Today’s post isn’t easy or fun, but I just feel compelled to start a conversation and do what I can to not only protect my daughter, but any parent or child who needs support and guidance on this extremely difficult topic.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and there was a stat I read recently that 93% of victims know their perpetrators, which means that trusted individuals in people’s lives are damaging children in this way. I have my own personal “Me Too” story and unfortunately had a couple different incidents happen to me growing up. In one of those circumstances, the individual involved was someone I knew, so seeing this statistic really resonated with me.
We, as parents, try our best to protect our children and keep they away from all the darkness that exists in this world. We try to give them a foundation of empathy and happiness and all of the key elements that a lot of our society is lacking overall. But there comes a day when the bubble pops and you have to start discussing difficult things with them because you also want that empathetic, kind soul to be one that is strong and can stand up for themselves and can say no.
It’s a really fine balance teaching children these things. And to be honest, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing just like every other parent out there, but I do know what feels right to me as a mom, which is why I want to share these tips with you today. The list below lays out guidelines to discuss with your child(ren) and comes from Krav Maga Worldwide, an institution founded in defense training and providing self-defense skills.
1. Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old. This may seem very early but children
under 12 are most at risk at 4 years old. Even if they can’t speak well, children at this
age are busy figuring out the world. And they certainly understand and remember a lot
more than adults usually realize.
2. Share the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched. An age appropriate concept for a young child to understand is that nobody – including a parent or caregiver – should see or touch their private parts (what a swimming suit covers up) – unless they’re keeping them clean, safe, or healthy.
3. Talk openly about sexuality and sexual abuse to teach your child that these topics do
not need to be “secret.” Abusers will sometimes tell a child that the abuse should be kept a secret. Let your child know that if someone is touching him or her or talking to him or her in ways that make him or her uncomfortable or scared, that it should not stay a secret.
4. Babysitters, coaches and teachers can all be perpetrators. Teach children not to assume all adults can be trusted. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 93% of children that have been sexually assaulted know their perpetrator. It’s important to discuss with children that just because the person is considered a “trusted” adult they can still manipulate a situation and do things that are not appropriate.
5. Inform your child about the tricks used by sexual predators. Such as continued accidental touching, or where the predator tricks the child into thinking there is an emergency and the child must go with the predator.
6. Teach children that they must trust their inner voice. Especially that feeling we all have inside that tells us what feels right and what feels wrong or uncomfortable. Many children who have been sexually abused describe a feeling of discomfort as having a “yucky” feeling inside. You must teach your child to trust or honor their inner voice or that “yucky” feeling.
7. Teach your child that they have the right to say NO! As the majority of child abuse is based on coercion rather than force, teaching your child to say NO strongly and forcefully really can make a big difference in many situations.
This isn’t fun to talk about and it’s not something anyone wants to bring up at playdates or even dinner with adults. But it’s something that we, as parents, have to discuss, and as a community need to watch out for one another. I have a friend who recently had to deal with an incident where a stranger sent her young daughter explicit messages and photos via an app, which you can read more about here. I was so thankful my friend came forward and shared this story because it’s a perfect example of the responsibility we have to one another to protect our children.
Something I’m doing to prepare Zelda for these tough conversations and for when she eventually goes to school, is to teach her what type of touching is ok and what to call her privates. Until recently, Zelda has referred to her vagina as her “booty” and when I spoke to my mom about what she should call it, my mom suggested simply referring to it as her privates. I struggled with that because I don’t think there should be any shame associated with that word and giving Zelda an understanding of what that body part is called and knowing what’s OK and what’s not.
I get very emotional even typing this out because when your child is being cared for by anyone other than you, in the world we live in, we have to protect them in every way we can. We have to arm them and empower them and teach them to watch out for one another.
I am absolutely not a professional, I’m just like all of you, but this roundup of tips on this topic that did come from a professional, I thought was SO good. It provides amazing guidance on how to navigate this subject and keep it an ongoing discussion.
In light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month I just really wanted to share this with you all because I think it’s something that is incredibly important. If you have any other tips or stories, please them share in the comments because whatever we can do to prevent and minimize any potential damage is 100% worth talking about.
Photos by Hallie Duesenberg