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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Protecting Children from Sexual Assault: Brief Version

Give your children appropriate information from professionals or books. Allow an open atmosphere in which sexual topics can be discussed. Talk to your child about healthy sexuality as a separate issue from abuse. The guidelines given below will also help you protect your child against sexual abuse.

  1. Make sure you know what adults and older children are doing when they are with your child. Most sexual abusers are known to you and your family.

  2. Be cautious of adults who have been convicted of a previous sexual offense.

  3. Be cautious of adults who abuse alcohol or drugs.

  4. Carefully interview and check the background of baby sitters and day-care providers. Observe how they behave with your child.

  5. Screen day-care centers by asking for references from other parents. Ensure that you can visit any time and will be consulted about planned outings before they happen.

Talking to your child about sexual abuse should not be scary. Explain that most adults and older children are OK, but every once in a while someone makes kids feel bad. Sexual abuse is the kind of touch a child does not want, is confused about, or was tricked into. It is not a "good touch". Tell your child this type of touching is never appropriate between kids and grown-ups and should never be kept secret.

You can further say that grown-ups don't always act the way we want them to, and clarify the difference between "fun" secrets like surprise birthday parties and "scary" secrets like, "Dad said you would die if you knew."

Some children need to know specifics in order to be less afraid. If a child says, "What do you mean?" or "What would happen?" you can use an example: "He might put his hand inside your panties," or "He might rub against you."

Lastly, your child should know what to do if assaulted:

  1. Say "no".

  2. Get away from the person.

  3. Tell some other adult.

  4. Tell another adult if the first adult does nothing to help.

Written by Lawrence R. Ricci, M.D.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems