Starting the conversation around sexual assault with your child can be easy when combined with early development experiences and on-going conversations.
Conversations worth having may not always be easy, but they are worth it.
Per RAINN, child protective services substantiates or finds evidence for a claim of child sexual abuse every 9 minutes. Of those reported cases, 93% of perpetrators are known to the children who experience child sexual abuse, and 34% of those perpetrators are family members.
Experience teaches us that developing an understanding of situations can be more effective than expecting individuals to protect themselves, especially where children are involved. In the case of sexual assault, this means developing a relationship with your children that provides accurate, age-appropriate information and boosts their confidence that you will support them.
Where to Start
Starting the conversation about safety at an early age means that future discussions do not have to be sudden or shocking. Begin with teaching young children a basic understanding of their bodies, provide information about boundaries, and help them establish appropriate and inappropriate interactions.
Understanding Their Bodies
Teach children the words to describe their body parts. This can normalize their understanding and make it easier to ask questions and express concerns surrounding them.
Teach children which areas of the body are okay to touch or see. This can establish future dialogue and allow them to understand what is okay and what is not okay.
Understanding The Power of No
Teach children that they are allowed to say “no” when they are touched in any way that makes them uncomfortable. Children are taught to follow rules and mind their manners. Supporting your child to say no, even if it creates an uncomfortable position like denying a hug from family members, respects their decision and empowers them in the future.
Reassure Them They Are Not To Blame
Teach children that you will never be mad at them for asking questions or talking about their experiences. Provide a safe space for them to share information, no matter how uncomfortable it may make them.
Remind them that it is never their fault if someone touches them inappropriately, establishing understanding and a future basis against victim-blaming.
Be a Positive Role Model
Teach children the value of empathy and kindness by demonstrating it in your day-to-day routines. Pick up an item for someone who may have dropped it, or discuss their feelings with them by listening and replying with honest and open answers. Reinforce normal, positive ways to behave to instill that confidence in them.
Good Secrets & Bad Secrets
It’s okay to teach children the importance of keeping secrets, but they should be able to identify when a secret is worth talking about. Explain to them that secrets should not be kept because someone is tricking them or bribing them into keeping it, such as letting them do things you may not or making promises. Tell them directly that they should never be afraid to talk to you, no matter what someone says.
Continuing the Conversation
As your child becomes a teen, these conversations become the foundational support in talking about sexual assault.
Make Conversations Relevant
Don’t be afraid to ask your teen about relevant conversations taking place in the media. This can include social media, a new movie, the news, or even a popular television show. Ask if they might watch an episode with you. Provide them with the ability to ask questions, give their opinion, and value their point of view.
Become A Storyteller
Don’t exaggerate the truth. Share your personal experiences with truth and honesty, making conversations relevant and real to teens. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your personal story, look to stories of friends and families that you may use.
Establish Care For Others
Establish what it means to be a good friend and allow your teen the ability to express their views. These conversations can establish that you trust them to do the right thing & communicate safety they may not have previously considered.
Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Sexual Assault
Lack of direct conversation can mean that sexual assault is not something a teen understands or even truly knows about. With exposure to media rising as they grow, ensure that you are in front of the conversation and deepen your discussion of boundaries and inappropriate contact.
Talking to your children can open lines of communication, reinforce self-esteem, and help define personal rights and boundaries. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
If your child has experienced sexual abuse, call 812-422-9372 and request to speak with an advocate who can provide information and support.