Talking to Your Kids About Sexual Abuse

The plan that follows, below, is from an expert on the subject of child sexual abuse.  Prior to that information, here is how one mom talked about the topic with her children, ages 9 and 7.

“I decided to bring up the topic casually, while driving in the car with my children.  I said, ‘Hey, guys, you know how we’ve talked about privates (for us, this includes all private areas of their body), well, I just want to be sure you know that no one should ever touch you there or ask to see those parts of your body—that’s why we call them privates.

‘If someone ever does try to do that, or does do that, let Mommy and Daddy know.  Even if the person says it’s a secret, or that they’ll hurt you or us if you tell.  If they say it’s your fault and you’ll get in trouble, don’t believe them.  Just tell Dad and me.  We’ll take care of that person, because what they’re doing isn’t right and they shouldn’t do that to a child.’

I could tell my older child was uncomfortable, and she said, “Mom! Okay, okay.” but I could tell that she got it.”

Now, the expert’s opinion:

Discussing sexuality and/or sexual abuse with your child can be uncomfortable, but in today’s world responsible parents cannot afford to skirt the issue. Here are some practical suggestions to incorporate in your home:

  • Plan a specific time to sit down with your child to discuss sexual abuse.
  • Explain to your child that God made their body very special. Every part of their body is good, but some parts of their body are private.
  • Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. If your child is young, consider sharing the above information during their bath time. Another idea is to have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.”
  • Let your child know they must tell you if anyone touches them in the private areas—no matter who the person is, or what the person says to them. Assure your child they will not be in trouble if they tell you they’ve been touched inappropriately—rather, you will be proud of them, and help them through the situation.

It is possible that when you have this conversation with your child, he or she may reveal inappropriate contact someone has had with them in the past. Listen closely to what your child says, but avoid asking a lot of questions. Young children are sometimes quick to affirm information that may or may not be true. Instead, let your child know you believe them and love them. Report suspected sexual abuse to your local law enforcement agency, which will work to substantiate or rule out the information.

As parents, we will never completely eliminate the possibility that our child will be sexually abused—there are simply too many factors outside of our control. Nonetheless, parents empower their children through simple conversation and love. A conversation with your child could save them, and you, a lifetime of pain.

Used with permission from Focus on the Family.

© 2011 iMOM. All Rights Reserved. Family First, All Pro Dad, iMOM, and Family Minute with Mark Merrill are registered trademarks.