- About the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline
- How does it work?
- How can the hotline help me?
- Is it confidential?
- Who are the sexual assault service providers?
- How was the National Sexual Assault Hotline created?
- Supporting a Child – Rape Crisis Center
- Defining Sexual Assault
- No One Way of Healing
- Providing Support
- Child Sexual Abuse Facts & Resources
- What is Child Sexual Abuse?
- FACT: Even if the true prevalence of child sexual abuse is not known, most will agree that there will be 500,000 babies born in the US this year that will be sexually abused before they turn 18 if we do not prevent it
- FACT: Most people think of adult rape as a crime of great proportion and significance. Most are unaware that children are victimized at a much higher rate than adults
- FACT: Family and acquaintance child sexual abuse perpetrators have reported that they look for specific characteristics in the children they choose to abuse
- FACT: There are child and family characteristics that significantly heighten or lower risk of sexual abuse. The following risk factors are reported and identified cases of abuse
- Who are the Perpetrators?
- FACT: Many perpetrators “groom” victims and their families
- FACT: Child sexual abuse often takes place under specific, often surprising circumstances. It is helpful to know these circumstances because it allows for the development of strategies to avoid child sexual abuse
- What are the Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse?
- What are the Long Term Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse for Society?
- FACT: Child sexual abuse plays an important role in the cost of mental health services
- FACT: Teen pregnancy is a long-term, expensive societal problem. Child sexual abuse is a major factor in teenage pregnancy rates
- FACT: Over-sexualized behavior, common for child sexual abuse victims, can lead to an increased risk of sexually-transmitted diseases
- 10 Ways to Teach Your Child the Skills to Prevent Sexual Abuse
- The most effective ways to protect your child from sexual abuse
About the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
How does it work?
When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization the first six digits of your phone number. Cell phone callers have the option to enter the ZIP code of their current location to more accurately locate the nearest sexual assault service provider.
Telephone Hotline Terms of Service
How can the hotline help me?
Calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline gives you access to a range of free services including:
- Confidential support from a trained staff member
- Support finding a local health facility that is trained to care for survivors of sexual assault and offers services sexual assault forensic exams
- Someone to help you talk through what happened
- Local resources that can assist with your next steps toward healing and recovery
- Referrals for long term support in your area
- Information about the laws in your community
- Basic information about medical concerns
Is it confidential?
The National Sexual Assault Hotline is a safe, confidential service. When you call the hotline, only the first six numbers of the phone number are used to route the call, and your complete phone number is never stored in our system. Most states do have laws that require local staff to contact authorities in certain situations, if there is a child or vulnerable adult who is in danger.
While almost all callers are connected directly to a staff member or volunteer at a local sexual assault service provider, a handful of providers use an answering service after daytime business hours. This service helps manage the flow of calls. If all staff members are busy, you may choose to leave a phone number with the answering service.
In this case, the number will be confidential and will be given directly to the organization’s staff member for a callback. If you reach an answering service, you can try calling back after some time has passed, or you can choose to call during regular business hours when more staff members are available.
You can also access 24/7 help online by visiting online.rainn.org.
Who are the sexual assault service providers?
Sexual assault service providers are organizations or agencies dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault. The providers who answer calls placed to the hotline are known as RAINN affiliates. To be part of the National Sexual Assault Hotline, affiliates must agree to uphold RAINN’s confidentiality standards. That means:
- Never releasing records or information about the call without the consent of the caller, except when obligated by law
- Only making reports to the police or other agencies when the caller consents, unless obligated by law
- Agreeing to RAINN’s non-discrimination policy
To learn more about how a provider can become an affiliate of the National Sexual Assault Hotline, visit the Sexual Assault Service Provider information page. Volunteer opportunities for the National Sexual Assault Hotline are coordinated through these local providers. Search for volunteer opportunities near you.
How was the National Sexual Assault Hotline created?
The National Sexual Assault Hotline was the nation’s first decentralized hotline, connecting those in need with help in their local communities.
It’s made up of a network of independent sexual assault service providers, vetted by RAINN, who answer calls to a single, nationwide hotline number. Since it was first created in 1994, the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.
