Nothing is fool-proof. Many knowledgeable parents will still find themselves in the situation of learning their child has been abused. But there are things that you can do to help protect your child from being abused. If you would like to know what your options are if your family finds itself in this situation, please do not hesitate to contact Koller Trial Law. Our consultations are free and we are happy to share information about the resources in our state.
Here are four tips for parents:
Get Familiar With ALL The People In Your Child’s Life
Studies suggest that 90% of victims of child sex abuse know their abuser. Most parents know their kids’ teachers and coaches, but also make sure you meet the assistants, volunteers, and other people in your kids’ social circles if you want to help protect your child from being abused. Anything that makes you feel like that person might be a little out of the ordinary should require your attention – often, it’s the adults who are especially helpful or friendly. Many abusers do seem to target parents who are a little overwhelmed, perhaps recently divorced or widowed. The abuser steps in as “some extra help.”
Here are some red flags to look out for in the adults in your child’s life:
- Not respecting boundaries or listening when someone tells them no
- Engaging in unwarranted and unwanted touching of children (not exclusively sexual in nature)
- Trying to fit a friendship role rather than an adult role in a child’s life
- Consistently having age inappropriate relationships
- Spending time alone with children or trying to find excuses to do so
- Expressing unusual interest in or commenting on the child’s sexual development or sexualizing normal behaviors
- Excessive gift giving for no apparent reason
- Spending a lot of time with your child or another child you know
- Text messaging!
Pay attention to the Environment Your Child is In
It’s important to not stop at introductions if you want to help protect your child from being abused. Drop in unannounced on your kids’ activities. Pay attention to who is around. Pay attention also to the surroundings. Kids’ group activities should occur in open spaces where there are at least two adults. Older architecture sometimes makes this difficult. In those situations, there should be windows or doors that allow other adults to observe the activities inside. A single adult taking a child off into a room by themselves is a Red Flag.
Recognize Changes in Behavior as Red Flags
Only one in five children who have been sexually abused will report, and the majority of those who do, won’t report until early adulthood. Stepping in earlier rather than later can help protect your child from being abused. Examples of behavioral signs of sexual abuse:
- Says they don’t want to be around a certain person or go certain places
- Is afraid of being away from their primary caregiver(s)
- Tries to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe
- Excessive talk about or knowledge of sexual topics
- Angry outbursts
- Sleep problems
- Drop in grades
- Making sexual comments or exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviors
- Fear of being alone at night
- Excessive worry or fearfulness
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs/STDs)
- Redness or swelling around their genitals
- Blood on their sheets
- Behavioral regression such as bedwetting or thumb sucking
Teach Your Children Tools They Need
Not talking to kids about how to prevent abuse is dangerous. In order to help protect your child from being abused, you need to equip them with tools. If children don’t have the language to come to you, then they have no way to ask for help. There are a multitude of books out there written for children (and many written to help adults address these issues with children). Seek them out. In the meantime, keep these ideas in mind:
- Avoid euphemisms: to avoid any confusion and to help improve your child’s ability to communicate to you if something’s happened, teach your child what their private parts are and what they’re called.
- Establishing a home culture of honesty and openness can make it easier if they do need to come to you for help.
- Explain to your child that besides themself, their parents, and their doctor, no one can touch their genitals, and if that happens, they should go to you first.
- Let kids know that teachers can be resources for them. ALL adults in Oklahoma are Mandatory Reporters, but teachers receive training in this so they usually know exactly what needs to be done.
- Let your child know they can say no to any touch. Lead by example and ask before you touch them when possible: ask to give hugs and accept when they say no. Make sure they know that no one can touch them without asking first.
- Talk to them about internet safety when they start having access. Discuss cyber predators and teach them to never disclose private info. In 2018, there are so many different parent controls available.
- Assure them that you are a safe place for them, that they can come to you about anything and you won’t be upset with them when they do.
- Make sure they know it’s never their fault if they’re violated or abused. Sexual abuse can cause a lot of shame and discomfort, assuring them that you are there for them and that what happened was not their fault is vital.
Who Can Help:
Childhelp USA- National Child Abuse Hotline. 800-4-A-CHILD; childhelp.org
National Children’s Alliance has nearly 700 advocacy centers nationwide and helps with the process of reporting and recovering from abuse.800-239-9950; nationalchildrensalliance.org
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)- Online and over the phone hotlines.800-656-HOPE; rainn.org