Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Knowledge is power. I was pleasantly surprised to see a very well written article entitled, “Protect Your Child from a Predator” in my November 2012 issue of Parent’s Magazine. I appreciate the renewed efforts to educate people about the prevalence of child sexual abuse even though it’s been sparked by the tragedy at Penn State. But that’s how we make meaning out of tragedy, isn’t it? By helping prevent the same horror from happening to others, we can create something good out of something really awful.

Here are some highlights from the article that I think every parent, person who wants to be a parent, and anyone else who thinks kids deserve to live a childhood free from those who would steal their innocence should know:

–       1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 (the National Sexual Violence Resource Center).

–       90% of offenders are relatives of the victim, or acquaintances such as neighbors, family friends, teachers, and coaches. These folks appear to the outside world to be warm and caring, loving and respectful.

Why most prevention strategies we’ve heard aren’t helpful:

–       Expecting kids to sort out negative touch and positive touch can be a tall order, especially because it doesn’t always start out feeling “yucky.” Also, some sexual abuse doesn’t begin with touch, but rather exposure to pornography or the offender’s body.

–       Saying things like, “you should scream” or “you should run” puts the burden on the child and sends the unintended message to a child who has already been abused that the child was responsible for the abuse by not protecting him/herself.

Instead, do this:

–       Read the entire article.  Please.  It gives an age-by-age guide of how to prevent abuse, as well as clues on knowing who’s in your child’s life, recognizing red flags, and how to talk about abuse. It also lists resources about where to turn for help.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, I urge you to deal with it if you haven’t already. Your story needs to be told in a safe environment. Let me know if you’d like help finding that safe environment. Blessings to you on your journey.

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