Keeping Kids Safe from Inappropriate Touch

Child

Author Jayneen Sanders offers tips on how to keep your children safe from sexual predators.

We teach our children water safety and road safety — it is equally important to teach our children body safety from a very young age. As both a teacher and a mother, I strongly recommend to all parents that body safety become a normal part of your parenting conversation. The sexual abuse of children has no social boundaries, and providing children with body safety skills empowers them with knowledge of what touch is good and bad.

The statistics are clear: 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually interfered with before their 18th birthday. As experts point out, these statistics only reflect reported cases. Also, 93% of children will know their perpetrator. The community’s focus has so often been on ‘stranger danger’ — however, the reality is, the perpetrator will most likely be someone in the child’s immediate family circle. A person they know and trust.

There are a number of fantastic books available to teach children body safety skills. Children are visual learners so story is an excellent medium when broaching this subject with your child. Here are my top ten.

Top Nine Books to Empower Kids About Their Bodies

1.          Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept written by Jayneen Sanders, illustrated by Craig Smith, Upload Publishing

2.          My Body Belongs to Me written by Jill Starishevsky, illustrated by Sara Muller, Safety Star

3.          Everyone’s Got a Bottom written by Tess Rowley, illustrated by Jodi Edwards, Family Planning Queensland

4.          Matilda Learns a Valuable Lesson written by Holly-ann Martin, illustrated by Marilyn Fahie, Safe4Kids 2011

5.          Amazing You written by Dr Gail Saltz, illustrated by Lynne Avril Cravath, Penguin

6.          The Right Touch written by Sandy Kleven, illustrated by Jody Bergsma, Illumination Arts

7.          It’s My Body written by Lory Freeman Girard, illustrated by Carol Deach, Parenting Press

8.          I Said No! written by Zack and Kimberly King, illustrated by Sue Rama, Boulden Publishing

9.        Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman, illustrated by Teri Weidner, Albert Whitman & Company

To further help parents, here is a summary of the very important body safety skills every parent should teach their child. Please note, these skills can be taught gradually and in daily conversations as your child grows.

Body Safety Skills

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 that their penis, vagina, bottom, 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.’

3.         Teach your child that nobody has the right to touch or ask to see their private parts. If someone does, they must tell you, a trusted adult or an older teenager straight away. 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 ‘network.’

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

5.         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.

6.         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.

7.         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.

8.         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 Granny 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 network straight away.

9.         Discuss with your child when it is appropriate for someone to touch their private parts, e.g. a doctor if 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) 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 that nobody has the right to touch it inappropriately.

Lastly, sexual abuse prevention education is not only a parent’s responsibly, it is also the community’s responsibility. Ask your child’s kinder or school if they are running such a program. If they are not, ask why not. And PLEASE lobby for it.

Note: The above points are a summary of the body safety skills your child needs to learn. If you wish to learn more, go to such organizations as Just Tell, Childhelp and Stop It Now.

Some General Grooming Techniques to be Wary of

•     Be aware of any person who wishes to spend a great deal of time with your child, seeking out their company and offering to take care of them.

•     A person who pays special attention to your child, making them feel more special than any other child; providing them with special treats, presents, sweets, etc.

•     A person who is always willing to help out and ‘babysit’ when you are extremely busy and pushed for time.

Note: Sexual offenders will always plan who they target, they will work hard at getting both the child and the family’s trust. They will create opportunities to be alone with children or groups of children and may well target vulnerable communities. They frequently change jobs and address to avoid detection. They will often spend a lot of time with children outside of their jobs. Sex offenders may well set up a scenario where a child has a reputation for lying so as to discredit them if they ever should disclose.