HOPE and online.rainn.org) has helped more than 3 million people affected by sexual violence.
Before the telephone hotline was created, there was no central place where survivors could get help.
Local sexual assault services providers were well equipped to handle support services, but the lack of a national hotline meant the issue did not receive as much attention as it should.
In response, RAINN developed a unique national hotline system to combine all the advantages of a national organization with all the abilities and expertise of local programs. One nationwide hotline number makes it easier for survivors to be connected with the help they deserve.
Anyone affected by sexual assault, whether it happened to you or someone you care about, can find support on the National Sexual Assault Hotline. You can also visit online.rainn.org to receive support via confidential online chat.
Supporting a Child – Rape Crisis Center
As the parent of a child who has been sexually assaulted, you play a critical role in the healing process. Some parents may feel responsible in some way for the abuse; you may feel that somehow you should have known about the abuse or should have been able to stop the abuse. Please know that it is not your fault.
Educating yourself and examining your own emotions (anger, guilt, powerlessness, and fear) are steps you can take to more effectively support your child and yourself. The impact of trauma on children is determined, in large part, by how adults in the child’s world respond to the child’s disclosure of assault.
The adults’ response can have as much or more impact on the child as the traumatic event itself.
Defining Sexual Assault
- Sexual assault is any unwanted attention or sexual contact committed by force, manipulation, bribes, threats, pressure, tricks, or violence.
- Child sexual abuse includes sexual contact or attempted contact, ranging from fondling to intercourse.
- Perpetrators can be strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family members. Child abuse is usually committed by someone the child trusted.
- Child sexual abuse is never the victim’s fault. It is possible for a child to care for or want to spend time with the person who is abusing him/her. BUT, this does not mean that he/she is responsible for the abuse or wanted it to happen.
- Sexual assault is a crime motivated by violence, anger, and a need for power and control.
No One Way of Healing
While having a checklist of what to expect during the healing process would be helpful, it is not possible. Many emotions surface as one heals from sexual assault, and each individual may experience different emotions at different times.
As you support your child, patience is critical; healing time varies from many months to many years. Do not expect an “end,” but instead recognize that the victim is engaged in a process, and that the mark of successful healing is not “getting over the assault,” but rather, getting on despite the assault.
Some of the signs a parent may notice in a child survivor could include:
- increased frustration
- social withdrawal
- increased neediness/attachments
- sleep disturbances
- eating disturbances
- many new fears
- suddenly turning against one parent
- a return to more baby-ish, younger behavior (developmental delay)
- a new interest in their own genitals or those of other people or of animals
Your child may demonstrate more then one of these behaviors or emotions; there is no set or standard order, and behaviors and emotions may also be experienced that weren’t identified above.
Another issue that may surface for your child is confusion around how the assault physically felt. Children may feel guilty because parts of the touching actually felt good. This is normal.
Reassure your child that while the touching was inappropriate, their body’s physical response was normal and that “feeling good” at the time of the abuse does not, in any way, make them responsible for the abuse.
When supporting a child who has been sexually assaulted, it is essential that the child feel believed. Here are some steps that you can take:
- Immediately reassure the child that you believe everything that they tell you.
- Reassure them that you still love them and that it is not their fault, regardless of the circumstances.
- Praise the child for telling and let them know that you are glad that they did.
- Even if there is no apparent physical injury, see that your child gets the medical attention they deserve after the assault. In order to provide additional support to you and your child as you go through a medical examination, consider contacting a Rape Crisis Center advocate.
- Help the child to feel safe—explain that you will do everything that you can to protect them from further abuse.
- Know local resources, and choose help carefully. (You may want to consult a Rape Crisis Center legal advocate to support you and your child and to help coordinate Social Services and police reports that must be completed.)
- Allow the child to talk at their own pace. A child’s healing requires that parents be available to hear and accept the child’s fears and repetitious relating of the events.
- Allow your child to have as much control as possible over the decisions which are made about them.
Although it is important to be honest about your feelings, do not look to your child to alleviate your pain (anger and frustration) or to return to the way they were before the assault. This is not possible and both you and your child will grieve this loss.
