HOW TO Ai??EDUCATE YOUR CHILD ON BODY SAFETY: ONE PIECE TO THE PUZZLE
This is an article that has been copied from a website called TheMammaBearEffectAi??please click on this link to read the article in its original format, and with pictures.
Ukukhanya seeks to prevent abuse in all forms, but does not specifically work with sexual abuse, if you suspect a child of being sexually abused please contact PATCH:Ai??0218526110 Ai??If you suspect an adult (over 18y) is being sexually abused contact RAPE CRISIS:Ai??0218525620
Below you will find age-by-age suggestions for educating children about their bodies & child body safety, and empowering them with techniques to deter the threat of sexual abuse.
All children develop and mature in their own time, so please, use your best judgement on what lessons you believe your child is capable of understanding for their age/development.
While our first goal is to protect children from abuse, by tackling the often ignored issues of human reproduction & sexuality, we’re also striving to raise children that understand their bodies, feel comfortable and confident, and hopefully feel comfortable discussing their bodies and sexuality with parents and guardians that love and support them. Even more, we hope these lessons will diminish the number of abusers by raising children that understand sexual abuse is wrong – with the ability to better empathize and respect the rights and feelings of others.
It is our hope that, with this information, children will be better protected from abuse and more open to disclose abuse, should it occur – but there are never any guarantees that a child could ever be educated in such a way that they could doubtlessly thwart the tactics and well-honed skills of a sexual predator. It would be foolish and dangerous to believe so. Educating children is only one facet to combating the threat of sexual abuse – ultimately, their safety is our responsibility and there is much that we need to know and do to minimize risk, and be aware of signs for potential abuse/symptoms a child has been abused. With that said, let’s get started.
FROM DAY ONE.
While you’re delighting in your newborn child, it may seem inconceivable that someone else could even imagine exploiting your child. Sadly enough, this does happen.
Especially if you are using an over-night nannying service, daycare, babysitters, or have extended or non-family members living with you, it is important to be cognizant of the possibility.
Perform background checks and call references for all people you hire to care for your child. Do not accept unexpected substitutes if you have not previously interviewed and performed background checks and spoken personally with references.
Often, with infants, the abuse is suspected due to physical signs:
Bruising, swelling, redness, or tearing of the anus or vagina
HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES AND EVERYTHING ELSE! (4 MONTHS+)
If you’re teaching your baby the names of body parts – by all means start now to say the proper name for their genitalia. Penis is penis. For girls you may use vulva (which is the name for female external genitalia), labia (if you want to be specific about the folds of skin), or vagina which many use, but is actually the term for the actual passage to the uterus.
The sooner you do it, the more practiced you will be at making these acceptable, comfortable, non-taboo words. You can start as soon as you want, during diaper changes you can build it into conversation with your baby, “I’m just wiping your penis off and then I’ll get you a new diaper.”
Abusers have been known to make up “fun” nicknames for private parts to make sexual abuse seem OK to a child. If your child begins calling their private parts by a different name – you should find out where they learned it from.
Before you know it, you’ll have a little one that can point to their genitalia by name – without shame! Shame and embarrassment talking about genitalia and sexuality are a driving force in holding children back from talking about their bodies when they have questions or concerns, and in the case of abuse – disclosing the abuse and being saved from further exploitation.
UNDERSTANDING PRIVATE PARTS (18+MONTHS)
Children thrive on structure at a very early age. Just like scheduling naps, bedtime routines, timeouts, teaching manners etc. Children want to know what is expected from them and from others. Read the below information and make body safety and open communication about sexuality, respect, and responsibility part of your family’s core values.
Starting before or at age 2, explain what private parts are: parts that are covered by a bathing suit. Tell them that people’s private parts should be kept private – out of sight/touch of other people – which is why we wear underwear/bathing suits to cover our privates.
As they get older make sure they understand that bathing, toileting, dressing, and sleeping are times when people should have privacy ai??i?? both children and adults.
SAFE AND UNSAFE TOUCH (18 MONTHS+)
Sometimes it is necessary for a person to touch or look your child’s private parts. When you’re changing a diaper or applying cream, washing a young child at bath time, a doctor’s visit (with a parent present & watching.) These are called safe touches.
Unsafe touches are when people try to touch/see or show their own privates – they might rub, tickle, or grab, and it might make you you feel scared, uncomfortable, or sad.
