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Sexual Abuse: Protect Your Child

Most sexual abusers are known to you and your child. They are most often family members, friends, and caretakers rather than strangers.

Make sure you know what adults and older children are doing when they are with your child.

Be cautious of adults who:

  • Spend large amounts of time with children if it is not part of their job.
  • Flirt with your child.
  • Make your child uncomfortable or who are people your child tries to avoid.
  • Abuse drugs or alcohol.
  • Abuse their spouses.
  • Have been convicted of a previous sexual offense.

Don’t leave your child with adults you do not trust, even if your lack of trust is "just a feeling."

Support your child's right to say "no" to unwanted touching.

  • Let your child know that she can say "no" to being touched by anyone, even a relative who hugs or kisses her in a way your child does not like.
  • Watch for signs of bullying by an older child. Sexual bullies may make sexual comments, threaten to do unwanted sexual acts, or do unwanted touching, such as snapping a bra strap.
  • If a child tells you that she has been touched in a way that made her uncomfortable, take it seriously.

Screen babysitters and day care providers.

  • If your sitter is an older child or young adult, talk with the sitter's parents to get a sense of how responsible he or she is. Ask for references and check them.
  • Let the sitter know that your child does not keep secrets from you.
  • Talk with the sitter and your child when you return about how their time together went.
  • Select daycare and other programs that have a parent “open door” policy. Drop in without warning to see how things are going.

Screen day care centers and preschools.

  • Observe your child at the day-care center or preschool.
  • Ask for references and check them.
  • Make sure that you can visit the center or preschool at any time without making an appointment.
  • Talk with other parents whose children attend the center or preschool.
  • Make sure you know about planned outings before they happen.

Talk to your child about sexual abuse.

It is not always easy to discuss sexual issues with your child. It is very important to have these talks. It’s a way for you to help protect your child. Gear your explanation to your child's age. Answer your child's questions about anything she doesn’t understand.

  • Use the right words.
    • Make clear what you mean by words and phrases such as "hurt," "get into trouble," or "fool around."
    • Teach your child the correct names for sexual body parts, such as the penis and vagina. If you use the term "private parts," make sure that both you and your child know what private parts are.
  • Avoid confusion between healthy sex and sexual abuse.
    • Do not talk about healthy sex and sexual abuse at the same time.
    • Help your child understand what healthy sex is. Define healthy sex as touching that both people want and that is only for adults.
    • It is best not to talk about good touch and bad touch, because your child may think a bad touch is only something that hurts her such as scraping her knee. Define sexual abuse as the kind of touching that your child does not want. Tell your child to tell you if anyone asks her to do anything that makes her feel “funny”, “yucky” or “icky inside”.
    • Talk about the touch being sexual. For example, "Someone may try to touch your vagina when you do not want them to." Explain that it is her body and she has the right to say no, even if that person is an adult.
    • Be specific. This will make it less frightening and confusing. For example, "Someone might try to put his hands down your pants or might keep rubbing up against you or might undress in front of you."
    • Make sure that your child knows that sexual abuse is not likely to happen and that most adults and older children are good people.
  • Talk about who.
    • Make sure your child knows that it is OK to say no to anything that makes her uncomfortable, even if it is a friend or relative. Tell your child that even nice people can do bad things.
    • Caution your child about anyone who tries to bribe her to do something. For example, "I'll let you watch TV if you undress for me and don't tell."
    • Explain that it may be a person who threatens or tries to scare your child. For example, "If you don't lie down with me, I'll hit your sister."
  • Talk about secrets.
    • Let your child know she should not keep secrets from you. Explain the difference between a scary "secret" about something "bad," and a "surprise," which is usually "good." Sexual abuse is NEVER the child's fault.
    • Reassure your that she can tell you if anything bad happens and that she won’t get in trouble. Help your child feel safe and protected.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-29
Last reviewed: 2014-09-29
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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