Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Protecting Children from Sexual Assault
Make sure you know what adults and older children are doing
when they are with your child.
Most sexual abusers are well known to you and your child.
They are most often family members, friends, and caretakers
rather than "strangers."
Be cautious of adults who or whom:
- Spend large amounts of time with children if it is not
part of their job.
- Flirt with your child.
- Your child tries to avoid or is uncomfortable with.
- Abuse drugs or alcohol.
- Physically abuse their wives.
- Have been convicted of a previous sexual offense.
Support your child's right to say "no" to unwanted touching,
even if it is not sexual touching.
- Be wary of even innocent touching by a relative who hugs
or kisses your child in a way the child does not like.
- Be wary of bullying by an older child.
- Take your child's complaints seriously. Help come up
Refuse to leave your child in the company of adults you do
Do not leave your child with these adults even if your lack
of trust is "just a feeling." Sexual offenders often do not
look or behave differently from nonoffenders.
Screen babysitters and day care providers.
- If your sitter is an older child or young adult, talk
with the sitter's parents to get a sense of how
responsible he or she is.
- Let the sitter know that your child does not keep secrets
- Talk with the sitter and your child when you return about
how their time together went.
Screen day care centers and preschools.
- Observe your child at the day-care center or preschool.
- Ask for references.
- Ensure that you have the right to visit the center or
preschool at any time.
- Talk with other parents whose children attend the center
- Make sure you are informed about planned outings before
Talk to your child about sexual abuse.
- Clarify the vocabulary.
- Make clear what you mean by words and phrases such as
"hurt," "get into trouble," or "fool around."
- Teach your children the correct names for sexual body
parts, such as the penis and vagina. If you use the
term "private parts," come to agreement on what are
- If you are uncomfortable or tense discussing sexual
issues with your child, let your child know this and
then discuss these issues as best as you can.
- Avoid confusion between healthy sex and sexual abuse.
- Discuss healthy sex as a separate issue without
mentioning sexual abuse.
- Provide your child with a good understanding of what
healthy sex is, keeping it appropriate to his or her
- Define sexual abuse as the kind of touching that can
feel bad to the child because the child does not want
it, is confused about it, or was tricked into it.
- Define healthy sex as touching that both people want
and that occurs only between adults.
- Explain sexual abuse.
- Gear your explanation to your child's age.
- Begin by explaining unwanted, confusing, or secret
- Talk about the touch being sexual. For example,
"Someone may try to touch your vagina when you do not
want them to."
- Be specific. This will make it less frightening and
confusing. For example, "Someone might try to put
his hands down your pants or might keep rubbing up
against you or might undress in front of you for no
- Clarify with your child that sexual abuse is not
likely to happen and that most adults and older
children are good people.
- Talk about who.
- Explain that it may be someone your child already
- Explain that even nice people, like the people your
child knows, can do bad things. Some people may not
even realize that what they are doing is bad.
- Explain that it may be a person who gives your child
something in return for your child's involvement.
For example, "I'll let you watch TV if you undress
for me and don't tell."
- Explain that it may be a person who threatens your
child and makes your child feel frightened. For
example, "If you don't lie down with me, I'll hit
- Explain that it may be a person who asks your child
to keep a secret.
- Answer your child's questions about puzzling adult
- Talk about secrets.
Let your child know he or she should keep no secrets
from you. Explain the difference between a scary
"secret," which may involve something "bad," and a
"surprise," which is usually "good."