Talking to your Child about Sexual Abuse

Category: Play Therapy

Talking to your Child about Sexual Abuse
By Janet Plankenhorn, LMFT

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and with that said I would like to take a few minutes of your time to help you make talking about sexual abuse comfortable for you and your children. Of course none of us want to think about the subject so it makes talking about it much more difficult. Many parents think this subject will scare their children but if you have this talk in a loving manner and come from a caring place it will give your child reassurance that they can tell you about anything and feel safe doing it.

If your child is young you can start by telling them that any place their bathing suit covers is private and no one should be touching their private areas. Assure your child that they will not get in trouble if they tell you someone is touching them; let them know you will help them. Children should also be taught the real names of their private parts, such as “vagina” and “penis”. This will help your child to use the right words to describe anything that may be happening to them, if they don’t have the words it makes it hard to define what has occurred.

Most parents teach their children about “Stranger Danger” but according to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center 93% of sexual abuse toward children happen by someone the child knows. This makes it especially important to teach children that no one should be touching them in an inappropriate manner. They should know that if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable by touching them in a private area or someone they love says “it’s our secret, don’t tell anyone” that they should tell that person to STOP and then tell someone they trust.

Parents should never force their children to give hugs and kisses to relatives and close friends. Many parents feel that it is a sign of respect for kids to hug their family members when seeing them, but if your child is uncomfortable doing this and is forced it teaches them that saying NO is not an option. Give your child the power to say no and let them make the choice who they hug and kiss hello.

Bring up the topic fairly regularly with your children so they and you become comfortable talking about it, the more you talk about it the more your kid will feel at ease around this delicate subject. Remember when you give your children the power to say “NO” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions without feeling embarrassed you are helping to empower them.