a child to sexual situations or materials is sufficient to constitute the offence of sexual abuse.

Contrary to what many believe, sexual abusers are not always total strangers. In majority of the cases the sexual abusers turned out to be people the children and their family know and trust like relatives, neighbors, teachers, coaches, clergy, and other respected adults. And in some disheartening cases the abusers turned out to be the child’s father, grandfather, step-father, etc.

Victims of sexual abuse are not just girls. Boys and girls both suffer from sexual abuse. In fact, sexual abuse of boys is mostly not reported. They too need to be educated and protected.

Finally, it is important to accentuate that in the event of abuse; children are the victims and are never to be blamed for sexual abuse. The earlier the children are educated about the difference between good and bad touch by the parents, the greater the benefits to the children in protecting themselves from child sexual abuse.