Sexual Abuse is a brutal reality of our life and times. The irony in our country is that anything relating to sex, sexuality, or even remotely body-related, is swept under the rug. Parents, a vast majority of us, are squeamish about the subject, preferring instead to let children ‘figure it out’! This can have catastrophic consequences.
So what are some ways of preparing children to prevent them from suffering Sexual Abuse?
TALK Body Parts
This might sound basic and obvious but as parents, we hardly do. We just DO NOT talk! About what? About basic awareness. We HAVE to talk to our children about aspects relating to sex, sexuality and abuse – what’s alright and what’s not alright, starting, at the most formative years, with talking about Body Parts! Its about time we called a Penis a Penis, a Vagina a Vagina, as a matter of FACT, and with PRIDE. Children have to absorb these parts, thee words, and referencing them, as ‘normal’.
What we also need to talk and educate our children about, in a non-preachy way, is the distinction between body-parts that are ‘private’ and body parts that may be, situation-depending, exposed briefly. They need to be taught and oriented also about these ‘private’ parts being strictly OFF LIMITS, that there are Boundaries that MUST be maintained and never be breached – that it is ONLY for them, and perhaps one or two more specific people (while assisting them), to view/handle these private parts, and anyone else doing anything else is a strict NO.
In the event of a ‘breach-of-boundary’, the child must be made aware and must have had the confidence inculcated in them, to immediately REPORT the incident to parents/authorities and NEVER conceal it. Typical predatory behavior encourages secrecy, a trap into which most victims fall because that is how we are psychologically wired – to somewhere believe that it is ‘our’ (the victim’s) fault. This cycle of myth has to be broken.
In an increasingly digital & visual age, children must also be made aware and sensitized to the immense potential dangers of photographing/videographing their privates and sharing, even keeping those files with themselves as they might be targeted by potential predators, hackers, opportunists. It goes back to how emphatically it must be explained and understood, that private parts, are private! No child will voluntarily and willingly want their images to end up on any kind of public digital forum. It will be the single most humiliating thing to happen, something that can permanently scar!
TALK Situational Handling
The NO word – we say it as parents to our children through their lives, yet, ironically, we cannot teach THEM to use it, in any situation. We must be able to give them the courage, self-assuredness and confidence to be able to get out of tricky situations where they are potentially being sexually attacked/assaulted/abused, of first recognizing the act for what it might become or is, and then, irrespective of the assailant, saying NO. While one can appreciate that this may not work or be possible in every scenario, with perpetrators of these acts being overbearing at times, to be able to take some action, any action – to call attention to the wrongdoings, must be encouraged vociferously.
I worry tremendously about the world we live in, particularly since we have had our daughter, who, although is just two and a half years old; is already clear about Body Parts and what is private. I only hope that more and more parents will not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to this extremely vital education, and volunteer instead, to start talking, forthwith! It is the ONLY solution to preventing our children from being taken advantage of.