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How and When to Talk with Children about Sexual Abuse

In light of the arrest of a Scott Elementary school teacher for child molestation, some people are now questioning how and when to talk with their kids about sexual abuse.

One in seven girls and one in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18. As if those statistics aren’t frightening enough, more than 95 percent of the time the abuse happens at the hands of someone they know and trust.

“We know that people who have these predatory tendencies,” said Holly’s House Executive Director Sidney Hardgrave. “They don’t wear a sign that says they’re dangerous.”

Hardgrave says, a lot of the time people who prey on children manipulate them to create a secret and keep them from speaking up about the experience.

Conversations about personal safety and touches should begin with toddlers, teaching them the proper names for body parts and how private parts are different than the rest of their body.

Once the child is in elementary school, they should be taught if anyone touches or tries to touch their private parts it is okay to tell an adult, and they will not be punished for talking about what happened.

“Have those conversations and the earlier the better because what we really would want is to come forward the very first time something happens,’ said Hardgrave. “You know to get intervention before an ongoing abusive situation could develop.”

Hardgrave says there aren’t always warning signs abuse is happening and the most important thing to do is to trust your gut. She says often after talking with children who have been abused and their parents, they say they never did feel comfortable around the abuser.

“Empower your child to always tell you when things don’t feel right to them and they don’t have to understand why,” said Hardgrave “It’s okay if they just come to you and say, ‘Mom, I had a funny feeling.’ You can as a parent talk to them about that feeling until they figure out what’s kind of triggering that instinct.”

If a child does come forward and says somebody is hurting them or touching them inappropriately, Hardgrave says you don’t have to try and get every detail out of them. Simply, ask what they want you to know and call police with that information.

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