March 9, 2016

Teach Your Child Body Safety-Part 1

This week, we begin a very important series from author, Jayneen Sanders on how to teach children to protect themselves from abuse. When I reached out to Jay, I had in mind that I wanted to provide something for the parents in my community who want more than anything to protect their children from going through abuse as they had. This has been coming up a lot in my work with my clients, so I was very excited that Jay agreed to do this series. 

One thing I realized as we got into the writing was that a lot of what she shares can also be used by adult survivors who didn't get to learn these lessons and, in doing so, could learn to protect themselves today from further abuse!


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The statistics on the sexual abuse of children are staggering. Some estimates place the incidence as high as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday (Aust. Institute of Criminology, 1993).  And for many parents reading this text you may have experienced childhood sexual abuse yourself. 

Knowing how to reduce the risk for your child will no doubt be paramount. As survivors, parents, teachers and community members, what can we do to ensure both our children and the children we come in contact with are protected, informed and safe? These 4 key points are crucial.

1. Education
Learn how to protect your child from sexual abuse by educating them in Body Safety, and educating yourself and your community.

2. Awareness
Become aware of the statistics surrounding child sexual abuse and grooming techniques used by pedophiles. 

3. Know the Signs
Understand and recognize the signs of child sexual abuse.

4. Believe a Child
Believe a child when they disclosure sexual abuse—it is paramount for their future recovery and healing.

Please note for survivors of sexual abuse some of these points may be triggers. Please ensure you have your support person or network close by that you can call upon. 


Today we are going to look at the first one: Education.

The most vulnerable age for children to be exposed to sexual abuse is between 3 and 8 years with the majority of onset happening between these ages (Browne & Lynch, 1994). We teach road safety and we teach water safety—it is imperative we teach children Body Safety. 

If you are concerned about teaching your child these skills, just keep in mind they are age-appropriate, non-graphic, and they also encourage your child to be assertive—a crucial skill in any bullying/abuse situation, and a great attribute to have when your child becomes a teenager!


#1
As soon as your child begins to talk and is aware of their body parts, begin to name them correctly, e.g. toes, nose, eyes, etc. Children should also know the correct names for their genitals from a young age. Try not to use ‘pet names’. This way, if a child is touched inappropriately, they can clearly state to you or a trusted adult where they have been touched.

#2
Teach your child about body boundaries and personal space. Use the idea of a ‘bubble’ around them and refer to this as their own personal space. Read ‘No Means No!’ and use the Discussion Questions to talk about consent and respecting each other’s personal space. Go to www.somesecrets.info for more information.

#3
Teach your child that their penis, vagina, bottom (buttocks), breasts and nipples are called their ‘private parts’ and that these are their body parts that go under their swimsuit. Note: a child’s mouth is also known as a ‘private zone’.

#4
Teach your child that no-one has the right to touch or ask to see their private parts; and if someone does, they must tell you or a trusted adult straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed. Statistics tell us that a child will need to tell three people before they are believed. As your child becomes older (3+) help them to identify five people they could tell. These people are part of their ‘Safety Network’. Note: one person should not be a family member.

#5
Teach your child that if someone (i.e. the perpetrator) shows them images of private parts, asks them to touch their own private parts and/or shows their private parts to the child that this is wrong also, and that they must tell a trusted adult straightaway. Reinforce that they must keep on telling until they are believed. 

#6
At the same time as you are discussing inappropriate touch, talk about feelings. Discuss what it feels like to be happy, sad, angry, excited, etc. Encourage your child in daily activities to talk about their feelings, e.g. "I felt really sad when … pushed me over." This way your child will be more able to verbalize how they are feeling if someone does touch them inappropriately.

#7
Talk with your child about feeling ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’. Discuss times when your child might feel ‘unsafe’, e.g. being pushed down a steep slide; or ‘safe’, e.g. snuggled up on the couch reading a book with you. Children need to understand the different emotions that come with feeling ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’. For example, when feeling ‘safe’, they may feel happy and have a warm feeling inside; when feeling ‘unsafe’ they may feel scared and have a sick feeling in their tummy.

#8
Discuss with your child their ‘Early Warning Signs’ when feeling unsafe, i.e. heart racing, feeling sick in the tummy, sweaty palms, feeling like crying. Let them come up with some ideas of their own. Tell your child that they must tell you if any of their ‘Early Warning Signs’ happen in any situation. Reinforce that you will always believe them and that they can tell you anything. You will find and Early Warning Signs poster at www.somesecrets.info/posters/ 

#9
As your child grows, try as much as possible to discourage the keeping of secrets. (Perpetrators rely heavily on children keeping secrets.) Talk about happy surprises such as not telling Grandma about her surprise birthday party and ‘bad’ secrets such as someone touching your private parts. Make sure your child knows that if someone does ask them to keep an inappropriate secret that they must tell you or someone in their 'Safety Network' straightaway.


#10
Discuss with your child when it is appropriate for someone to touch their private parts, e.g. a doctor when they are sick (but making sure they know you must be in the room). Discuss with your child that if someone does touch their private parts (without you there) that they have the right to say: ‘No!’ or ‘Stop!’ and outstretch their arm and hand. Children (from a very young age) need to know their body is their body and no-one has the right to touch it inappropriately.

#11
Read your child 'Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept' on a monthly to bi-monthly basis when your child is young. The book can be read and reread to children 3 to 12 years. It is also ideal to read before camps, sleepovers, etc. Go to www.somesecrets.info for more information. Also teach your child 'The Body Safety Song' at http://somesecrets.info/body-safety-song/ and download free Body Safety posters for display at www.somesecrets.info/posters/.


GO HERE to read Part 2, when Jay discusses "Awareness".



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Jayneen (aka Jay Dale) is an experienced teacher, editor, author, publisher, and most importantly a mother of three daughters and an advocate for sexual abuse prevention education (Body Safety Education) in homes and schools. Jay has written a number of books to empower children and to give them a voice including: Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept, No Means No!, Pearl Fairweather Pirate Captain and a information guide for parents and teachers entitled Body Safety Education. Jay works passionately and with ongoing commitment to ensure children are taught age-appropriate  sexual abuse prevention education.

For more information on this topic and Jay’s empowering children's books 'Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept', ‘No Means No!’ and ‘Pearl Fairweather Pirate Captain’, and her parents’ guide ‘Body Safety Education — A parents’ guide to protecting kids from sexual abuse’ go to www.educate2empower.info

To talk to someone about child sexual abuse or any abuse, or for support as a family member or friend to someone who has experienced sexual abuse, please go to: http://somesecrets.info/links/


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