Sometimes, people might try to play a “game” with privates – “It’s a rule”: we do not tickle, or play games with private parts.
Conversely, we need to teach our children that we do not show other people our privates, touch people with our privates, or try to look at or touch their privates. You may think that this is understood when talking to your young child about their private parts, but it is necessary to explain that body respect is a two-way street. (As a parent to a two year old who understands that his own privates shouldn’t be touched, I have learned that I also need to reinforce that he cannot touch with his privates or other peoples privates, either.)
“IT’S A RULE”: HUGS, KISSES, AND BEING TOUCHED IS ALWAYS OPTIONAL (18 MONTHS+)
This is a scene seen too often. A child being forced to sit on the lap of Santa or the Easter Bunny for that “memorable” photo of them screaming & squirming. It’s not funny, and more importantly – it’s sending a subliminal message with negative implications.
Even if it’s a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or well meaning stranger – all children have the right to not engage in physical contact with someone if they’re not comfortable.
From a very young age, our children depend on us to provide security and protection. When we force them to be held, kiss, or hug someone that they’re uncomfortable with – we’re telling them that their personal space and feelings are not important or in their control.
We’re essentially telling them that they should submit when a person of authority/power wants to engage in physical contact, even when they don’t want to. Abusers are not foolish, they understand the power they hold over the child and the assumption of others that their intentions are good.
A doctor’s visit, when it is necessary for their health to be examined, is an exception. As best you can, depending on their age, comfort and explain that it is necessary and you are there for them. You should always be present in the room and not just physically, but mentally. We’ve had adults come to us telling us how their own doctors touched them inappropriately while their parents were sitting in the room reading a magazine and not paying attention.
Forced affection is not respect. Respect is a mutual understanding between two people, regardless of age or position. Affection should also be mutual, and adults should respect a child’s right to engage in affection when they’re ready and willing, not because we think they should or because we know that our intentions are good.
And vice versa, our children should not be forcing someone else to take a kiss, a hug, or be touched/tickled. If someone says no, pushes or runs away, or seems uncomfortable – they need to stop and give that person space. We all deserve to have our personal space respected.
KIDS LOVE TO SAY NO, AND SOMETIMES THAT’S A GOOD THING! (18 MONTHS+)
By example, teach your children that ai???noai??? will be respected if they do not want to be touched (ex. tickling, hugging, or kissing). If your child says no – stop. And tell them you stopped because they said no. Donai??i??t make them hug, kiss, or engage with people if they are uncomfortable, and if they are telling someone no or stop (even if itai??i??s grandpa) and that person is not listening ai??i?? stop them and explain why it is important for your childai??i??s safety to respect them when they say ai???no.ai??? Let them know they can say no to anyone – a teacher, a coach, an older kid etc if they are trying to do anything involving someone’s body that they don’t like or know is inappropriate.
And again, we must teach our children that if someone else says “no”, they must respect that as well and stop if they’re doing something that is making a person mad, scared, or sad.
THE RULE: SOMETIMES OUR MOUTH ARE PRIVATE, TOO! (2 YEARS+)
Just like we tell our children that putting toys and random objects into their mouths is a “no, no” – it’s important to tell them that other things are not OK to go into their mouth as well.
We brush our teeth and use floss, which a big person has to help them with, sometimes they might have a hair or piece of food stuck in their mouth and want it out, but no one should be sticking things or body parts into their mouth “just for fun” – and it’s NEVER OK for someone to put their private parts in their mouth and vice versa.
Before taking a trip to the dentist or doctor’s office explain that they will be looking and touching inside their mouth but it is OK because 1. mommy or daddy is there and 2. it’s the doctor’s job to check their throat/teeth/tongue etc.
Let them know that they should say “no” if they don’t want something in their mouth and tell you if someone tries to do this and you’ll tell them if it’s OK or not.
BOYS VS GIRLS… “THEY HAVE “WHAT”? (3 YEARS+)
Before you know it, your child will figure out that boys and girls are different in more ways than one. They may see you dressing/toileting, or watch a diaper change and notice that there is something different about their body and someone of the opposite sex.
Don’t be embarrassed, don’t try to avoid the topic – just be honest! No shame!
“Boys have penises and that’s what makes them special, which is why we call them private parts. And girls have a vagina (or you can also use vulva or , which is what makes them special.”