In addition to wanting your life and your child’s life to return to normal as soon as possible, you may also want to retaliate against the child’s abuser.
You may feel that by expressing your wishes your child will feel believed and supported, and this is sometimes the case.
However, by constantly expressing these feelings, you may cause your child to feel additional concern and guilt for your frustration and anger.
Simply by calling the Rape Crisis Center, you have already shown that you are interested in expanding your compassion and understanding, which will, in turn be communicated to your child. And please remember that rape crisis lines are not solely for victims.
As a loved one, you may use our helpline and other services to help you explore your thoughts and emotions regarding your child’s sexual assault. Your strength and some of these guidelines will serve as important factors in providing support to your child.
Adapted from: He Told Me Not To Tell (King County Rape Relief); “I Never Thought This Could Happen To Us” (Sexual Assault Support Service); No More Secrets: Protecting Your Child From Sexual Assault (Caren Adams & Jennifer Fay)
Child Sexual Abuse Facts & Resources
By educating the community about prevention, intervention and treatment, The CAC Houston is addressing the devastating reality of child sexual abuse.
We all want to believe that our children are safe and that we can protect them from harm, but child sexual abuse is real, and recovery begins with the truth.
Use the resources in this section to arm yourself with the education, resources and facts about child abuse to help stop the hurt and heal the child.
Check out the resources below and feel free to contact The CAC with any questions or comments.
Child sexual abuse is an issue that makes people extremely uncomfortable, because it hurts to think about anyone harming children. However, unreported or untreated child sexual abuse not only scars children and destroys families, it also leaves offenders free to abuse and cripple future generations.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
It is any sexual activity between adults and minors or between two minors when one forces it on the other.
This includes sexual touching and non-touching acts exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, photography of a child for sexual gratification, solicitation of a child for prostitution, voyeurism and communication in a sexual way by phone, Internet or face-to-face. It is a crime punishable by law that must be reported.
FACT: Even if the true prevalence of child sexual abuse is not known, most will agree that there will be 500,000 babies born in the US this year that will be sexually abused before they turn 18 if we do not prevent it
- Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). This means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.
- The primary reason that the public is not sufficiently aware of child sexual abuse as a problem is that 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Some never disclose (Smith et al., 2000; Broman-Fulks et al., 2007
FACT: Most people think of adult rape as a crime of great proportion and significance. Most are unaware that children are victimized at a much higher rate than adults
- Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under (Snyder, 2000).
- Youths have higher rates of sexual assault victimization than adults. In 2000, the sexual assault victimization rate for youths 12 to 17 was 2.3 times higher than for adults (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).
FACT: Family and acquaintance child sexual abuse perpetrators have reported that they look for specific characteristics in the children they choose to abuse
- Perpetrators report that they look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single parent or broken homes (Budin & Johnson 1989).
- Perpetrators frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting (Conte et al., 1987) and work proactively to establish a trusting relationship before abusing them (Budin & Johnson, 1989; Conte, Wolfe, & Smith, 1989; Elliott et al., 1995; Warner-Kearney, 1987). Not infrequently, this extends to establishing a trusting relationship with the victim’s family as well (Elliott et al., 1995).
FACT: There are child and family characteristics that significantly heighten or lower risk of sexual abuse. The following risk factors are reported and identified cases of abuse
- Family structure is the most important risk factor in child sexual abuse. Children who live with two married biological parents are at low risk for abuse. The risk increases when children live with step-parents or a single parent. Children living without either parent (foster children) are 10 times more ly to be sexually abused than children that live with both biological parents. Children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner are at the highest risk: they are 20 times more ly to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents (Sedlack, et. al., 2010).
- Gender is also a major factor in sexual abuse. Females are 5 times more ly to be abused than males (Sedlack, et. al., 2010). The age of the male being abused also plays a part. 8% of victims age 12-17 are male. 26% of victims under the age of 12 are male (Snyder, 2000).
- Age is a significant factor in sexual abuse. While there is risk for children of all ages, children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13 (Finkelhor, 1994). The median age for reported abuse is 9 years old (Putnam, 2003). However, more than 20% of children are sexually abused before the age of 8 (Snyder, 2000).
