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Talking to Your Child About Sexual Abuse

Teach children the correct words for all of their body parts, including their private body parts. Learning the correct words for body parts gives children the words to use and helps them know that it is okay to talk about them.
 
Let your children know that they are in control of who touches their bodies, and in what way.
 
Explain to your child that there are three different kinds of touches:
  • Safe touches: these touches make the child feel loved, cared for and important, like a hug, holding hands, pat on the back, or arm around the shoulder;
  • Unsafe touches: these touches hurt a child’s body or feelings, like hitting, pushing or pinching, and these touches are not okay; and
  • Unwanted touches: these are touches that might be safe but that a child doesn’t want in that way, from that person, or at that moment. Teach your child that it is okay for him to say “NO” to an unwanted touch, even if it is from someone he knows.
 
When children are able to name their private body parts and know about the different kinds of touches, you can teach them that there is another kind of unsafe touch that is not okay. This kind of touch is when someone older or bigger touches their private body parts. How you explain this will depend on the age of your child.
 
You might tell a younger child that it is never okay for a bigger person to touch your private body parts except to keep you clean and healthy (like a teacher helping you use the potty, mommy giving you a bath, or your doctor examining your body at a checkup).
 
You can expand on that safety rule with older children by adding that it is not okay:
  • To touch someone else’s private body parts;
  • For someone to touch his or her own private body parts in front of you;
  • For someone to ask you to touch his or her private body parts;
  • For someone to ask you to take your clothes off or to take pictures or videos of you with your clothes off; and
  • For someone to show you pictures or videos of people without their clothes on.
 
Teach your child to follow these three steps when someone breaks the touching rules:
  • Say NO or words that mean NO;
  • Get away; and
  • Tell a grown-up.
 
Expand your child’s understanding of the third step by teaching the following:
  • Never keep secrets about touching;
  • Tell a grownup you trust about the touching even if it has gone on for a long time; and
  • Keep telling until someone believes you.