Body Safety. 6 ways to protect your child from sexual abuse.

Growing up we didn’t talk about sex or our bodies. It wasn’t because my parents didn’t care to talk about it but moreso because you just didn’t back then. I say “back then” like it was SO long ago but really it wasn’t. Over the last 10 years I’ve seen and heard so many disturbing and terrifying stories regarding children, teenagers and even adults who become victims to sexual assualt and other unwanted sexual contact. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to protect my children as much as I possibly could against everything that may hurt them in regards to their bodies and their sexuality. So what were my options? What could I do? Ultimately it came down to not only them being informed but also myself. I started researching how to best protect my children and based on my intuition as a mother and the information I found we have implimented a “body safety” lifestyle in our home.

My son was in second grade when I recieved a call from the school Principal. It was towards the end of the day and she said, “We had an incident at school that I wanted to talk to you about. Your son had something happen with another student in the bathroom.” My stomach sank. I listened while she explained that when my son was in the bathroom another student tried to “touch him.” She explained that he said NO multiple times and when the other student didn’t stop he locked himself in a bathroom stall until he was alone and then went straight to the teacher to report what happened. So lets talk about this for a second. HE’S IN SECOND GRADE!

So there are two possibilities here,

The first being that this other student has experenced this type of behavior at home or with someone he trusts and is now acting on those actions with others OR he is uneducated about what is and is not appropriate and thinks it’s funny or is simply curious. Either way the worst part of it is that THAT child could easily become the victim of something because of the lack of education and could easily be convinced that it’s just a “game” or “something secret that you only do with your friends.”

This is what we have done in our home from a VERY young age with all of our children.

First, NO age is too young for your children to learn the ANATOMICAL names for their body parts. Not their “wee wee” or their “giny” but their Penis and their Vagina. It’s important for them to be able to differenciate and clearly communicate what happened in the event that something did happen. Teach them the names of their body parts and encourage them to use the appropriate terms whenever they are talking about them.

Second, we don’t keep secrets in our home. We don’t ever say the words “don’t tell mom/dad” even when the act is harmless, for example giving them a cookie before bedtime knowing the other parent wouldn’t mind. We don’t buy birthday presents for anyone and say, “don’t tell them, it’s a secret.” Instead we tell them that it is a SURPRISE. Secrets are bad in our home and elsewhere and our children know that if someone says it’s a secret it should immediately be shared with us as their parents. Nothing should ever be kept “secret.” That being said, if our child was to ever be confronted with a situation where the abuser uses the phrase “it’s our little secret” or something along those lines, our children already know that it’s wrong and that they should tell their parents.

Third, your body parts are private and should not be touched by ANYONE without your permission or unless it is medically necessary and monitored by us as your parents. We have expressed to our children that their penis, vagina, butt and breasts are all private and should only be touched BY THEM. Not their friends, their siblings, their aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, police officers, doctors, clergy in the church, neighbors, or even us as their parents. The only exception to that rule is if they are hurting and have requested that we as their parents look for the cause. Our children understand that NO ONE has the RIGHT to touch their body and that if someone is touching or attempting to touch their body without their consent that something is wrong and should be reported to us immediately.

Fourth, every person that will be alone with our children one on one is notified that we do not keep secrets in our family and that our children know what is and is not appropriate contact between themselves and others. Excessive? Absolutely not. Last year I put my oldest son in therapy. In this case it was the most beneficial for him to be alone with the therapist in order for him to feel that he could be completely open and honest about his feelings. Due to these circumstances I sat down with her in advance to talk about many different things. In that conversation I said the following, “just so that you are aware, because you will be alone with my child regularly, I do want you to know that we don’t keep secrets in our home. Our children are aware of what type of contact is and is not appropriate between themselves and others. In the event that anything inappropriate was to occur, my son knows to come to me immediately.” Do you think that the therapist was upset? Nope. In fact she looked me dead in the eyes and said “your child is one of the safest children out there right now because of your willingness to risk your comfort and have these types of conversations. Thank you for doing this for him. If more people would do this, more children would be safe from predators.” We have this conversation with anyone who is trusted with our children including babysitters and family members. Think about it, if someone KNOWS that your family regularly discusses body safety they are less likely to take the risk that they otherwise may have taken.

Fifth, regularly have conversations with your children where you create a safe environment for them to be able to disuss things with you if they feel the need but may have felt uncomfortable initiating the conversation. Ask questions such as, “do you feel safe in all of your relationships right now including your school teacher, your family, your friends and otherwise?” “Has anything happened that has made you uncomfortable in terms of your body and it’s privacy?” “Has anything happened that you would like to talk about?” Don’t make their body taboo or embarrassing. Make it something that is openly discussed on a regular basis. Make sure that your children understand that it is because their body is special that you take these procautions, not because it’s “naughty.” You don’t want to give your children the idea that their body comes with a negative conotation.

Sixth, make your children aware that they don’t need to be directly involved in something for it to be inappropriate and need to be reported. Your children can not only be their own protectors but they can also be the protectors of others who may not be as educated. Our children have been taught that if they see or hear of other people “playing games where they touch each other” or if someone tells them about something that they know is inappropriate that they need to talk to us as their parents. We have instructed our children to speak to us directly in these circumstances instead of their teachers or others for a few reasons. One, we need to establish the validity of what they are passing along. Two, if it is something that should be taken seriously, I want to have that conversation with the teacher or principal or neighbor myself to ensure that it is properly dealt with instead of being dismissed as something that may have been misunderstood by my child.

Please please please protect your children by giving them the tools to protect themselves. No it’s not to early to have these discussions. No, your child is not too young. By choosing not to have these conversations we open the door for our children to become potential victims. Please understand that while we would hope otherwise, the mentality that “nothing like that will ever happen to us” only leaves us unprepared in the unfortunate event that something were to arise. Our children are counting on us to keep them safe and while we can’t always be successful we can sure do our best. They don’t know better but we do.

That day that the school princpal called to tell me what had happened she said “Thank you for teaching your son that this was inappropriate behavior and should be reported. I feel sick to think about what would have happened if it would have been a different child that may not have known and how far the ripple effect would have spread.” If it happens to one person that may just think it’s funny, then they do it to someone else under the guise that it’s a game and should be “enjoyed” where does it stop? It stops with you and your child, that’s where.

1 Comment

  1. This is beautiful! I don’t have children yet but plan on using these tips once I do. Thank you fo always sharing your knowledge and inspiration!

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