Reducing the risk of sexual abuse in children
Child sexual abuse has become a true public health issue worldwide but especially so here in the United States. Wide-scale public health issues like this need to be addressed on all levels, including national, state, and local. With that being said, the first place to teach children about difficult topics such as sexual abuse starts in the home.
According to the CDC, child sexual abuse is defined as “the involvement of a child (person less than 18 years old) in sexual activity that violates the laws or social taboos of society and that he/she:
· does not fully comprehend
· does not consent to or is unable to give informed consent to, or
· is not developmentally prepared for and cannot give consent to”
When the world is a big and scary place, what can we do to regain control and help our children stay safe? Open and honest conversations are always a place to start. Talking to our children from a young age to help them understand the nature of appropriate versus inappropriate interactions can set the foundation for firm boundaries and building the confidence to maintain those boundaries. Empowering and supporting our children to speak freely about positive and negative interactions with peers, adults, and other family members can aid in building a child’s self-confidence to advocate for themselves in any situation in which they may potentially feel uncomfortable.
Traumatic events not limited to but including sexual abuse can lead to physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral consequences in children that when left untreated can cause long-term damage to their health and well-being. Instead of scrambling after the fact to control the repercussions of such a traumatic event, why not work to open the conversation before any abuse has occurred. Granted, a single conversation cannot fully protect a child from the dangers of the world but it can open their eyes, create trust and a sense of safety within themselves and a trusted adult which are all protective factors. Things such as poverty, lack of access to education, resources, stable adults, etc., are all considered risk factors and increase a child’s chances of being exposed to something traumatic and additionally makes it more difficult for them to recover from such an event. The more protective factors in a child’s life, the more equipped a child is to be resilient and persevere through the experience.
At the end of the day no one can protect their child from every danger in the world, but everyone can contribute to helping keep children safe, equipping them with knowledge and skills. Talk to your children, create a safe space for them to ask questions and answer them as honestly as possible.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, April 30). Preventing Child Sexual Abuse |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childsexualabuse/fastfact.html.
Prevent Child Abuse America. (2021, March 25). Child Sexual Abuse Prevention. Prevent Child Abuse America. https://preventchildabuse.org/what-we-do/child-sexual-abuse-prevention/.Back To Blog