Tips for Parents


Listen and Talk With Your Children

Good communication may decrease your child’s vulnerability to sexual abuse and increase the likelihood that he will tell you if he is concerned about the behavior of an adult or older adolescent or if he is being sexually abused.

  • A child’s safety is an adult’s job. Children are often taught how to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse...and that’s important for them to learn. However, that’s no substitute for adult responsibility.
  • Teach your child that it is your job to protect him and it is not his job to protect or lie for others.
  • Demonstrate daily that you will not be angry, no matter what your child tells you about any aspect of his life. Say, “Nothing is so bad that we can’t talk about it.”
  • Listen quietly. Children have a hard time telling parents about troubling events.
  • Teach your child about her body and the correct names for body parts. Talk with your child about what abuse is and about sex, based on their age and maturity level.
  • Teach your child that it is against the “rules” for adults to act in a sexual way with children and use examples.

“It can’t happen in my family.
I could tell if someone I know is an abuser.”

Yet at least 90 % of the victims know their abusers.

Observe Physical and Behavioral Signs

Children who may be too frightened to talk about sexual molestation may exhibit a variety of physical and behavioral signals. Any or several of these signs may be significant.

  • Physical signs of sexual abuse are not common, although redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections or other such symptoms should be carefully investigated. Also, physical problems associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
  • Emotional or behavioral signals are more common. These can run from “too perfect” behavior, to withdrawal and depression, to unexplained anger and rebellion.
  • Sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate can be a red flag.
  • Sexually aggressive behavior toward adults or other children.
  • Fear of a person or an intense dislike at being left somewhere or with someone.

Ideas to Keep Children Safer

  • As a parent, it is important to always know who your children are with and where they are.
  • Teach your children to check with others before changing plans or going anywhere-even with adults the child knows.
  • Avoid placing your child alone with one adult. Look for group situations instead.
  • Understand that abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families, enjoying family activities and earning family trust.
  • Drop in unexpectedly when your child may be alone with one adult.
  • Insist that groups your children are involved in train their staff to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.

If you, or someone you know,
has the potential to sexually abuse
a child, get help before any abuse
occurs. Contact your physician, local
mental health organization or social
service agency to find an appropriate
treatment program.

If Your Child Tells You That He or She Has Been Abused

  • Sometimes you have to read between the lines. Often children will say they are being abused, but in indirect ways. Children will say, “I don’t like to be alone with Mrs. Smith” or “Mr. Jones acts funny with me.” If you are getting a message from your child that makes you uncomfortable, look into the situation immediately.
  • Believe the child. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse. Allow your child to talk. Do not deny or ignore what the child is saying. If in doubt, err on the side of the child.
  • Commend the child for telling you about the experience. Make sure your child understands that the abuse was not his or her fault. Too often children think that they are responsible for the abuse.
  • Temper your own reaction: stay calm. Recognize that how you respond and accept the information is critical to the child. Children often stop talking if they think that what they are saying makes you upset. Make sure your child knows you will listen.
  • Make sure your child is safe and no more abuse can take place while you are seeking help.
  • Report the suspected abuse to your county social service agency or to the police. Do not try to investigate what happened yourself. Trained, skilled professionals can talk to your child in a non-threatening way.

Finally, do not blame yourself.
Find someone you can talk to, and who
will provide you with some support.
And, remember, children can heal
from this experience.
Your love and support are essential
for healing to take place.

Don’t Overreact

If your child breaks an arm or runs a high fever, you know to stay calm and where to seek help because you’ve mentally prepared yourself. Reacting to child sexual abuse is the same. Your reactions have a powerful influence on vulnerable children.

When you react to disclosure with anger or disbelief, the response is often:

  • The child shuts down.
  • The child changes his story in the face of your anger and disbelief, when, in fact, abuse may be occurring.
  • The child changes his account around your questions so future tellings appear to be “coached”. This can be very harmful if the case goes to court.
  • The child may regret telling.

Very few reported incidents are false.

For more information, contact the Alliance at:
701-223-9052or 1-800-403-9932

Much of the information in the booklet comes from the publication, "7 Steps to Protecting Our Children", published by the organization, From Darkness to Light.


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