Children are typically not taught about body safety until adolescence, which if often too late. Child sexual abuse can happen to any child in unsuspecting places, including daycare, church or sleepovers. According to studies by the director of Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in five girls and one in 20 boys have been victims of child sexual abuse.
Abuse may come from strangers, but often comes from someone a child already knows. In many cases, it can occur from other kids. Teaching your child about body safety at a young age can give them the tools to protect themselves. Body safety does not need to be a scary conversation. According to the Child Mind Institute, even very young children can benefit from the following five discussions.
1. Teach them about body parts.
Talk to your kids while they are young about their body parts. Use the real names for body parts. This can give children the verbal devices to tell you if something inappropriate happened.
2. Talk to them about boundaries.
After children understand body parts, you can explain that some areas of their body are private. Teach them about physical boundaries and the difference between good-touch and bad-touch. This includes abiding by boundaries of other people too.
3. Tell them it is appropriate to say, “no” sometimes.
Children are taught to respect adults, which means they are often afraid to say, “no.” Kids may understand that they are in a bad situation but they do not know how to escape. Tell them that it is fine to exit a conversation with an adult if they feed unsafe. Give them the exact words they can use if an inappropriate situation occurs.
4. Let them know they can talk to you.
Sexual abuse perpetrators often tell victims they must keep the abuse a secret. Tell your children that while some secrets are permissible, body secrets are not okay. Let your child know that they will never get in trouble for telling you about scary situations.
5. Explain that these rules apply to people they know.
According to the US Department of Justice, 90 percent of children already know their abuser. A child sexual abuse perpetrator can be someone that a child admires. It is important to communicate to your child that these rules apply even to people they may know and care about. Armed with these five key points, a child may be better equipped to handle difficult situations on their own.