Keeping Kids Sexually Safe
Keeping Kids Sexually Safe
Before children can crawl, they learn that giving and receiving affection-like kissing, hugging, and being close to another person-can feel good. Adults know that while touch is a basic need and part of being human, some touch can be inappropriate. As parents and caregivers it's crucial that you help your children learn the difference between "good" and "bad" touch, and how to set boundaries related to their own bodies.
What to Say to Your Children
In an effort to protect very young children from harm, discussions about sexual abuse prevention need to be simple, and the messages need to be clear. Essentially children need to know which body parts are considered "private," and taught to say "NO" if someone touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable, asks them to touch their own or someone else's "private parts," or asks them to show their "private parts" to someone else. They also need to be assured that no matter what happens, sexual abuse is not their fault and they should tell a trusted adult even if they are told to keep it a secret. These messages can be shared through an initiated conversation or as "teachable moments" occur. As children enter the pre-teen and teen years, they begin to separate from parents and caregivers and have more experiences without adult supervision. For this reason, it's important to help young people establish boundaries, identify respectful and disrespectful interactions, develop assertiveness skills, and talk about what to do if they ever experience sexual abuse, assault, or harassment. The definitions below can be a starting point for these important conversations.
Sexual abuse refers to any unwanted or uncomfortable situation that can include touching "private parts," or exposing young people to pornographic materials, taking videos or other recordings, or being forced to watch a sexual act.
Sexual assault occurs when a person forces another person to have any type of intimate contact. It can involve physical or psychological force. When assault involves penetration, it is defined as rape.
Sexual harassment is any repetitive, unwanted, and uninvited sexual attention such as teasing, touching, or taunting.
Sharing Messages about Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Assault with Your Children During "Teachable Moments"
Sexual abuse, harassment, and assault are important topics to talk about with your children. Having these conversations can help your children protect themselves if they are ever in situations that make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Before talking with your children, it's helpful to consider the messages you want to share. Perhaps you want to share the following using clear, age-appropriate language.
Reprinted with the permission of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. © 2005 SIECUS.
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