Get a book on introducing this subject so that you are in control of introducing this knowledge to them and so they feel it’s a comfortable subject to be curious about. Check out our book references page for suggestions.
If you’re worried about whether your child’s curiosity is healthy or concerning, check out Stop It Now’s page on Age-Appropriate Sexual Behavior.
HOW DID THE BABY GET IN THE BELLY? (3 YEARS+)
You may be fearing this question, but can you blame them for being curious?
Young children 3-6 years will most likely be OK with simply being told that the baby starts out very small and grows in the belly. If they really want to know how the baby gets in there, there is nothing wrong with explaining that when all girls are born they have millions of eggs inside them, and sometimes the egg turns into a baby. And again – check out a book to show them pictures of how babies develop – it’s fascinating!
“IT IS MY JOB TO PROTECT YOU. YOU CAN TALK TO ME.” (3 YEARS+)
If someone threatens them, or does something that they feel is wrong or makes them uncomfortable, you want them to tell you. You will be proud of them for telling you. And more importantly, you want your children to feel comfortable to come to you when they have questions about their bodies, how various parts function, and eventually how their bodies will change during puberty. Many of us know the feeling of going through puberty and feeling afraid or awkward to talk to our parents about it. Isn’t that kind of silly? It’s a part of life and we need to approach the subject with the same amount of comfort and truth as anything else. Open, loving, honest communication is essential.
What might someone say? Talk to your children about these common “tricks” that people might try and let them know they should always come to you if someone says something that scares or makes them feel uncomfortable them:
“I’ll hurt you.” “I’ll hurt ________ “(your parent, your sibling, your friend, your pet etc.)
“The police will come after you.”
“Your parents will be mad at you.”
“You’ll be in trouble.”
“No one will believe you.”
“Tricky” things they might say:
“Your parent said this was OK.”
“This is a game.”
“This is our secret.”
“I’ll give you _____.”
“This is what big kids do – don’t be a baby.”
“I thought we were friends.”
“This is what people who love each other do.”
“This will make me happy.”
“Don’t you want to be a good boy/girl?”
“You have to do what I say I’m ______”(older, bigger, person of authority – family/community)
“IT’S A RULE”: NO GIFTS WITHOUT PERMISSION (3 YEARS+)
Let your children know they are not allowed to accept gifts, money, or special favors without asking Mom or Dad first. It can be confusing for a child to be sexually abused, because the abuse can often “feel good” to their bodies. They don’t understand that it’s wrong. Abusers are often very good about not physically hurting the child (at least not right away) because they don’t want them to tell. On top of that they will give the child special treatment, favors, or give them gifts, money, alcohol, drugs etc to further encourage them to remain silent. If the abuse is continues, the child may begin to feel that they are “allowing” this abuse, that they are responsible for their actions – further reducing the chance that they will tell someone. But children also know rules are important – make sure your kids know the rules about secrets & gifts.
“IT’S A RULE”: NO SECRETS THAT YOU CAN’T TELL MOM/DAD (3 YEARS+)
Even convicted abusers have admitted being surprised by how easy it was to get a child to keep their abuse a secret. Secrecy is, obviously, essential for the abuser to victimize.
Many abusers will groom children by testing them to keep small secrets (don’t tell mom I gave you this) and then take it further. By teaching your children at an early age that secrets from mommy/daddy are not allowed, you are reducing the risk for this ploy to work on your child.
A surprise is one thing – because the end result will be the person finding out. A secret is not allowed. Lead by example and make sure the child and your friends/family know that secrets are not allowed – even if it’s just about sneaking some cookies before supper.
TELL MOMMY/DADDY IF YOU GET AN ‘ICKY FEELING’ (3 YEARS+)
We’ve probably all experienced a moment where we were around someone or in a situation and had an uneasy feeling, usually in our stomach. We could sense that a person’s intentions weren’t good. Kids can feel this too. Sometimes this is referred to as an “icky” feeling.”
Let your children know to trust this feeling and that is is very important that they tell you if a person or situation makes them feel this way. It could be a family member, friend, teacher, coach, neighbor etc.
A good book to address and discuss this concept is “I Said -No” by Kimberly King.
“SOMETIMES NICE PEOPLE DO THE WRONG THING” (3+YEARS)
While many use the term “monster” to describe sexual abusers – they do not usually come into the life of their victim formed as such. If anything, it’s quite the opposite – it’s someone they believe loves them and they love in return. It’s someone they trust, they look up to and enjoy being around -someone that has made them feel special, especially if they are lacking close relationships with others, specifically parents/family.
