According to the US Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18, and 44% of rape victims are under age 18. Sadly, but not surprisingly, victims of sexual assault are three times more likely to suffer from depression, 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol, 26 times more likely to abuse drugs, and four times more likely to contemplate suicide according to the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN).
Recognizing the real threat of sexual abuse against children is only half the battle. Talking to children about it is necessary to keep them safe. Unfortunately, many parents, particularly those of little children, have a hard time speaking to their kids about sexual abuse.
Here are some of the top reasons parents don’t discuss sexual abuse with their children:
- Child Sexual Abuse Doesn’t Happen in My Community
Wrong. Child sexual abuse happens everywhere, from big cities to small farming communities and everywhere in between. No matter your location, religion, race, or yearly income, your life can be affected by it.
- Our Children Know Better Than to Talk to Strangers
Sadly, 93% of all child sexual abuse happens at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts. Parents who teach only stranger danger are doing a disservice to their child.
- My Child is Too Young to Handle This Discussion
You may be surprised to learn that the appropriate age to begin discussing the topic of child sexual abuse prevention is when a child is three years old. You can teach your young child about appropriate and inappropriate touch by saying something like, “Did you know that the parts of your body covered by your bathing suit are private and are for no-one else to see or touch?” Be sure to include any exceptions to this rule for potty training, hygiene and doctors’ visits. Also, explain that if someone does give them the “bad kind of touch,” that they are to tell Mommy or Daddy or their teacher.
- I Don’t Want to Frighten My Child
You most likely don’t refrain from teaching your child about traffic safety for fear that your child will be scared to cross the street. Teaching body safety is equally important and, if done properly, can empower children.
- My Child Would Come to Me if Something Ever Happened
Most children don’t immediately tell their parents. Typically, the perpetrator convinces them that the act is “their little secret” or that their parents will be angry with them. Be sure to tell your children that you would never ever be angry at them and they should come to you immediately if they ever became a victim of sexual abuse.
Children who have been the victim of sexual assault will require love and support. Parents of victims should consider seeking the guidance of a trained therapist who can help the child communicate facts and handle feelings.
If you or someone you know is a parent of a child who has been sexually abused and is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.
Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Physician who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.