- Race and ethnicity are an important factor in identified sexual abuse. African American children have almost twice the risk of sexual abuse than white children. Children of Hispanic ethnicity have a slightly greater risk than non-Hispanic white children (Sedlack, et. al., 2010).
- The risk for sexual abuse is tripled for children whose parent(s) are not in the labor force (Sedlack, et. al., 2010).
- Children in low socioeconomic status households are 3 times as ly to be identified as a victim of child abuse (Sedlack, et. al., 2010).
- Most studies have reported that children with disabilities are at greater risk for sexual abuse. The latest research identified incidents of child sexual abuse involving children with disabilities at only half the rate of their non-disabled peers.
- Children who live in rural areas are almost 2 times more ly to be identified as victims of child sexual abuse (Sedlack, et. al., 2010).
- Children who witness or are the victim of other crimes are significantly more ly to be sexually abused (Finkelhor, 2010).
Who are the Perpetrators?
Most child sexual abusers are men, and may be respected members of the community drawn to settings where they gain easy access to children schools, clubs and churches.
They come from all age groups, races, religions and socioeconomic classes. Most victims know and trust their abusers. It isn’t strangers our children have to fear most.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, 21% of all paroled sex offenders in Texas reside in Harris County.
FACT: Many perpetrators “groom” victims and their families
- Many establish a trusting relationship with the victim’s family (Elliott et al., 1995), in order to gain access to the child (Berliner & Conte, 1990; Conte et al., 1989).
- Perpetrators employ successively inappropriate comments and increasingly inappropriate touches and behaviors so insidious that the abuse is often well under way before the child recognizes the situation as sexual or inappropriate (Berliner & Conte, 1990; Conte et al., 1989).
- Strategies employed to gain the compliance of victims include the addition and withdrawal of inducements (attention, material goods, and privileges), misrepresentation of society’s morals and standards and/or the abusive acts themselves, and externalization of responsibility for the abuse onto the victim (Berliner & Conte, 1990; Conte et al., 1989).
- 35% of convicted child molesters use threats of violence to keep children from disclosing the abuse. General threats and physical force are also used to prevent detection (Ohio Department of Corrections, 1992).
FACT: Child sexual abuse often takes place under specific, often surprising circumstances. It is helpful to know these circumstances because it allows for the development of strategies to avoid child sexual abuse
- 81% of child sexual abuse incidents for all ages occur in one-perpetrator/one-child circumstances. 6-11 year old children are most ly (23%) to be abused in multi-victim circumstances (Snyder, 2000).
- Most sexual abuse of children occurs in a residence, typically that of the victim or perpetrator. 84% of sexual victimization of children under age 12 occurs in a residence. Even older children are most ly to be assaulted in a residence. 71% of sexual assaults on children age 12-17 occur in a residence (Snyder, 2000).
- Sexual assaults on children are most ly to occur at 8 a.m., noon and 3-4 p.m. For older children, ages 12-17, there is also a peak in assaults in the late evening hours (Snyder, 2000).
- 1 in 7 incidents of sexual assault perpetrated by juveniles occur on school days in the after-school hours between 3 and 7 p.m., with a peak from 3 – 4 pm (Snyder, 2000).
What are the Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse?
Most victims do not display physical evidence of their abuse because of the body’s ability to heal rapidly. However, any genital irritation, infections or painful bowel movements should be investigated immediately.
Behavioral signs are more common and can include depression, anxiety, anger, loss of appetite, withdrawal from normal activities, substance abuse, self-mutilation, fear of certain places or people, bed-wetting, night sweats, nightmares and thoughts of suicide.
Also be aware of sexual acting out and language that is not age-appropriate.
What are the Long Term Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse for Society?
Few have ever given thought to the tremendous impact child sexual abuse has on the economy and social fabric of our society. Child sexual abuse is at the root of many societal problems. If we examine each of the common individual consequences of child sexual abuse in light of the prevalence rate, we can see how child sexual abuse has ramifications for each and every one of us.