Even when sexual activity is introduced into the relationship, not all children will understand the extent of the abuse right away. By the time they do – it may seem too late to tell. The feelings of complicity, responsibility, and guilt make them afraid to tell. They may feel bound to protect their abuser- “your parents will kill me” “I’ll lose my job” “they’ll put me/us in jail.” People think that a child would become afraid of their abuser, but the truth is, they may still care for this person and may be afraid of losing the relationship.
It’s also important that we do not take on a position of violence if someone were to hurt our children – “I’d kill anyone that hurt you,” because this attitude may make a child even more afraid to tell – they may not want this person to be hurt or have their someone else get into trouble.
We must do our best to explain to our children that people that do the wrong thing don’t always look like “bad” people. That even we, as parents, might even trust the wrong people. Which is why we must remind them it’s always right to tell and that it’s never too late – we wont be angry or disappointed, we will believe them and listen. This is one of the most difficult lessons for both adults and children to understand, because so often – people do not even suspect abusers, don’t believe victims when they tell, and are too often, quick to forgive & make excuses for abusers because they often are “nice” people respected by many.
PRACTICE SAYING “NO” AND OTHER TACTICS (3+ YEARS)
While we can never guarantee that our children will have the fortitude to escape a bad situation (especially when abusers are often people they know & trust), we can do our best to give them to skills and prepare them for the unexpected. Abuse often starts with grooming – building a close relationship and testing of trust/secrecy with gradual introduction of intimacy/sexual interaction.
When potential abusers know that a child has been taught body safety and that their parents are educated on abuse prevention – this is often a red light to stop – abusers do not want to be caught and often are patient with grooming because they want to feel confident that this child will not say no or tell.
If someone is trying to break one of the “rules” of body safety – teach your child to say “my mommy/daddy said this is against the rules.” This may be enough to get the person to stop. If it isn’t, let your child know they have the right to get away from this person – practice saying “no”, “stop” and walking or running away.
If your child gets an “icky” feeling from someone, “no” or “I don’t want to do this” may not be the appropriate response – your child’s intuition may be sensing that something uncomfortable is about to happen, and that they want to get away from this person. If they are not comfortable saying “no” and walking away they can create a reason for leaving:
“I want to play somewhere else”
“I have to go to the bathroom”,
“I need to find my parent/friend/teacher”
“I feel sick”
“I need to find my shoes/favorite toy/etc”.
“IT’S ALWAYS RIGHT TO TELL – IT’S NEVER TOO LATE.” (3+ YEARS)
The moment a child discloses abuse will most likely be remembered as one of the toughest moments of their life.
It is our job to make it as easy as possible for our children to come to us when they have something difficult to say. The last thing they want or need is judgement or questions that make them feel guilty for waiting to tell or allowing it to happen in the first place.
Since only a small percentage of children will tell about their abuse within the first year, it’s necessary that we instill a sense that “it’s never too late” – that no matter how serious or scary, we will support and help them -that’s our job as a parent (or whatever our role may be.)
YOU ARE NEVER TO BLAME (3 YEARS+)
Sexual abuse is often confusing for a child. Abusers often manipulate children by making them feel that this is a loving interaction, that it is normal. They often seek to pleasure the child so that the child feel good about what is happening. The older the child – the more likely they are to understand that this is not normal, and become confused by feelings of wanting it not to occur yet physically feeling pleasure. This can lead to feelings of embarrassment, shame, and guilt for being “complicit” in their own abuse. Some children would rather deal with the stress and burden of carrying these emotions than have to face their parents and expose their “dirtiness” and/or failure to say no to their abuser.
We must remind our children:
If you were are too afraid to say no – it’s not your fault.
If the person tricked or scared you into letting them touch you, or you touch them – it’s not your fault.
If you feel like you love this person – it’s not your fault.
If it felt good to your body – it’s not your fault.
If it happened over and over again – it’s still not your fault.
This happens to children all over the world.
You have nothing to be ashamed about.
I would always be happy and proud of you for telling me.
I love you no matter what.
YOUNG CHILDREN – PRETEEN
BEWARE OF BRIBES (6 YEARS+)
While abusers may attempt to bribe young children with toys or candy, when it involves older children it can become more complex. Let your children know to be wary of anyone that offers them something for no reason (not a birthday/holiday). It could be a gift, money, a ride in a car, letting them play with a “cool” toy, etc. If their gut is telling them something, they should say no and tell you.
