Experts estimate that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. It is a fact that child abuse does not discriminate. As you are reading this sentence, a child is being abused in your neighborhood. While these abuse statistics are staggering, the solution is crystal clear. 95% of child abuse is preventable through education and awareness. 95%!! What are we doing as a community to prevent child abuse from happening? What are you doing to prevent your own children from being victims of abuse? We have many wonderful agencies and organizations in our community to protect and support children after they’ve been victim to abuse or neglect— but what can WE do as a preventative measure? On-going, open and honest communication is a great place to start.
Parents— talk openly and often with your children. Talk to them about their bodies and use correct terminology when discussing private parts. Do not get creative or cute with naming private parts. Correct terminology is important and plays a vital role in prevention. Offenders will try to teach secret names for private parts to children. It is our responsibility to educate our children on their bodies and plan for their safety before an offender has the opportunity to do so. As parents, we must take the initiative to be the first ones to educate our children.
Have regular and on-going conversations with your children about safe and unsafe secrets. An example of a safe secret would be keeping it a secret that Dad is planning a surprise birthday party for Mom. An unsafe secret is a secret that involves someone being hurt, shame and/or any potential unsafe situation. A great online free resource for families is to use to become comfortable talking about safety and family safety planning is https://safersmarterfamilies.org/. Be sure to check out this resource and the custom family safety plan generator!
Life gets busy but make talking to your children be a top priority. Check-in with your children every single day. I try to ask my kiddos every evening what their favorite part of their day was and what the least favorite part of their day was. For our family, this is a great way connect with our kids and be supportive as they navigate the through the ups and downs in life. You may be surprised the things you may learn when asking your children about their least favorite part of their day. This question can often be a natural segway into important reminders you can offer them, such as: they can talk to you about anything, you will always believe them, good touch versus bad touch and safe versus unsafe secrets.
Lastly, trust your instincts. Be aware. Do not assume all people, family and friends have the same good intentions as you. If something about a situation does not feel right, trust your instincts. As parents, we are the most vital advocate for our children. Teach them, trust them, educate them and empower them every opportunity that you have.
Aubrey Draughn, BSW/MA, CTP-E
Multi-Disciplinary Team Member of The Dragonfly House and Guest Blogger