More than 95 percent of abused children are harmed by someone they know and trust. Perpetrators of child abuse are often trusted by the child’s family as well. A perpetrator may spend months gaining a family’s trust before acting to harm the child. While many parents and caregivers address so-called stranger danger, children are most often harmed by a loved one, caregiver, family member or friend.
Talk to your child
- Teach your children the correct names of their body parts. Do not use other names for private parts.
- Identify for your child that certain parts of their bodies – those areas covered by a swim suit – are private parts. No one is allowed to see or touch them there.
- Talk to your children about safe touches, hurtful touches and private touches. Encourage them to talk to you about any touch that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Ask who will be around when your child is away from your supervision.
- Don’t frighten your child, but do let them know that they can always come to you if something happens to them. Emphasize that they will not get in trouble if they talk to you about confusing events.
- To help you get the conversation started, try reading a story with your child. Click here for a list of books.
Teach children to set their own boundaries
- Help them draw their own personal boundaries. They could offer a high five instead of a hug goodbye if they are more comfortable with that.
- Help them practice disengaging from individuals who make them uncomfortable. Teach children to say, "No, stop" to someone who violates their boundaries.
- Teach children that if they have a concern about the behavior of another person, they can go tell an adult they trust.
Address responsible cyber citizenship
- Avoid the use of scare tactics. Seek to help your child develop a healthy perspective on the use of technology and an understanding of long-term consequences.
- Ask your child what websites and social networks they use regularly. Familiarize yourself with these sites and networks. Check out these conversation starters for help.
- Empower children with the knowledge that their behavior in the digital world can have a long-term impact on their safety, education and job prospects.
- Keep computers in common areas of the home. Monitor Internet and mobile usage. Take up cell phones and tablets each night.
- Establish a healthy perspective on technology usage early on in your child’s life. Set expectations for your child’s online behavior.
- Let your child know that they can always come to you if they have a confusing or frightening online experience.
Learn about child protection policies in child-serving settings
- Confirm that your faith community, day care or extracurricular activities utilize regular background checks, training and screening tools for all volunteers and staff who interact with children.
- Make sure that child-serving organizations prohibit isolated, one-on-one interactions with children.
- Follow up. Drop in unannounced to make sure safety policies are being followed in child serving organizations where your children are cared for. Ask your child about it.
Listen to your child
- Ask open-ended questions about your child’s activities. Don’t just ask if they behaved or had a good time at a party, at school or at an activity. Also find out who they interacted with and if they felt safe while they were there.
- Listen to your child if they say they are uncomfortable or don’t want to be around a certain person. Find out why by asking open-ended questions.
- Teach your child that it is okay to tell you if they are uncomfortable in a given situation or with a particular person.
- Pay attention to changes in behavior or attitude. Also be aware of regression to behaviors or previous developmental stages such as bed-wetting. A significant change like this could be a red flag of abuse.