For older children, it could be a bribe that doubles as blackmail, like alcohol or drugs, where the child may fear telling someone that they’ve been abused because they are just as afraid they’ll get into trouble for doing something they know they shouldn’t have.
Let your children know that you are aware of this ploy, and even if they’re afraid that you’ll get mad, you care more about their safety and that you love them more than anyone who would threaten or blackmail them.
PEOPLE OF AUTHORITY (6+ YEARS)
At some point, you will most likely feel comfortable leaving your child alone with older peers/adults that serve a role in your child’s life – a coach, a tutor, a teacher, a troop leader etc. It’s not so easy to get to know these people, you may only see them for a few minutes at a time – your child will most likely know them better than you.
Especially if the person is a teen or young adult, kids may automatically be in awe of this person because they’re older but not, “old” like most of us – “uncool” parents. They may seek or take delight in attention from this person.
This situation gives predators an opportunity to groom a child out of view from their own parents and establish a relationship that the parents may know little or nothing about.
In terms of empowering & communicating with your children – ask them questions about their time spent with this person. Get to know how your child feels about this person and what they learn about them.
Let your child know they should tell you if this person ever:
initiates physical contact (with them or others) that seem inappropriate,
talks about inappropriate issues (sex, alcohol or drugs),
gives them extra attention or seems to have a “favorite” student/athlete
if they ever try to communicate with your child (or other children) via text, call, or email
tries to spend time with your child outside the scope of their role
tries to lure or isolate your child from others or in an unfamiliar location
Let your child know that sometimes, people may try to seem “cool” or “loving” to trick a child into doing something that is wrong. If your children understand that you’re smart enough to know these people exist, they will be more likely to understand that this behavior is wrong, that you will believe them, and that it is the right thing to tell you.
By the time they’re pre-teens, most kids are wise enough to spot the “weird” or “pervy” adults. They may have a nickname for this person because they make quasi-inappropriate comments, is on Facebook/Twitter or has some kids’ cell phone numbers and is “socializing” with their students/players like they’re “one of them.” Kids talk. But they might not be talking to us about it. As responsible adults, it’s our job to not just protect our own children, but communicate with our children to help protect others.
TEACH THEM HOW TO TALK TO STRANGERS (6 YEARS+)
The idea that kids should never talk to strangers, can actually put them at greater risk if they should find themselves in a situation where they are isolated and need assistance.
When you feel your child is ready to understand, teach them to engage in simple conversation with others when you are out together. Communication is a skill, and it’s not just about words – but also body language. After such interactions, you can discuss your thoughts about the person is this someone you could ask for help? Or even “test” your children to look at a crowd in a busy mall and see who they would feel asking for help if they needed it.
Statistically speaking, men are much more likely to sexually abuse than women – most experts recommend that children in need seek out a woman, especially a “mom” with children, or an older woman.
Analyze body language together – the way a person smiles, how they stand, where they put their hands, their eye movement. These are important skills in helping our children hone their own sense of instinct and also gaining the ability to speak confidently with others.
IT’S NOT JUST A “SEX TALK” (7 YEARS+)
By age 7-10, most professionals agree that we need to explain puberty and sexual intercourse to our children. It may be to your advantage to explain it sooner than later because your children will most likely have access to information from older siblings or siblings of friends and be exposed to less-informative ways of exposing children to human sexuality. The more they learn before you have the opportunity to share information in an open and nurturing way, the more embarrassed they will be to talk about it with you.
By talking to them at an early age, you make it comfortable to talk about sex. They will be more likely to come to you if they have a question versus their friends or elsewhere. Studies have shown children that are educated on sex by their parents are less likely to become sexually active at a young age. If you can instill with them the purpose and special nature of sex, they will have a greater respect for it and for themselves and others. A great book to read to prepare yourself for this conversation is “The Sex Wise Parent” by Janet Rosenzweig.
