Engaging in age-appropriate conversations with children about our bodies, relationships, and boundaries helps them grasp the concept of healthy relationships. This communication empowers them with the understanding that they have the right to assert themselves by saying “no.” By fostering this awareness, children become less susceptible to individuals who might infringe upon their boundaries and are more likely to confide in you if they experience any form of abuse.
Addressing the Topic of Sexual Abuse with Children
- Instill in children the understanding that it is unacceptable for adults to engage in inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature, providing concrete examples.
- Educate them on which parts of their bodies are private and should not be touched by others.
- Highlight that potential abusers could be adults known to them, such as family members, friends, or older individuals.
- Emphasize the importance of not disclosing personal information online, including email addresses, home addresses, and phone numbers.
- Initiate conversations early and maintain an ongoing dialogue. Utilize everyday situations to discuss the subject of sexual abuse.
- Take a proactive approach. If a child displays discomfort or resistance towards a specific adult, inquire about the reasons behind their feelings.
Understand why children may be reluctant to share their fears or concerns
- The perpetrator employs tactics such as shaming the child, emphasizing that the child allowed the situation, or warning that the child’s parents will react angrily.
- Often, the abuser is manipulative, attempting to sow confusion in the child’s understanding of right and wrong, and may frame the abuse as a distorted “game.”
- In some instances, the abuser resorts to threats, potentially promising harm to the child or a family member.
- Children who initially choose not to reveal instances of abuse may feel a sense of shame when faced with its recurrence.
- Fear of disappointing their parents and causing disruption within the family can be a significant deterrent for children.
- The emotional attachment or love that children often feel towards the abuser may prevent them from reporting the abuse, as they may not want to get anyone in trouble or jeopardize the relationship.
- Additionally, some children may be too young to fully comprehend the nature of the abuse.
Gain insight into how children express themselves
- Children who reveal instances of sexual abuse frequently confide in a trusted adult who is not necessarily a parent. Hence, training individuals working with children becomes crucial.
- It’s common for children to disclose only parts of the incident or fabricate a scenario involving someone else to assess the adult’s reaction.
- If met with an emotional or negative response, children may often “shut down” and refrain from providing further details.