Statistics show that most sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by someone known to the child. So how do you protect your children in such an environment? Do you watch every person they come into contact with? Run background checks or just limit the contact they have with people? Surely you can’t cage your children in, and children need the love of their community to flourish. I believe the best way to protect children from sexual abuse is to teach them to self protect. So how do you do that? Here are some ideas. I am not an expert, however, I have drawn from lessons from my own life.
1. From an early age, talk to them about what appropriate touch is and what it is not. Do this in an age appropriate way, but do it.
2. Teach children never to be behind closed doors with people. How do you do this? Modelling. If your children come into your room, always ask that they leave the door open. If you need to talk to your children in their room, leave their door open and ask that they do the same when other people enter their room.
3. Teach your children to be polite but don’t force them to give people hugs and kisses if they don’t want to. For instance, you might say to children “we always say hi to people.” and insist they are polite and offer greetings, but don’t insist on hugs and kisses. My nephew sometimes gives hugs and kisses but there are times, for whatever reason, that he says no. In those cases, I just say, “that’s okay.” You don’t want them feeling that they don’t have a right to say no.
4. Make it clear to children that sometimes people do bad things and that if something someone does, makes them uncomfortable, they should tell you. It might be something small, but if you create this sort of environment, your children are less likely to keep things from you. Remind them that sometimes people threaten other people and that if someone threatens them that something bad will happen, they should still come to you. Make it explicit that even if it is you who touches them inappropriately, they should tell someone. If mum and dad are not exempt from the rules, it creates an environment where no one else is.
5. Tell your children to tell the person making them uncomfortable that if they don’t stop what they are doing, they will tell their mum and dad.
6. Limit sleepovers to only the houses of people you trust but talk to your children before and after they come back. You can’t cage your children in to protect them, but if a child is confident and knows what people can and can’t do, and is confident that you will protect them, they are less likely to get hurt.
7. Pray for your children; where you can’t go with them, God always goes.
8. Keep loving your children, and in the event that all you do fails and abuse happens, love them and make it clear that it wasn’t their fault. And make sure that justice is served within the law. The thing most abuse victims struggle with is a lack of justice. Keeping secrets puts other children at risk. If someone is bold enough to sexually abuse one child, they can do it to other children.