THE BULLYING CONNECTION (7 YEARS+)
The characteristics of bullying and sexual abuse perpetrated by minors is often similar:
a positive attitude toward violence
a need to dominate others, be popular & in control
impulsive, aggressive behavior
lack of empathy toward bullied or less popular children
Bullied children and sexually abused children also share similar characteristics:
low self esteem, depression, eating disorders
moodiness, withdrawal, anxiety
feigning illness, sleeping more
change in clothing, appearance
Bullies may be more apt to target less popular, less confident or younger peers/children for abuse & exploitation. Conversely, children with lower self-esteem may be at a greater risk to be abused because they may seek to feel accepted, liked by their peers and find themselves in situations that compromise their safety.
When children are sexually abused by a peer, they are often exploited, shamed, and mocked in school. Meanwhile, there are many of their peers that fall into the “bystander” category – they do not condone what is happening to the abused/bullied child, but don’t know what to do about it or are hesitant to do so and face negative attention themselves.
SIBLINGS (7 YEARS+)
Sibling abuse is suggested to be one of the most under-reported forms of child sexual abuse. Although there is limited data on the prevalence, the most common form of reported sibling sexual abuse involve an older brother victimizing a younger sister.
Understanding sexuality and experiencing puberty can be very confusing for children – the last thing we want is a sexually curious child using a younger sibling (or any child for that matter) to experiment or use as an outlet for their sexual urges.
What Can We Do:
Consider the sibling dynamic: nurturing older siblings may feel more protective of their younger siblings, while children that try to exert dominance or even bully their siblings most definitely need correction, guidance, and increased supervision.
Listen to your child and investigate if they’re complaining about their older sibling – especially if it involves bullying, controlling, or violent behavior, and especially allegations of sexual interaction.
Address issues of curiosity about the opposite sex – early! Get a book or go online – there is nothing wrong with a child knowing and understanding how the sexual organs of boys & girls look & function. Especially for boys, it would be great if more men understood menstruation (and pregnancy) and were raised to respect what women go through every month, rather than use it as a way to tease and belittle the female sex. And likewise for girls to understand that penis-size is not the end all and be all of being a “man” and sympathizing that boys cannot control erections and may feel very sensitive about this – especially in school & public settings.
Remind older siblings that sexual interaction is only appropriate between two consenting, non-related, mature people of the same age (or however you feel most comfortable phrasing that, depending on your own personal beliefs about sex and what age/relationships (married/unmarried or committed/uncommitted) are appropriate), and that masturbation is acceptable, but is a personal, private act.
THE INTERNET (10 YEARS+)
1 IN 5 KIDS WILL RECEIVE A SEXUAL SOLICITATIONAi??VIA THE INTERNET
First off – computers belong in common areas, not bedrooms.
Educate yourself on setting appropriate filters for explicit images/language for your computer.
Explain the dangers of sharing personal information – email, phone, address etc.
Whatever age is comfortable for you to allow your child to use social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc – do so, but also sign up so that you can follow your child – see what videos they’re posting. Make sure their privacy settings are set so that only friends can view their page. Tell them to not accept friend requests or respond to messages of people they do not know. Create a fake name and send them a friend request to test them if you feel it’s appropriate.
If your child plays games through the internet (even through game stations) talk about the “chat” options and how strangers may try to contact them – not everyone is who they say they are.
Computer/phone time should be limited, they shouldn’t be on it all hours of the night.
Parents should be tracking what sites their children are visiting.
For yourself and for your children, be very cautious what photos/videos you share over the internet. Even images that may seem innocent -pages run by pedophiles will share images of children in shorts, bathing suits, sitting on the toilet, in the tub. What may be cute pictures of your beautiful children are basically “teasers” for pedophile rings.
Talk to your teens of & pre-teens about people asking for them to share a “sexy” photo of him/herself. You’d be surprised how many children aren’t scared by the fact that a strange man is asking for this, and in turn “flattering” the child on their looks and convince them to take more photos or more risque poses etc.
PORNOGRAPHY – YES, WE HAVE TO TALK ABOUT IT (10+ YEARS)
From the Sex-Wise Parent Author, Janet Rosenzweig:
“A major study found that almost all boys and two-thirds of girls over age 13 have been exposed to online porn. Most exposure happens between the ages of 14 and 17, but thousands of children 13 and younger are exposed to sexually explicit images daily. Boys are more likely to report that they sought out pornographic images while girls were more likely to report involuntary exposure.”
“Early images influence a young person’s fundamental understanding of sexuality. People develop “sexual archetypes” or fundamental beliefs about sex, and viewing sexual images can become part of this development. If the people in the images look like people who could be a friends or neighbors then the acts may appear acceptable and an involuntary feeling of sexual arousal may make the act even seem more agreeable.”
