Most parents don’t talk to their kids about sexual abuse. Here’s why you should.

Most parents don’t talk to their kids about sexual abuse.

As a parent, you do a lot to keep your kids safe. From car seats to doctor’s check-ups and bike helmets to teaching them how to cross the street, you do all you can to protect your children. There’s one important safety skill that a large number of parents don’t teach, however—how to avoid becoming the victim of sexual abuse.

For some people, the topic feels too awkward to bring up. For others, it never occurs to them to go beyond the basic advice to stay away from strangers. But teaching your children how to protect themselves is essential, because child sexual abuse is much more common than most people realize:

  • 1 in 3 boys and 1 in 7 girls are sexually abused by the age of 18.
  • 90% of the abusers are someone the child knows and trusts.
  • There are 39 million survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S. today.

How to start the conversation with your child

There are many different opportunities throughout the day when you can start the conversation and share the information your children need to protect themselves:

  • In the car as you’re travelling to extracurricular activities
  • During a family meal
  • While you’re out for a walk
  • After seeing a T.V. news report on sexual abuse
  • While they help you make dinner or wash the dishes

Because statistics show that children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse between the ages of 7 and 13, it’s important to start having the conversation early and to keep having it as they grow older. What you say and how you say it will depend on the age of your children. There are several key points you should share with your children to help them understand how to stay safe:

  • That their bodies are their own
  • Which parts of their bodies are private
  • That parents and children don’t keep secrets from each other and they should tell you if anyone ask them to keep any secret
  • That it’s ok to say no to a hug or any other contact if it makes them feel uncomfortable
  • That they can talk to you openly and frankly about any subject any time

For more information about how to give your kids the knowledge they need to stay safe, read this advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics.