By Elisheva Aufrichtig
Summer is drawing to a close, the days are growing shorter again, and school is starting. Whether your child loves school or dreads it, it is important that parents and caregivers share personal safety tips with their children before they start the new year. It can be a difficult subject to think about, and even harder to talk about with your child, but statistics show that sexual abuse is unfortunately all too common: one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse before they reach age 18.
Your child’s safety is not guaranteed at school. Strangers are not more likely to commit child abuse; in fact, over 90% of sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows—such as a teacher, coach, family friend, or family member. Teach your child that the authority of adults has limits and nobody is every allowed to see or touch their private parts, except for certain trusted people in cases of hygiene and safety such as doctors.
Educate your child about personal safety and let your child know that they can ask you about any concerns or questions that may come up. Research shows that an educated child is more likely to deter an offender because an educated child is more likely to break the silence.
Start by teaching your child the proper names for their private body parts, which will help them communicate with you. Talking with children calmly and matter-of-factly about body parts demonstrates that you feel comfortable talking about these parts and they are not “bad” or “gross.”
Model characteristics of healthy relationships and boundaries in your own life. When children know what is expected in a normal relationship, they can recognize when their school relationships, whether with a teacher or classmate, become inappropriate. Abuse is never the child’s fault. Help your child understand that they will not get in trouble if they tell you about a touching secret and that it is never too late to tell.
Elisheva Aufrichtig is a Communications Intern at BCAC.