Concepts to explore:
Ask about the content of the images using medically accurate terms for body parts and sex acts. Acknowledge that curiosity is normal, and share that these images are fictional and have nothing to do with real life love, sex and intimacy. Then consider exploring these issues:
Consent: Did the people in the pictures look like they’d both agreed to the sex act? Did one participant appear to be coercing or otherwise threatening the other? Impart the healthy value that in real life all sex requires explicit consent.
Emotions: What feelings did the people in the images seem to be experiencing? Make it clear that that the emotions associated with sex should be love, affection, warmth, and respect.
Intimacy: No matter what was going on in the image, the very fact that it was being recorded and shared shows that there was not intimacy; share that healthy sexuality is an expression of deeply private and intimate feelings between partners.
Arousal: Involuntary physical arousal from viewing sexual images may leave a youngster both exhilarated and shamed. Sexual arousal is instinctual and autonomic, and people of any age may find their body responding with arousal to an image they intellectually find repulsive. A discussion about the feelings associated with the arousal caused by the sight the pornographic image will break the secrecy and with it the power the images have over the child’s perception of sex.
“It is important that your child know that as thinking, conscious human beings we have the opportunity to think about how to deal with our own arousal before we do anything with it.” Ai??-Dr Janet Rosenzweig, “The Sex-Wise Parent”
Children need to understand that sexual arousal, even if intentional and certainly if not, does not mean the object of their lust has any responsibility to satisfy their sexual desire. Sexual response to stimulation (whether it be visual, audio) is not something humans are capable of controlling. What we can control is what choose to do, or not do, with our bodies, when aroused.
If you have educated your child about puberty and human sexuality, it’s time to ensure they understand they have a responsibility to exercise self-control. Sadly enough, there are children as young as 10-12 years of age that have sexually abused other children.
SEXUAL ABUSE IS A CRIME (10 YEARS+)
Don’t assume your children know right from wrong – make sure of it. Let your child know that sexual abuse is a crime, this might seem like an “obvious” that doesn’t need explaining, but it is important that we do our part to make sure our children understand that sexual abuse is against our morals and the law.
Since up to 40% of abusers are children, it is important our children recognize that all people deserve respect, and forcing sexual activities on other people is a crime. We cannot afford to underestimate the sexual capacity of our children and the potential consequences of not teaching them respect, empathy, self-control, consent and responsible, sexual behavior.
And while we’re at it, lets not forget to let our kids know how we feel about other import topics: racism, bullying, emotional & physical abuse, respecting people with physical or mental disabilities etc. And the consequences for physically or emotionally abusing others.
UNDERSTANDING & DEFINING CONSENT (13 YEARS+)
It is estimated that a good portion of adolescents are sexually active for the first time around age 17. Some children it can be much earlier, some may wait. Regardless of your values about sex and relationships and what you tell your children, it is important that they understand the importance of consent regarding sexual activity between two peers.
“No” means “no”. Always. It is not a negotiable. No one should feel guilty for saying no. No one should be trying to convince the uninterested party into doing someone they don’t feel comfortable doing. That’s not love. That’s not respect.
Redefining Consent: Consent should not be the absence of the word “no” but rather, asking and hearing the other person say “yes.”
A person should not simply “judge” by their own opinion that the other person has consented to what is happening. The best practice is to ask and receive confirmation that the other person feels comfortable with what is happening. This is especially important if one or both parties has been drinking.
And if all that doesn’t hold much weight, it can also lead to charges of rape if one party felt that they were not capable of giving consent or were forced to do something sexual.
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT SEX & RELATIONSHIPS (13 YEARS+)
We all have a belief system about what makes healthy, happy, productive relationships. It’s important that we talk openly with our children about what we feel is the appropriate role of sex in the relationships we have with others.
There is no “perfect/right” answer that we can all agree on. But what we can tell you is that our children are growing up, exposed to influences – via music, TV, movies, the internet etc, that is glamorizing treating people like objects, it’s not about equal, respectful, loving sex – it’s often about serving a role to be dominant or submissive, without any thought or concern for people to feel cherished for who they are – not just what their body looks like or what they do or allow to be done with it. Children are receiving a message that sex and love are not related – and that sex doesn’t affect our emotions, that it’s “easy” and expected to have sex without “any strings attached”. Children need to be cognizant that sex does and should have an impact on the feelings of others and to be considerate, of themselves, and others – that what they see in music videos etc is not a mirror of real life.
