Body Safety; Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation
1. Invite your child to be Open with You.
Let your child know they can tell you if anyone touches them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable (even areas not covered by the bathing suit)—no matter who the person is, or what the person says to them. Promise your child they will not be in trouble if they tell you they’ve been touched inappropriately—rather, you will be proud of them for telling you and will do the right thing to keep him or her safe. If someone touches or tries to touch the child’s private body parts, and it is not with your permission to quickly clean or check, teach that it is NOT their fault. AND THEY NEED TO TELL YOU IMMEDIATELY even if they were told not to.
2. Don’t make your son or daughter responsible your emotions.
Without thinking, we sometimes ask a child something along the lines of, “I’m sad, can I have a hug?” While this may be innocent in intent, it sets the child up to feel responsible for your emotions and state of being: “Mom is sad . . . I need to make her happy.” If someone wanted to abuse a child they might use similar language to have the child “help” them feel better and the child might rationalize it as acceptable if this is something they do innocently with you.
3. Explain to your child that God made the body.
“Every part of your body is good, and some parts of your body are private.” It is the job of each person to take good care of his or her own body and to respect the bodies of other people. Teach your child that their body is theirs, and their feelings are theirs.
Explain that special body parts are just for YOU, Mom, Dad, Nanny or certain family members to clean in the bathtub. The doctor might check them when the rest of the body is checked. But cleaning and checking are quick. Except for that, our Body Rules tell us that Kids never, EVER, share their special private body parts with anyone.
4. Teach proper names of all body parts.
Use the proper names for all areas of the body. Children need to know the proper names for their genitals. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked, and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.
Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. “Some places on your body should never be touched by other people—except when you need help in the bathroom, or are getting dressed, or when you go to the doctor.” You can do this with young children during bath time or have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.” The bathing suit analogy can be a bit misleading because it fails to mention that other parts of the body can be touched inappropriately (like mouth, legs, neck, arms), but it is a good start for little ones to understand the concept of private parts.
5. Differentiate between good touch and bad touch.
Most of the time you like to be hugged, snuggled, tickled, and kissed, but sometimes you don’t and that’s ok. Let me know if anyone—family member, friend, or anyone else—touches you or talks to you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Teach little ones how to say “stop,” “all done,” and “no more.” You can reiterate this by stopping immediately when your child expresses that they are all done with the hugging or tickling. Your reaction is noteworthy for them as it demonstrates they have control over their bodies and desires.
If there are extended family members who may have a hard time understanding your family boundaries, you can explain that you are helping your children understand their ability to say no to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt them. For example if your child does not want to kiss Aunt, Uncle, Gramma or Grampa, let them give a high five or handshake instead. It is important that each child is allowed to have a voice.
Teach your child that she or he DOES NOT TOUCH OTHER PEOPLE’S PRIVATE BODY PARTS.
6. Throw out the word “secret.”
Explain the difference between a secret and a surprise. Surprises are joyful and generate excitement, because in just a little while something will be done that will bring great delight. Secrets, in contrast, cause isolation and exclusion. When it becomes customary to keep secrets with just one individual, children are more susceptible to abuse. Perpetrators frequently ask their victims to keep things “secret” just between them.
7. Identify who can be trusted.
Regarding body safety; Sit down with your kids and talk about who you do and who you do not trust. Help them to understand who family members are. When they know who you trust give them permission to talk with these trustworthy adults whenever they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused about someone’s behavior toward them. No one can talk to you or take your picture without the permission of Dad or Mom.
8. Report suspected abuse immediately.
You’ve read these steps, now consider yourself an advocate against childhood sexual abuse. Report anything you know or suspect may be child abuse. If you don’t, it’s possible no one else will.
9. Protect older children by re-stressing body safety when having the “Sex Talk”
Tips Summary for Children, body safety
• Kids do not share special private body parts with other kids or grown-ups.
• Stand up and say a loud ‘NO’ is someone touches you at all without permission.
• If you can, go to a safe place.
• Tell a grown-up like mom dad, grandma or grandpa, teacher, etc. if someone touches you without permission or touches your special body parts.
• Keep on telling until the touching stops forever.
• Remember, it is never your fault.
Body safety and protecting children from sexual abuse is all of our responsibility.