Abuse can happen no matter how careful and vigilant a parent or caregiver is. Parents cannot anticipate every action of another adult or older, more powerful young person. Giving a young person space to learn and make mistakes is important for her/his development. That said, parents and caregivers can take precautions to make it far less likely that the children in their lives are sexually abused.
Set boundaries. Limit the number of people who can have one-on-one access to your child, and let them know that your kids have body-safety rules (privacy in the bathroom, fist-bumps instead of hugs, etc.).
Teach Consent. Give your child permission to not do anything with their body that makes them uncomfortable and empower them to voice their body-safety rules.
Abusers often shame kids about their “private parts” to keep them silent. Have age-appropriate conversations with your child about their bodies and about healthy relationships using the proper physiological names for body parts (penis, vagina, etc.). Talk to your child about abuse and what to do if they or someone they know is experiencing abuse. Have these conversations more than one time.
Observe and listen. Pay attention to signs of abuse in kids and suspicious behaviors in others. Watch for, and set boundaries with, people with “touching problems” and those who pay an unusual amount of attention to your child.
Prepare. Kids who have been abused tend to hint about what happened because they are unsure what they should share or how you will react. If they feel you’re receptive, they may disclose more information. Be prepared to listen to them and take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.
Instincts. Trust them. If your gut is telling you not to leave your kid with someone, don’t. If you notice your child’s mood or behavior change before or after they’ve been with someone, ask questions.
Talk to people you know. Get the word out about child abuse. Share resources with your friends. Let people know how common it is and how they can protect the children in their lives.