by Aubrey C.
The topic of sexual abuse seems to be everywhere right now. As the Sandusky trial ended, I had many clients and friends ask me what they could do to protect their children. Of course, keeping an eye on your kids is very important, but we can’t go everywhere with our kids and we actually shouldn’t (helicopter parents take notes!). For children to develop their own independence and self-confidence they need time away from their parents to try, and sometimes fail, on their own. But that doesn’t mean we can’t protect them while they are away. That’s why good communication is the key to protecting children from sexual abuse.
The best way to keep children safe is listen and help them talk to you. Easier said than done! Here are some tips to improve communication with your kids and make it easier to talk about sexual abuse.
Give Kids the Info They Need
Tell children what behavior is ok and not ok. They need to know that only doctors and parents (or guardians) can touch their private parts. They also need to know what “private parts” are. This gives them knowledge, as well as the language, to talk about sexual abuse. Many clients say that when they were abused as young children they didn’t even know it was wrong. Make sure your child knows it is wrong and give them permission to say no if someone attempts to touch them inappropriately. Most sexual abuse is at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts. Kids need to know they can say no to anyone.
Starting today, given the recent publicity, ask your kids what they have heard about sexual abuse and what questions they have. If they don’t have questions, make sure they know the basics. Keep the conversation going and let them know you are always open for questions.
Know Where to Turn for Help
If you know someone who needs help due to sexual abuse, Talbert House has its own specialty mental health services to provide individual, group, and family treatment to children who have been sexually abused. The Safeguards Program has experienced therapists who help children and families recover from sexual abuse in a safe, supportive, and non-threatening environment. If you want to refer someone or simply have questions call 513-761-6222. For more information on group therapy, see our flyer.
Stop It Now! is another great program that works to prevent the sexual abuse of children by mobiling communities to take actions that protect children before they are harmed. They also offer a useful list of warning signs that a child or adolescent may be experiencing sexual abuse.