ENTERING THE WORKFORCE (13 YEARS+)
Whether it’s babysitting, scooping ice cream, or doing some simple office work for a business owner (even if their employer is family or a family friend), it is important to talk with your children and the business owner/manager about child safety.
A teen may automatically assume that the people they are working with and for are respectable, and that their first priority is the task of running the business, but too often, this is not the case.
It is important to mentally prepare our growing children to be aware that there is the potential for sexual harassment and abuse to occur on the job – whether it’s from another employee or from management. Find out what policies & procedures the management has established for reporting and handling sexual harassment or abuse. When good business owners know that you take abuse seriously, they will often follow suit and take the necessary precautions. If not simply because protecting their employees is the right thing to do, the last thing a business owner wants is a law suit.
EMPOWERING CHILDREN & IMPRESSING THE IMPORTANCEAi??OF SELF-CONTROL, RESPECT, AND CONSENTAi??CONFIDENT KIDS ARE LESS SUSCEPTIBLE TO GROOMING
All children crave love, affection, & attention. They need to know that they are special and appreciated. Abusers know this, and use it to their advantage and often target children based on the support or lack thereof from their family.
Children that feel loved by the people that care for them, that love themselves and know that their bodies and hearts deserve respect, are less likely to fall for an abuser’s ploys to make that child feel “loved” by their attention and false appreciation & affection.
Children that live in a stable home, supported by family, friends, teachers etc that care about the child’s physical & emotional health & safety are better (that’s better, not perfectly) protected and more likely (that’s more likely, not guaranteed) to tell if someone makes an attempt or does abuse them.
There are no guarantees, but convicted predators have indicated in numerous interviews that they will target less confident children that may be seeking attention/affection and not receiving it at home.
EMPATHY, RESPECT, COMPASSION – FOR ALL PEOPLE.
We must raise children to respect all life. We cannot pick and choose which people/things deserve better treatment than others, it must be understood and children must be involved in learning and living that all life is a gift, we are all connected and equally deserving to be treated with compassion.
We cannot end child sexual abuse without also impacting other very serious issues – violence against women, racism, gender-equality, discrimination against those with disabilities, the poor, bullying, all forms of crime, war, etc When we see any living creature, we must acknowledge it’s value and that it must be protected, not judged, ridiculed, or violated.
Read books to your children about respect, use examples in daily life, stories in the news etc to involve your children on a frequent basis how important it is to treat people with care and have compassion for not just the physical safety of others, but also their emotions. Visit our books & multimedia page for suggested reading.
We can teach, even toddlers, to pay attention to the feelings of others. When they take a toy from another child, hit or purposely scare, how does that person look? Do they look sad? Happy? We don’t want to do things to other people that will hurt them or make them sad, and people should not do things to us that cause us pain or make us sad, either. As much as we need to protect our children from being abused, we must also protect them from becoming abusive – and it starts with empathy.
THE MEDIA’S EFFECT ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR CHILDREN
You can’t stand at a supermarket checkout without looking at a magazine cover, watch the news on TV without a commercial, or turn onto a radio station with a song that makes you want to cover your child’s eyes and/or ears.
Before we’re even ready to explain all this to our children, it’s being force fed onto them, and there isn’t all that much we can do about it. The scary part, is that kids take what they see for truth – from the way they should look & dress, to how relationships are supposed to work.
We live in a society that profits off of the idea that sex sells, entertained by violence and abuse, and humored by vulgarity and immorality. And it’s only becoming more and more prevalent. So what does that mean for us parents? We need to reinforce time and time again that TV, music, movies, etc do not portray real life or the type of lifestyle that is based on real values, like respect, honesty, empathy, charity, spirituality, self-control, education etc etc etc.
ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH
Remind your children every month or two what you have taught them
Use real-life examples to explain what you mean
A child that understands mommy and daddy have different private parts, or wants to know where the baby comes out of the mother’s body -welcome the conversation. It is good for them to be curious and to feel comfortable to ask you. Or you find your children or a child & friend exploring each others genitals. Don’t get mad, but remind them it is against the rules in regard to respecting people’s private. Get a book explaining body differences. There are so many opportunities that come into our daily lives that give us an opportunity to talk with our children about their bodies and instill with them our values on body safety and respect.