One need not be told of the trauma victims of sexual abuse face. A lot of therapy and support is needed for one to live a somewhat normal life. Victims have a very difficult time reporting these crimes for fear of shaming or being ostracised by family or community. Now try and imagine the fear and confusion that go through the mind of a child. Have you equipped your child with the vocabulary and confidence to alert you when something is wrong?
It is called a penis or vagina- Using pet names for genitalia is not as helpful as people might have previously thought. You might be conservative but that needs to be put aside for better communication. In the case where you are absent and your child discloses the abuse to another person, they need to be able to make some sense. ‘So and so touches my cookie’ might not elicit the most proper or timely reaction. Genitalia has scientific names for a reason. It will not be hard for the kids to learn them and should they blurt it in front of company, so be it! At least they are safe.
We keep surprises, not secrets- Predators use this to their advantage a lot. A child who can keep their ‘dirty’ secret is a target for repeated abuse. So in as much as you would not want your child telling everyone your business there are some secrets they should know not to keep. You can coax such information out of them by encouraging them to speak about their day. Ask if they made any new friends or saw anything new or interesting. Try not to be a passive listener so you can get all the crucial facts.
Stranger danger- When you tell your kids not to talk to or receive gifts from strangers, also include your reasoning behind that. To a young mind, it might look like ‘Mom and dad just don’t want me to have nice things.’ ‘How would they know anyway?’ However children need to understand from an early age that strangers just do not give things out for free. If you are not there to approve of her accepting the gift, even from a familiar face, they best just leave it alone.
Online Safety- For younger children this is more applicable to the parents, relatives and care takers. Yes you are excited about their first day of school or their cute new outfit. Maybe they look all kinds of adorable in the bath tub. Such images are not as innocent as they used to be. People can use information such as street signs, school names or lie about knowing you to establish some familiarity with your child. Until they are old enough to handle their own social media accounts, avoid posting them. If you must, hide or blur sensitive info and convey that to other relatives.
What to do after it happens- At all costs avoid showing anger towards your innocent child. First thing to do is to make sure both of you are in a safe place, away from the abuser if they are close to you. It is likely that you will be very upset and emotional, there is no shame in that, or letting your child see that. It lets them know something went wrong and that you feel it too. They first need to see a doctor for a physical check up. Report it to the relevant authorities making sure nobody tries to silence you. You are after all your child’s voice and strength.