Talking to Your Children
Because offenders get their power through secrecy one of the most effective means of protecting your child is communication with your child. They need to feel comfortable discussing sensitive matters with you. If they feel they can talk with you, then they will be more likely to tell you when they are put in an uncomfortable situation.
Notice when someone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Talk to your children about the person, and find out why that person is acting in this way.
Look and listen to small cues and clues indicating something may be troubling your child. Trust your gut.
Provide oversight and supervision of your children's use of computers and the internet.
Set clear family boundaries - clear guidelines for personal privacy and behavior.
Signs of Possible Abuse
Note that any one sign does not mean that a child was abused. Some of the behaviors can show up during stressful times in a child's life, as well as when abuse occurs. If you see several of these signs in a child you know well, talk to them.
- Extreme changes of behavior and appetite
- Displays mature (beyond their years) sexual behaviors and/or talk
- Sudden fear of the dark, sleeping alone, sleep disturbances, bedwetting and loss of sleep
- Regression to infantile behavior such as thumb sucking, excessive crying
- Suddenly changes the way they think of themselves and/or their body
- Suddenly has money, toys, gifts without reason
- Change in school pattern
- Suicide attempts, drug and/or alcohol abuse
- A sudden change in overall behavioral actions
- Make statements and/or leave clues that they want you to ask questions
- Sudden changes in attitude toward a certain person
- Ask other children to behave sexually or play sexual games
- Open communication is absolutely vital; talk with your child, listen to your child and observe your child's actions, activities and habits.
- Empower your child; let them know that it IS illegal for an adult to touch them in a sexual manner. Reinforce with your child that you will never blame them if something of this nature was to happen.
- Explain that some adults may tell them to keep secret their relationship and prey on their emotions by using fear.
- Explain to your child that some offenders may be teachers, coaches, friends and even family members, not just strangers.
- Teach your child NOT to take short cuts when walking or riding a bicycle in public, they should ONLY use main roads that offer high visability.
- It's important for parents to remember that only 7% of sex offenders are complete strangers to their victims. Do not let "obvious" signs go unnoticed because of the closeness of the relationship.
- Teach younger children that the parts covered by their bathing suit are their private areas.
- We teach our children to obey adults and be respectful, but you need to again empower your children that it's OK to say no to an adult that is violating their private areas and/or making them feel uncomfortable.
- Parents, keep discussions about sexual abuse short and simple. Children often are easily embarrassed by talk of this nature and forcing it upon them at length can have a negative effect. Short simple discussions have proven to be more effective.
- Always be available to your children and let them know that you will always put them first, no matter what. Children need to have confidence and trust with their parents if they are to disclose a traumatic incident that is very unfamiliar to them, such as this.