FACT: Child sexual abuse plays an important role in the cost of mental health services
- The direct cost of mental health is more than $97 billion annually in 2010 dollars (Mark, et. al., 1998). Indirect costs add another $110 billion or more annually in 2010 dollars (Rice & Miller, 1996). If child sexual abuse victims have a doubled risk for mental health conditions (Rohde, et. al., 2008; Dube,et. al., 2005; Waldrop, et. al., 2007; Day, et. al., 2003; Kendler, et. al., 2000; Voeltanz, et. al., 1999), logic suggests that child sexual abuse is responsible for annual mental health costs of at least $20 billion.
FACT: Teen pregnancy is a long-term, expensive societal problem. Child sexual abuse is a major factor in teenage pregnancy rates
- The U.S. government estimates that teen pregnancy costs the nation over $9 billion annually (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004). If the applicable research (Noll, Shenk, & Putnam, 2009) is accurate, logic suggests that over $2 billion of this is attributable to child sexual abuse.
FACT: Over-sexualized behavior, common for child sexual abuse victims, can lead to an increased risk of sexually-transmitted diseases
- Sexually-transmitted diseases cost this nation $8.4 billion annually (Kaiser Family Foundation, 1997). If the research is accurate (Zierler, et. al., 1991: Allers, et. al., 1993; Dekker, et. al., 1990), logic tells us that over $1.5 billion of this is attributable to child sexual abuse.
10 Ways to Teach Your Child the Skills to Prevent Sexual Abuse
We teach our young children all sorts of ways to keep themselves safe. We teach them to watch the hot stove, we teach them to look both ways before they cross the street. But, more often than not, body safety is not taught until much older — until sometimes, it is too late.
Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. You want to hear something even scarier? According to the US Department of Justice (nsopw.
org) only 10% of perpetrators were strangers to the child and 23% of the perpetrators were children themselves!
Related: Signs Of Sexual Abuse in Children and Adolescents
These statistics do not surprise me. In my practice I meet children on a weekly basis who have been victims of sexual abuse. Many of them are under five years old. Almost all of them knew their perpetrator and more often than not, it is another kid!
Parents will frequently tell me that they didn’t think this could happen to them. That they never leave their children with strangers. That they always keep their children within their eyesight.
Do your children go on play dates? Do they go to daycare or pre-school? Do you have friends or family over to your house? Do they play at the neighbor’s house? The fact is, you cannot fully prevent the risk of your child being sexually abused.
The children I have worked with have come from good neighborhoods, and good homes, and go to really good schools. I have worked with children who have been sexually abused on play dates, sleepovers, in the classroom, on the playground, on the school bus, in their playroom and out in their backyard.
Now that I have officially scared you to death, let’s walk you back down from that cliff. We have to allow our children to go out into the world and interact with those around them. But we can arm them with knowledge that might save them from being victimized.
Parents do not always talk to their children about body safety early enough. They think kids are too young. It is too scary. But it is never too soon, and it doesn’t have to be a scary conversation. Here are things 10 things that could help your child be less vulnerable to sexual abuse:
Related: Talking to Kids About Sexual Abuse
1. Talk about body parts early.
Name body parts and talk about them very early. Use proper names for body parts, or at least teach your child what the actual words are for their body parts.
I can’t tell you how many young children I have worked with who have called their vagina their “bottom.
” Feeling comfortable using these words and knowing what they mean can help a child talk clearly if something inappropriate has happened.
2. Teach them that some body parts are private.
Tell your child that their private parts are called private because they are not for everyone to see. Explain that mommy and daddy can see them naked, but people outside of the home should only see them with their clothes on. Explain how their doctor can see them without their clothes because mommy and daddy are there with them and the doctor is checking their body.
3. Teach your child body boundaries.
Tell your child matter-of-factly that no one should touch their private parts and that no one should ask them to touch somebody else’s private parts. Parents will often forget the second part of this sentence. Sexual abuse often begins with the perpetrator asking the child to touch them or someone else.
4. Tell your child that body secrets are not okay.
Most perpetrators will tell the child to keep the abuse a secret. This can be done in a friendly way, such as, “I love playing with you, but if you tell anyone else what we played they won’t let me come over again.
” Or it can be a threat: “This is our secret.
