Preventing Child Abuse

The key to preventing child abuse is communicate, communicate, communicate.

You can begin teaching touching safety rules as soon as your children can understand, even before they can talk. Don’t wait until your children ask questions about sexual assault or until after something has happened.

About sexual abuse:

  • Children have been taught to obey adults.
  • Children may be scared to tell. The molester may have threatened them.
  • Children may feel guilty about sexual abuse. They may believe that it is somehow their fault.
  • Children may be confused because the molester is usually someone they know and trust.
  • Children may have been convinced by the molester that the abuse is okay or normal.
  • Children may have promised to keep the abuse a secret.

About physical abuse, the child may:

  • Love the parent despite the abuse and fear the consequences of reporting.
  • View the abuse as normal discipline.
  • Feel deserving of the abuse.
  • Feel helpless and have little hope that the situation can be changed.
  • Feel ashamed or isolated without the necessary support system to make changes.
  • Lack assertiveness skills necessary to tell.
  • Not know what to do about it.

Tips for Prevention

  • Get to know your children's friends and their families. Find out who your children will be around when spending time in a friend's home.
  • Ask your children what happens when they are alone with babysitters, relatives, friends, etc.
  • Be wary of anyone who wants to spend time exclusively with your children, or with any child.
  • Encourage your children not to keep secrets.
  • Encourage your children to tell you about any problems or questions they may have.
  • Play "what if" to practice decision-making. “What would you do if your babysitter asked you to play a touching game and then asked you to keep it a secret?”
  • Avoid using terms "good" and "bad" touch. Use the terms "safe" and "unsafe" touch instead. Help children understand the differences between"safe" and "unsafe" touches using many examples of both.
  • Don't make your children hug and kiss friends or relatives if they don't want to. (It teaches them they have to kiss and hug if an adult says so.)
  • Help children develop assertiveness skills.
  • Teach children that touching rules apply at all times, with people you know as well as strangers.
  • Teach children they can say NO to adults, and that you will back them up in doing so.
  • Take the time to listen and believe what your children tell you.