You may warn your children about looking both ways before they cross the street or not touching a hot stove, but the issue of sexual abuse may be a topic you don’t want to broach.
It may seem like an uncomfortable topic, you don’t want to make your child paranoid, or you simply think they are too young to talk about the dangers of sexual abuse. But silence on the topic could lead to years of pain for a child.
An estimated 75% of children won’t talk about being sexually abused for a year after it happens. Another 45% stay silent for 5 years.
“We talk all the time about all kinds of things: what’s going on on the internet, how you should behave, how you should interact with others,” said Chris Newlin, Executive Director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville. “If children don’t know we are open to talking about the issue of sexuality, how can we expect them to come to us?”
One way Newlin suggests handling the subject with young children is telling them to come to you if someone makes them uncomfortable. The child’s suspicion may lead to nothing, but a watchful eye may prevent abuse.
“One good way to talk about it is to say any part of your body that’s covered by your bathing suit is off-limits. If anybody touches you there, you tell me,” suggested Newlin.
Newlin also says it’s unwise to feel you are immune. About 90% of child sexual abuse is committed by a trusted friend, teacher, or even family member of the victim and his or her family.
The National Children’s Advocacy Center has programs to learn about prevention, intervention, and counseling.