5 Steps to Help Protect Your Child From Sexual Assault

crying childWe see cases in which children have been sexually assaulted every day. From big, shocking, headline-making scandals like the one fueled by Jerry Sandusky's atrocious acts to the one-off incidents in which teachers, coaches, and other trusted adults take advantage of innocent children. We gasp and are outraged, but most of all we worry what if that was our child.

More importantly, however, we must ask what we can do to lessen the odds that our children will be victims. While there are no guarantees that we can we can keep them safe, there are some steps we can take to help do so. As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I caught up with folks at the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) who provided the following five tips for parents to help protect children from sexual predators:

1. Talk

Talk often with your child and set a tone of openness. Talking openly and directly will let your child know that it’s okay to talk to you when they have questions. If your child comes to you with concerns or questions, make time to listen and talk to them.

2. Teach

Teach your child key safety principles. For instance:

  • Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
  • If your child is uncomfortable or if someone is touching them, s/he should tell a trusted adult immediately.
  • Let your children know that if someone is touching them or talking to them in ways that make them uncomfortable that it shouldn’t stay a secret.

3. Empower

Your child should know that s/he has the right to speak up if they are uncomfortable, or if someone is touching them. It’s okay to say “no” even to adults they know and family members.

4. Implement

Implement Internet safety protocols, and parental controls through platforms such as the Google Family Safety Center. Work with older children to set guidelines for who they can talk to online, and what information can be shared. For instance, be cautious when leaving status or away messages online and when using the "check-in" feature on Facebook or Foursquare.

5. Educate

Educate yourself about the warning signs of childhood sexual abuse. Know what to look for, and the best way to respond.

For more information visit RAINN’s website.

In what ways do you try to prevent your child from being a victim of sexual assault?

 

Image via Pink Sherbet Photography/Flickr

kid health, tough topics, sex

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Venae Venae

Don't leave your kids alone w/your new boyfriend while you go to work and he sits on the couch all day.

mamab... mamabunny2010

This is okay, but 4/5 of these deal with what to do AFTER a child has been approached and/or already abused and how to talk to them about it...so not a very proactive article.

Desti... DestinyHLewis

As a victim myself, I NEVER leave my kids alone with another male besides my husband and my father, or with a woman, if I know a male is there. It may seem extreme, but I will NOT ever let that happen to them. As long as I am able, I will do everything in my power to keep them safe, and teach them how to keep themselves safe for when they are older and I cannot always be with them.

Mrscj... Mrscjones

@Destiny sorry to hear what happened to you but it's not only men that sexually assault kids. Also some kids fathers and grandfathers assault them. When I was growing up I was never left alone with my uncle because he raped my aunt and her cousin when they was younger. From the time my son could talk I told him if anybody I don't care who it is touch you on your wee wee or your butt you tell me. Don't keep secrets from mom. When he got older and started walking to school I told him if anybody grab you, or try to get you in their car yell scream kick punch and run as fast as possible. I even told him that what they want to do is very painful so it's best to try and hurt them instead. My husband teach him self defense and he's also in karate. All you can do is tell them the truth and pray that they never have to use the knowledge you gave them.

jessi... jessicasmom1

pray and get to know the parents and male family members 

Maria De Lourdes Lisboa

Teach your kids that their VOICE MATTERS!!! Their feelings MATTER. And that NO ONE can touch them in their private parts (we use the correct names for body parts). Mine are almost 8 and 10, and I've told them that even Daddy does NOT have to touch them. Only IF they were very sick and ask for help in the bathroom. They laughed. They need to feel EMPOWERED to say NO to ANY adult in their lives. Because MOST sexual assaults to children happen with a trusted adult, someone THEY KNOW. Usually a family member or a friend of the family. Society spends too much time teaching kids about "stranger danger" when most cases of child sexual abuse happen in the home or a relative's home. I was sexually molested between 5-6 y.o. by a very trusted neighbor, a well-respected member of our community, who was also my sister's godfather!! When I started hinting that he had shown me porn, NO ONE believed me. They reprimanded me for lying. And I NEVER told another adult. It took me decades of reading, therapies, support groups, and confronting hin via letter, etc. to truly heal the wound. But the fact that no adult believed me caused MORE harm, than the actual sexual abuse. YOU CAN HEAL. TRUST YOUR CHILDREN COMPLETELY. They always speak the truth when it comes to these issues.

Monamou Monamou

My grandfather molested me. He was a well educated,hard working, well respected family member. Even after my cousin and i told our parents we have family members who visit w their children. Children do NOT make up sexual abuse. If the child feels it was uncomfortable its bc the person is being inappropriate. as a parent you want your child to trust and respect adults but not all adults deserve that treatment..i think as PARENTS we have to be vigilent of odd or inappropriate behavior. People w/o kids wanting kids over.or an adult separating one child out of the group for alone activities. Pedophiles are master manipulators..all people unlucky enough to be affected understand most times it is NOT obvious or by the pervy weird guy.

nonmember avatar Wendy

I also read stories such as the ones mentioned above and always think of my own daughter. I have several female relatives that have been sexually abused and am very paranoid about this happening to my own daughter. She is 3 going on 4, and I don't know how I can communicate to her the dangers of sexual abuse. I always tell her that those are "private areas" and no one can touch them, and if someone does then she needs to tell us right away. I also tell her that if she feels that someone is doing something to her that makes her feel ashamed, or feels wrong in any way she needs to run and tell another adult. I don't want to make her scared of adults or traumatize her in any way, but, because it's happened to so many people I know I want to make sure it never happens to her. My question is, how do I answer her questions in a simplified manner to where she will understand, but not make her think that everyone is out to get her? (ex: What would they do? Or Why would they do that?) She's never asked me, but I don't want to give her too much information and scare her. Thank you to those of you that take the time to read my comment and answer my questions. I am a first time mom, and unfortunately don't have someone I can ask or seek guidance from.

Angela Rose

THANKS for posting!! I founded PAVE: www.ShatteringTheSilence.org and we work to educate and empower..and shatter the silence of sexual violence! I founded it afterI was abducted from a shopping mall by a man on parole for murder when I was 17 years old. PAVE's work has been featured on CNN, Today Show and Time. Thanks for the post on this crucial topic!!

David Holston

We must be so careful! My ex wife often left the children at home to look after themselves. Her precocious 12 yr old daughter (my ex step daughter) put a hard core porn video that she got off a gf up the street on for my 5 yr old daughter's entertainment and they watched it together. When I picked up my daughter for the weekend my daughter told me what she had seen. I felt like I was going to be sick. Sexual abuse is not limited to men.

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