There are too many facts, statistics, and evidence-based research figures in the unforgiving table of data on child sexual abuse for any parent to remember them all. So don’t. You don’t need to know that nearly one-quarter of our children will be sexually abused before reaching 18. There will be no quiz on the age group of children most or least likely to fall victim to a predator. No one is going to hold it against you if you can’t quote the latest research indicating that children know their abuser in 90 percent of abuse cases. As a parent, you don’t have to commit every fact to your memory bank. Just remember this: Children who possess the language and the permission to talk about sexual abuse are the safest children. Then ask yourself, “Do my kids have both?”
Permission to talk about abuse means exactly that—permission. Create an open dialogue with your children about what’s appropriate and inappropriate and the importance of trusting one’s instincts. Talking about sexual abuse is not a one-time event; it is an open, ongoing discussion that you and your children feel comfortable with. Give your children the permission they need to talk to you by talking freely and unashamedly about protecting their bodies. Simple enough, right?
On to the second tool is this combo—language. Children need to know the proper terms for body parts. Perpetrators often use “silly” names for private parts as part of the grooming process. Make sure your children know the difference between a secret (something to be hidden) and a surprise (something to be revealed). Tell your children it is okay to say “no” if someone makes them uncomfortable in any way.
So forget all the numbers. Never mind the most recent data. Give your little ones the tools they need to be safe—language and permission. It really is that simple.
Children who possess the language and the permission to talk about abuse are the safest children. Permission includes having an ongoing discussion where your children feel free to participate. Talking about child sexual abuse is not “a talk” or a one-time lecture. It is a progression of age-appropriate dialogues meant to give your children the tools they need to be and remain safe.