If you tell anyone I will tell them it was your idea and you will get in big trouble!” Tell your kids that no matter what anyone tells them, body secrets are not okay and they should always tell you if someone tries to make them keep a body secret.
5. Tell your child that no one should take pictures of their private parts.
This one is often missed by parents. There is a whole sick world out there of pedophiles who love to take and trade pictures of naked children online. This is an epidemic and it puts your child at risk. Tell your kids that no one should ever take pictures of their private parts.
6. Teach your child how to get scary or uncomfortable situations.
Some children are uncomfortable with telling people “no”— especially older peers or adults. Tell them that it’s okay to tell an adult they have to leave, if something that feels wrong is happening, and help give them words to get uncomfortable situations. Tell your child that if someone wants to see or touch private parts they can tell them that they need to leave to go potty.
7. Have a code word your children can use when they feel unsafe or want to be picked up.
As children get a little bit older, you can give them a code word that they can use when they are feeling unsafe. This can be used at home, when there are guests in the house or when they are on a play date or a sleepover.
8. Tell your children they will never be in trouble if they tell you a body secret.
Children often tell me that they didn’t say anything because they thought they would get in trouble, too. This fear is often used by the perpetrator. Tell your child that no matter what happens, when they tell you anything about body safety or body secrets they will NEVER get in trouble.
9. Tell your child that a body touch might tickle or feel good.
Many parents and books talk about “good touch and bad touch,” but this can be confusing because often these touches do not hurt or feel bad. I prefer the term “secret touch,” as it is a more accurate depiction of what might happen.
10. Tell your child that these rules apply even with people they know and even with another child.
This is an important point to discuss with your child. When you ask a young child what a “bad guy” looks they will most ly describe a cartoonish villain.
You can say something , “Mommy and daddy might touch your private parts when we are cleaning you or if you need cream — but no one else should touch you there. Not friends, not aunts or uncles, not teachers or coaches.
Even if you them or think they are in charge, they should still not touch your private parts.”
I am not naïve enough to believe that these discussions will absolutely prevent sexual abuse, but knowledge is a powerful deterrent, especially with young children who are targeted due to their innocence and ignorance in this area.
And one discussion is not enough. Find natural times to reiterate these messages, such as bath time or when they are running around naked. And please share this article with those you love and care about and help me spread the message of body safety!
This article first appeared on Natasha Daniels’ website, Anxious Toddlers.
The most effective ways to protect your child from sexual abuse
Every time we hear or read about an incident of sexual assault involving a child, there is an overwhelming urge to rush to our own children, and keep them within our eyesight for every waking minute.
In the past few months, at least three cases of minor girls being allegedly assaulted in Bengaluru schools were reported. These incidences are not a rare in India, which registers one of the highest numbers of child sexual abuse cases in the world every year. From 2001 to 2011, child rape cases jumped an alarming 336%.
And unfortunately, there isn’t much action taken.
a total of 6,816 cases registered in 2014, according to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, only 555 made it to court.
A myriad thoughts and emotions cross our minds, ranging from sadness to frustration to anger, when we read this data.
Many knee-jerk actions are taken—outpouring of sympathy for the family; angry letters and protests; hyper-vigilance around all children’s activities; and crash courses in sexual education.
And all of these go on until the dust settles, leaving behind feelings of helplessness and lack of control.
But the best thing to do—and probably the only thing we have control over—is to educate the child. Prepare him or her to minimise the risk and increase the chances of escape. Unless a foundation of healthy conversations and behaviours is laid around sexual development, isolated sessions about “good touch” and “bad touch” are insufficient and ineffective.
Here are six ways in which you, as a parent or a primary caregiver, can create an environment of healthy sexual habits and prepare your child to be safe.
First, starting from infancy, teach your children to name their private parts just as any other part of the body. They don’t have to be taboo words or secrets, just a part to be cleaned and cared for as any other. Bodily functions will always bring out a giggle or two and that’s how it should be, light-hearted and yet not ignored.
Teach your children to name their private parts just as any other part of the body.
