With the recent media focus on sexual assault, it may feel like sexual assault is getting worse. The truth is that it has always been an issue in the entertainment industry, in schools, in the church and communities throughout California.
Perpetrators are already close to their victims more often than not. It is estimated that 90 percent of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the child already knows. If a child does experience sexual assault, there are legal steps that parents can take. However, parents should know that there are some measures they can take now to help keep their children safe from assault.
Talk about body awareness
It is never too early to teach honest body awareness to children. Explain that no one other than a doctor, caregiver or parent should touch their private parts. Even as very young children, kids should know that their body belongs to them. For example, you may suggest that your child kisses or hugs a relative, but give them an option to say, “no,” if they do not want to engage in physical affection.
Let them know you are on their side
One of the biggest factors in healing after an assault comes from how a parent reacts to disclosure of the incident. Make sure that your child knows they can come to you for support. Victims of assault may feel ashamed or scared to reveal what happened. Help your kids understand that they would not get in trouble for disclosing issues.
Children may feel especially pressured to keep quiet if the perpetrator is an admired member of the community, such as a teacher or church member. It helps to let kids know that you are on their side no matter the impact of the accusation.
Help kids understand and act on intuition
Children have a hard time being rude and leaving dangerous situations when an adult is involved. Children must trust their intuition in unsafe scenarios. Role-playing is a great tool for learning about dangerous conditions and what to say when the time comes. For example, “if a neighbor says they can give you a ride home, then what would you say back?”
These teaching methods can give your children awareness of dangerous situations and how they should react to them. Overall it is good to be aware of your child’s behavior. It is unnecessary to track their every move, but it helps to pick up on sudden changes in mood or activity. If your child becomes more isolated or quiet then it may be a sign of distress.