Learn about abuse:
Child abuse and neglect knows no social, economic, religious, ethnic, or educational backgrounds.
Child sexual abuse is the most prevalent health problem children face and it has the most serious consequences.
Without treatment, abused and traumatized children:
- Suffer from severe anger and depression
- Have difficulty forming healthy relationships
- Are at increased risk for dropping out of school
- Can become addicted to drugs and alcohol
- Often turn to crime: 70% of young people in juvenile court have a history of abuse or neglect
- Frequently become violent and abusive themselves: being abused as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as an adult for a violent crime by 30%
- Disclosing abuse is incredibly difficult for children. In the majority of cases, children do not disclose abuse immediately following an event.
- Child abuse survivors face many barriers that make disclosing abuse especially difficult.
Barriers such as:
- Developmental factors: language development, understanding that the experience was abusive, inability to interpret the event.
- External factors: threats made by the perpetrator, the lack of proof that the abuse occurred, secrecy within the abusive relationship and pressure not to tell.
- Internal psychological factors: feeling responsible for the abuse, shame, feelings of helplessness, fear that no one will believe them, love or loyalty for the perpetrator.
- Consequences of disclosure: unbelieving and unsupportive family members, family disruption, moving, fear of getting into trouble, loss of housing, loss of primary income.
- Recanting, or withdrawing, an allegation of abuse is not rare and often affected by the barriers listed above. In all child abuse cases, it is estimated that children recant 22% of the time; of this, 90% reaffirm their abuse later in life.
Tips for Teaching Safety:
We teach our children about safety all the time; look both ways before crossing the street, keep your hands to yourself, put on sunscreen before going outside. Unfortunately, body safety usually isn’t taught to kids until they are older. It is never too soon to talk to children about keeping their body safe!
Teach children the real names for their body parts and talk about them early
Teach them that some body parts are private
Talk about and practice body boundaries with children
Practice open communication about safety, sex, and body autonomy at home – these are not one time conversations
Help your children identify and trust their feelings
Teach them the difference between secrets and surprises and that there should never be secrets about their body
Teach children that no one should take pictures of their private body parts
Make sure your children know that if unsafe touching happens that it is not their fault and they will not get in trouble for telling
Help your children identify other adults they can tell to if something unsafe happens (teachers, counselors, police etc)
Tell children that all of these rules apply even with adults and children they already know