As a parent, you always want to protect your children from the many evils of the world. One of the scariest things to imagine is your child suffering from sexual abuse, and the threat is far too prominent.
One of every 10 kids will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Children who are sexually abused can struggle mentally, physically, and developmentally for years to come.
Here’s what you need to know about preventing child sexual abuse.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children
Sexual abusers often go to great lengths to hide their actions, so it’s not always easy to tell when a child has experienced sexual abuse. Some red flags to watch out for are:
- Unexplained bleeding, bruising, bloody underwear/sheets, and other signs of trauma near the genitals.
- Sexually transmitted infections.
- Knowledge or talk of sexual topics that’s not age-appropriate.
- Secretive behavior.
- Being afraid to be left alone with certain people.
- Return to behaviors they’d grown out of, like bedwetting or thumbsucking.
- Avoidance of changing clothes or bathing.
- Lower self-image or depleted confidence.
How to Prevent Sexual Abuse of Children
Parents or caregivers may unrightfully blame themselves if their child suffers sexual abuse. Ultimately, you cannot prevent sexual abuse with certainty, but there are some important safety tips to help prevent sexual abuse:
- Educate children on what is and is not appropriate. Sexual abuse is more than just sexual contact with a child, it can also include exposing oneself, sharing sexual images, or taking child pornography.
- Roleplay on how children can say no to inappropriate behavior or requests.
- Keep an open line of communication, so your child feels safe and comfortable coming to you with any concerns.
- Don’t leave your child with adults you do not know or trust. Any babysitters need a thorough background check and references.
- Discuss internet safety with your child and establish rules for internet/social media use.
Take Action if You Suspect Sexual Abuse of a Child
If you suspect your child or one of their friends has been sexually abused, take action. If you can identify the perpetrator, keep your child away from them. Report any abuse to your local sexual assault service provider, and call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org for more advice.