In the first part of this two-part blog series, we explored 8 primary reasons children do not disclose abuse. For a variety of reasons, 73% of children do not disclose that they have been abused for at least one year… and some never tell anyone they've been abused. Research indicates certain children can be more susceptible to sexual predators, including those with obedient, compliant and respectful personalities. Children living in poverty are at great risk, as are those in single-parent homes or from families dealing with high tension or challenging issues.
So, is it possible for children to play an active role in keeping themselves safe from abuse? You bet! Is it also possible to help children feel comfortable enough to tell someone if they are being abused? Absolutely. A terrific place to start is through building a child's confidence and teaching him the facts about what to do or not do in the event he is ever abused.
5 Things Every Kid Should Know
It’s vital that children know how to keep their bodies safe and what to do if someone should try to molest or harm them. Emphasize with children these 5 points to arm them with facts, reassure their actions and work to combat any fear of disclosure they might have:
1) Be sure children know the proper names of body parts and which ones are “private” and “just for them”. It’s important to teach children proper body part names so in the tragic event they are molested, they will know how to describe what happened to them in terms other people can understand. I can’t overemphasize how important this is! I was involved in an interview one time where a child called a penis an “esophagus”… now that’s confusing! They also need to know which parts of their bodies are just for them, that no one should touch for “no good reason” or “just to play a game”.
2) Talk about the differences between a “surprise” and a “secret”. Surprises are supposed to be fun things like celebrating a birthday or special holiday. Secrets are things that people keep between themselves. Reinforce with your children that secrets should never involve touches to private body parts and that if anyone ever asks them to keep a “secret” from their parents, they should immediately tell you.
3) Reassure children that abuse could never, ever be their fault! If someone tells a child he is to blame, that person is flat-out lying. This point cannot be overemphasized and is a common blame-game tactic used by sexual predators to keep children silent about abuse.
4) Teach children to say “NO!” to any touches to private body parts that are for “no good reason” or “just to play a game”. I can't begin to count the number of times I've talked with children who found the strength to say “NO!” or resisted a predator's attempts… and that very action kept them from becoming victims. Again, sexual predators often seek out children who are obedient or compliant. Help your child find the confidence to tell someone “NO!” like they mean it if they are ever in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. Seriously, have them practice using outdoor voices inside — say “NO!” with gusto!
5) List with your child the people in her life she could talk to if she was ever abused. Ask her with which adults she is most comfortable in confiding. Is it a parent? Grandparent? Teacher? Talk through that list with your child so she identifies for herself who those confidants would be. Also, discuss the fact that if she were to disclose to someone who didn't believe her, that she should go and talk with someone else… and keep doing that until someone listens, believes and takes action to protect her.
The more freely and openly families, schools, churches and other communities involving children talk about abuse and keeping kids safe, the more difficult it will be for abuse to thrive in the shadows. Improve the world one child at a time and help children build the confidence to speak-up and arm them with the knowledge that they don’t have to keep abuse to themselves… there is a way to stop it.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at gingerkadlec.com.