Infants and toddlers will fondle their private parts as a way of self-soothing; it is a part of nature and a healthy part of growing up. Resist the urge to teach them that it’s a “bad thing.” The obvious pleasure that they feel, conflicts with your message, and makes them feel guilty for an action they didn’t fully understand.
They are unly to stop the behaviour, only more ly to hide it from you. Instead, teach them that touching, scratching and looking at their private parts is something that is done in the privacy of their room, and not in public. They may not respond with just one reminder; several repetitions in a non-accusing tone is the key.
Given the right response, children will grow this phase naturally and normally, without any residual feelings of guilt.
Second, young children between four and nine years tend to show general curiosity around private parts and growing bodies of their own and of their peers. Teach them to respect their bodies and that of others and tell them, “You only touch your own bodies.
” Teach them to say this to other children, too. Practice talking about it in a matter-of-fact way; separate the behaviour from the child. It’s the behaviour that you object to, you still love the child just the same.
This will encourage them to open up to you with ideas that may otherwise embarrass them.
Third, allow children of any age to be in control of their own bodies and respond with their own choice when an adult relative or a friend asks to hug or kiss them in your presence. “Only if you’d to, you can give them a hug, but you don’t ever have to do anything you don’t want to.”
As adults, practice giving affection as opposed to asking for affection. And encourage close relatives and friends to do the same. And if your child refuses to hug or kiss you, respect their wishes, instead of taking them on a guilt trip.
This will teach them that they need not comply every time an adult asks to touch or hug them, and that saying no will not have negative consequences.
Teach your child that no adult should ask them to keep secrets about their behaviour, especially if they’re seeking “affection” and not respecting the child’s boundaries.
Fourth, be aware of your own inhibitions around topics of sex and sexuality.
Sadly, most women growing up in India would have faced sexual harassment in some form or other; be it being ogled at, touched or groped in crowded areas, or worse.
These incidents, coupled with the taboo around open discussions, prime us to respond with a negative tone and body language, which our kids are quick to pick up on.
Be aware of your own inhibitions around topics of sex and sexuality.
For example, if your six-year-old daughter is talking animatedly about her body and wonders, “Mummy, when I will have big breasts you?” and your mind goes to that creep in the office, who couldn’t take his eyes off your chest, then you are more ly to tense your body and try to distract her from the conversation. A few more incidents these and she will not only learn to not talk to you about it, but be more open and vulnerable to others who are willing to talk and teach her more. Instead, keep a matter-of-fact tone and give the right answer, “When you’re grown up me, dear,” and that’s that.
A non-dramatic response will reduce her curiosity and shift her fleeting attention to something else. If you, as a parent or a caregiver, have been a victim of abuse and are struggling with persisting symptoms, seek help through a professional. Only if you’re strong mentally, can you teach your children to be the same.
Fifth, monitor media exposure. While we are reluctant to talk openly about sexual development, there seems to be less hesitation in exposing children to explicit content through TV shows or movies.
Monitor what your children watch or read, clear your search history from the computer, keep adult content magazines and newspapers reach, avoid exposure to seemingly innocent Bollywood movies (it only takes a child watching one “item number” to learn how to do the pelvic thrust.
) But you can never completely protect them from the media, so laying a foundation of trust and openness will help you keep track of what they’re learning every day and teach them to be decent.
Sixth, introduce age-appropriate sex education as and when the opportunity arises. Children are more ly to retain information when given in small doses in response to their various queries, as opposed to a half an hour lecture that goes beyond their attention span.
Don’t suddenly spring a story of birds and bees on your unsuspecting child. Or suddenly start warning them about all the male staff in their school. Casual conversations of their daily routine will give you a lot of information of what goes on in your absence and opportunities to teach them about safe practices in public.
Teach them various ways to ask for help and about the safe adults they can seek help from. As your child grows older make the conversations more sophisticated to include puberty and safe sex practices.
Teach your adolescents the values of a healthy relationship and to express love and intimacy in healthy ways, and to avoid exploitative or manipulative relationships.
The final message of any interaction with your child should be that no matter what, you will always be available unconditionally, to help them through their doubts, mistakes and adverse experiences.
This post first appeared on mycity4kids.com. We welcome your comments at email@example.com.
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