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.
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
- 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
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
- 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
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
health organization or social
service agency to find an appropriate
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.
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
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
- The child may regret telling.
Very few reported incidents are false.
information, contact the Alliance at:
PREVENT CHILD ABUSE NORTH DAKOTA
the information in the booklet comes from
the publication, "7 Steps to Protecting Our
Children", published by the organization,
From Darkness to Light.