Healthy Communication with Kids: Prevention is a conversation

This month is nationally declared as sexual assault awareness month (#SAAM) and child abuse prevention month (#CAP). What’s the old adage? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Our children deserve protection and the ability to grow, learn and development in an environment that is safe and free from abuse, neglect or dysfunction. How can we do this when this issue is multifaceted? We can start by addressing sexual violence alone- 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are being sexually abused before they turn 16. This type of abuse oftentimes stems from (and can result in) neglect, mental illnesses, substance abuse, domestic violence and incarceration.

Because sexual violence has historically occurred in environments that were complicit to the abuse, now is the time to be ever mindful that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To immediately start prevention efforts in your home, read these tips and share with others on social media.

A. Communicate with your children: 

Dinner time is talking time. Go over basic facts about sexuality. Don’t use words to suggest that sexuality is bad or dirty because it is a part of life. If children don’t get answers from you, they will more than likely turn to the pornographic industry to learn about sex and human sexuality and that can open up pandora’s box for wreaking havoc.

Remember that children react to the way you react. Let them know that they can come to you and ask questions if they don’t understand something about their bodies. Talk about puberty so that pre-teens can understand the changes that will occur in their body. Keep an ongoing dialogue about sexual abuse and body safety in your household. Ask questions every time they start a new chapter in life or go to new places where they are around new people.                                         

B. Teach about their body parts:

Use the correct body part names. Explain to your child that no one has the right to touch or even look at their private parts (also referred to as bathing suit areas) and they are not allowed to see or touch other people’s private parts. If someone touches in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell the person that they do not like and do not want that kind of touch again. Children who use their voice are powerful.  

C. Teach the important steps to take if someone tries to see or touch their private areas:    

  1. Say No  to the person immediately.  

  2. Get Away from that person, especially if they are harassing.  

  3. Tell an Adult they can trust at school, at home or in the community.

Remind children that if an adult doesn't believe them the first time, they should keep telling until an adult does believe them and does something to protect them.

CHILDREN MUST BE SEEN, HEARD & BELIEVED.

Relationships & Consent:

  • Consent means giving someone a choice about touch or actions and respecting their decision.

  • Absence of a “no” does not mean “yes”.

  • A child should never be forced to show physical affection to an adult, even if it’s a relative or friend. For example: “It’s time to leave; how do you want to say goodbye?”

  • This idea may go against familial or cultural norms but that’s ok because it’s never to late to do better.