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.
What can you do? STOP IT!
Set boundaries. Limit the number of people who can have one-on-one access to your child. When someone does have that kind of access, it’s okay to let them know that your kids have body-safety rules (privacy in the bathroom, fist-bumps instead of hugs, etc.). Give your child permission to not do anything with their body he or she is uncomfortable doing.
Talk to your kids. Have age-appropriate conversations with your child about their bodies and healthy relationships. Starting at a young age, use the proper physiological names for body parts (penis, vagina, etc.). Abusers often use shame kids have about their “private parts” to keep them silent. Talk to your child about abuse and what do to if they or someone they know is experiencing abuse. Have these conversations more than one time.
Observe. Pay attention to signs of abuse in kids and suspicious behaviors in others. Watch for people with “touching problems” and those who pay an unusual amount of attention to your child. Set boundaries with these people!
Prepare. How would you respond if your child (or another young person) told you he or she was sexually abused? It’s common for kids who have been abused to hint about what happened, because they’re are unsure what they should share or how you will react. If they feel you’re receptive, they may continue to drop more hints. 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 your community. Get the word out. Let people know how common it is and how they can protect kids in their lives. Share resources with your friends.