April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a survivor myself, this topic is pretty close to my heart. Last month, the mothers of Momversation had a chat about it. This week, Catherine Connors from Her Bad Mother talks about her own experiences, and her decision to speak out about abuse.
As many as one in five children are sexually abused. But we’re not doing any better than our parents did at teaching our kids how to understand, avoid and report abuse when it occurs. The vast, vast majority of child abuse is perpetrated by people a child knows. Yet most parents stress the dangers posed by strangers when talking to children about abuse. A recent study suggests that parents today are making the same mistakes in communicating with our kids that parents did 20 years ago, and 30 years ago.
How should we protect our children? Child advocacy group Darkness to Light advises parents on seven steps they can take to help their kids:
- Learn the Facts – Understand the real prevalence of sexual abuse, and that it typically occurs at the hands of family members and trusted friends.
- Minimize Opportunity – Reduce or eliminate situations where your child is alone with another adult.
- Talk About It – Make sure your kids know, from a very young age, what kinds of touch are not OK, and give them frequent opportunities to talk about their bodies, their development and their experiences.
- Stay Alert – Most abuse victims show no physical signs of their abuse. Watch for emotional cues. Darkness to Light says, “These can run from “too perfect” behavior, to withdrawal and depression, to unexplained anger and rebellion.”
- Make A Plan – Know what you’ll do if your child tells you she or he has been abused, before you’re confronted with that reality.
- Act On Suspicions – Trust your instincts, and report suspected abuse.
- Get Involved – Donate your time, money and energy to making sexual abuse education a priority in your community.
Have you talked with your kids about sexual abuse? What did you say? Do your own childhood experiences color how you handle this issue with your kids?
Photo: Pink Sherbert Photography
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