We 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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