According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 93% of children that have been sexually assaulted know their perpetrator and the recent scandal involving Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor, has reiterated how even “trusted” adults can manipulate a situation and do things that are not appropriate with a child. It’s important that parents have an open conversation with their child about what sexual assault is and what to do if someone is making them feel uncomfortable.
Below are some parenting tips from Krav Maga Worldwide, a global leader in defense training, on how to approach this difficult and sometimes uncomfortable subject with your child:
1. Begin talking to them as young as 2 years old: This may seem very early but children under 12 are most at risk, especially 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.