Normal Sexual Behavior

Children have a natural curiosity about their bodies and sex. This is normal. If you see any of the following behavior try not to react in a negative way. Sexual curiosity is how children learn about their gender. Age appropriate sexual behavior is as follows:

•           babies, toddlers and young children exploring their genitals and enjoying being naked

•           questions about why they have a penis and girls don’t (vice a versa), ie trying to work out the difference between what it is to be male and what it is to be female

•           showing others their genitals

•           playing doctors and nurses and/or mommies and daddies, kissing holding hands with children of a similar age

•           using slang words or ‘rude’ words they have picked up

•           looking at each other’s body parts (particularly children under 7, close in age and who know each other) in mutual agreement, ie nobody is being forced to show each other their body parts

•           as they get older, curious about where they came from; may be giggly and embarrassed about body parts discussion

Some General Signs that a Child (0 to 12 years) May be Experiencing Sexual Abuse

Note: one or more of these indicators does not mean your child is being sexually abused, but if they do show these indicators, then there is good reason to investigate further.

•     overly interested in theirs or other’s genitals

•     continually wants to touch private parts of other children

•     instigating and/or forcing ‘sex play’ with another child (often younger, more than 3 years difference in age)

•     sex play not appropriate ie oral genital contact between a 7 year old and a 4 year old

•     sex play with another child happening more than once, despite careful monitoring and discussion about inappropriateness

•     persistent masturbation that does not cease when told to stop

•     sexualized play with dolls or toys

•     sexualized play involving forced penetration of objects vaginally or anally

•     chronic peeping, exposing and obscenities

•     touching or rubbing against the genitals of adults or children they do not know

•     persistent use of ‘dirty’ words

•     describing sexual acts and sexualized behavior beyond their years

•     strong body odor

•     sores around the mouth

•     bruising or bleeding in the genital area, bruising to breasts, buttocks, lower abdomen or thighs

•     withdrawn and anxious behavior

•     secretive or say they have a ‘special’ secret that they must not tell

•     child or child’s friend telling you about interference directly or indirectly

•     going to bed fully clothed

•     increase in nightmares and sleep disturbances

•     regressive behavior, for example, a return to bed-wetting or soiling

•     unexplained accumulation of money and gifts

In Older Children (Adolescents)

•     self-destructive behavior such as drug dependency, suicide attempts, self-mutilation

•     eating disorders

•     adolescent pregnancy

•     persistent running away from home

•     withdrawn, angry

•     pornography interest; verbally sexually aggressive obscenities

–Photo: wwworks/Flickr

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About Jayneen Sanders

Jayneen Sanders is a teacher, author, mother of three teenage daughters and an active advocate for sexual abuse prevention education both in the home and in schools. She regularly blogs on Body Safety education.

For more information on this topic, blogs and Jay’s children’s book on safe and unsafe touch: 'Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept' go to www.somesecrets.info

Now available on Amazon in 7 seven languages. http://www.amazon.com/Jayneen-Sanders/e/B00BDCGZ1W/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter: @JayneenSanders.

Comments

  1. Hello,
    I recently noticed that your site recommends one of my books, It’s My Body. It has been thirty years since my book, It’s MY Body (as Lory Freeman): a book to help young children resist uncomfortable touch was published. This book is still recommended throughout the world and has helped hundreds of thousands of children. Three years ago, I begin also illustrating my own books and one my most recent books may be of interest to you:
    I’m Happy Sad Together: A book to help young children understand complex feelings. All children are faced with confusing, conflicted, and ambivalent feelings during situations ranging from the “every day” such as that first sleep over to complex situations involving abuse, especially from a known adult. Already therapists that work with young children are asking for it to help children during challenging situations. Recently, a teacher and parent informed me that it is the best book on supporting children’s feelings she has ever read.
    Here’s an example of what parents, educators, and therapists are saying about my recent book for young children:
    “At last, a book exists to help young children understand and express their complex and sometimes conflicted feelings without having to choose one feeling over the other! Using language and issues that children can identify with, “I’M HAPPY SAD TOGETHER” speaks to the inner world of young children and gives them concrete tools and ways to express themselves.”
    (Sandy Plone, PhD Clinical Psychology Los Angeles California)
    If you go to: http://www.amazon.com/Lory-Britain/e/B001IQXPMK
    You can see a list of all my books (including I’m Happy Sad Together) on the list. My books are available wholesale upon request at major distributers.
    Thank you for your positive work on behalf of children and families. Please contact me if you have any questions about my books and/or where you might find them and/or distributor options such as a wholesale discount code.
    Sincerely,
    Lory Britain, PhD

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