Thoughtful Parenting: Preventing child abuse
One in four girls and one in seven boys are victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18. These statistics are scary and staggering.
Due to the prevalence of child sexual abuse, parents should educate themselves on strategies to protect their child. Sexual abuse crosses all boundaries and is not limited by ethnicity, geography or socio-economic standing.
One of the most important ways to prevent child sexual abuse is to be educated on who the offenders are and stranger danger and to realize tales of creepy men in vans offering candy to lure in unsuspecting children are largely false. Ninety percent of sexual offenders are known to their victims. They are family members, people in positions of trust (coaches, teachers, etc.), and older children — 50 percent of offenders are teenagers.
Grooming is the process by which an offender draws a victim into a sexual relationship and maintains that relationship in secrecy. Sexual offenders establish a trusting relationship with their victim by spending time with the child and making them feel special.
Offenders often use presents, gifts and other tricks to manipulate and silence the victim. The grooming process gradually desensitizes the child and violates their boundaries. Victims are taught by threats, manipulations, bribes and blackmail to keep the abuse a secret.
Offenders give their victims the impression that they have consented or even that they initiated the relationship. In this way, offenders shift the blame from themselves and onto the child. The child may then feel responsible for the abuse and feel too ashamed or scared to tell anyone.
For younger children, teach My Private Body Rules:
• I know what to call my private body parts. Use anatomically correct names like penis and vagina. Cute names confuse children, send messages of shame and complicate investigations
• I am responsible for my private body parts and have the right to keep them private. Teach your child that no one has the right to touch or look at their private body parts. The only exceptions are for hygiene and medical exams. Other people are responsible for keeping their own private body parts private. It is never OK for someone to ask you to touch or look at their private body parts.
• Other people’s private parts are also private, and I am not allowed to look at or touch their private body parts. It is not OK for someone to show me pictures of people without their clothes on.
• Games with private body parts are never OK.
Many children and adults have misconceptions that a sexual abuse incident would be violent, painful and terrifying. In fact, most sexual abuse occurs in the context of a “game.” Remember, a perpetrator is concerned about secrecy — if it were violent, it would be more likely to get reported.
• Telling is the only way to make private body rule breakers to stop. If anyone tries to break a private body rule, you should never keep it a secret and always tell an adult that will help. If your child knows about someone having a private body rule broken they need to tell to make it stop.
(My Private Body Rules are courtesy of: Meghan Hurley Backofen, LCSW.)
Please call the Routt County Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 970-367-4056 to report concerns about a child’s safety and wellbeing.
Clarice Hubbell is a certified child life specialist and lead case manager for Partners in Routt County. She a member of the Routt County Youth Services Coalition and is chair of the Parent Empowerment Taskforce.
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