Talking about sexual abuse can be uncomfortable, whether the conversation is with your child or with another adult. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Not only will it help ease your mind when your child is in the presence of other adults without you, it will help other adults keep your child safe.
Why to Bring It Up
The sad truth is that offenders want a parent and a child they can manipulate. But if a potential offender knows—because you have told him or her—that your child knows the correct names for private body parts, how to say no, and to tell you about abusive touches, he or she will be much less likely to victimize your child for fear of being caught.
When and How to Bring It Up
Think of it this way: if your child was allergic to, say, peanuts, you would tell every adult your child is with (such as teachers, babysitters, or parents of friends) because that knowledge would help those adults protect your child. Telling those same adults about your family’s safety rules is the same idea, and can be woven into your daily interactions with them.
Here are some opportunities, both intentional and natural, to bring up the subject of child sexual abuse prevention with other adults:
- When leaving your child with other adults, tell them about your family’s safety rules, and ask them to follow them.
- When you enroll your child in a program—say, summer camp, a sport, or even school—ask about their child protection policies and tell them about your family’s safety rules.
- When you see a news report on sexual abuse or a similar topic, you can bring it up.
- When the conversation turns to a related topic, such as how to talk to children about sex and where babies come from, you can also bring up the subject of child sexual abuse prevention.
What to Say
It can be hard to know what to say when you’re talking to other adults about sexual abuse prevention. Adding a little humor never hurts! Here are some ways to get the conversation started:
- Hey, just so you know, we’ve been teaching Addie about safety with private body parts and about how no one is allowed to touch hers except to keep her healthy—we just teach it alongside other safety rules, like wearing a helmet whenever she’s on wheels.
- We’ve been teaching Marco the names for his private body parts. So just be warned—he might start talking about penises! We’ve also told him no one can touch his private parts. We just want to make sure he knows that while he’s still little.
- I’ve been telling Jordan that he’s allowed to say no to any touch he’s not comfortable with—so if you go to give him a hug and he says “no,” don’t feel offended, okay? We want him to be able to say no if someone touches him in a way he doesn’t like.
- They have this program at Gabby’s school where she’s learning how to say no to unsafe or abusive touches. Do you have something like that here? What are your policies for protecting children from sexual abuse?
Is your child’s school teaching safety rules? Is the staff trained in how to recognize and report signs of abuse, and do they have the right policies and procedures in place to help keep kids safe? If not, recommend the Second Step Child Protection Unit.