It’s important that parents talk to their children about what sexual assault is and how they can protect themselves. Being educated around this particular area can save lives and stop cases of abuse early on. Of course, this can be an awkward topic to discuss, and parents often avoid it due to its sensitive nature. Thankfully, talking about sexual assault doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable conversation. It should be looked at as a way to ultimately ensure the safety of children, giving them life-saving skills. So, let’s explore how to talk to your kids about sexual assault.
Teach Them The Correct Terminology & Be Honest
If children ask questions about their body parts and topics concerning sexual behaviours, give them an honest and accurate answer. Creating fake names for private areas on the body can, in-turn, make children believe that they are wrong and shouldn’t be discussed. They should be educated on the correct terminology to know that it’s okay to express concerns regarding that area and that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Privacy & Boundaries Should Implemented
Privacy and boundaries should also be explained at a young age. Children should understand what the word “no” means and be encouraged to use it when feeling unsafe or uncomfortable. They should also understand that if one of their peers says “no”, they should respect and honor their answer. Children need to be aware that their body is their property and no one else’s. They should be empowered to protect it and never guilty when fulfilling boundaries. Parents should make this known to their children and re-iterate this message as many times as they like. If someone crosses a line and puts their privacy and safety at risk, parents should make it known to their children that they can always tell them.
A Safe Secret Versus A Harmful One
It is also essential that parents teach their children the difference between a safe secret versus a harmful one. It’s okay to share light-hearted secrets with friends. But, if an adult has touched a child inappropriately and has said to keep it a secret, children need to know that they should always tell someone even if threats were made. As explained in an article on the Child Mind Institute, you could call these “body secrets” and say to your children that they should always tell mom, dad, or trusted guardian if someone tried to keep a “body secret” with them. It’s advised that parents never shame or punish their children for sharing a body secret. If children notice strict tones and body language, that suggests they will be reprimanded and will be less inclined to share what took place.
How Can Children Protect Themselves?
Children are small, and you may assume that if put in a dangerous situation they wouldn’t be able to protect themselves. However, that is far from the truth, and there are many ways they can defend themselves if put in harm’s way. For starters, share with your children a few scenarios that are never okay. Go over the basics of never talking and taking rides from strangers, as well as entering the homes of someone’s house they don’t know (neighbours can also be included if there’s no relationship with them). Teach them how to label emotions, trust their gut feelings if uncomfortable, and never to feel pressured to stay somewhere that makes them feel threatened. There’s also always safety in numbers, so make sure that your child is never walking alone. Whether it be walking home from school (if they’re old enough to do that), on a field trip, or to the washroom, ensure that they know to always bring friend(s) with them.
What Is The “No, Go, Yell, Tell” Strategy?
An easy trick to go over with kids is the “No, Go, Yell, Tell” motto (informational video hyperlinked to show and teach children). Tell your child that if they ever feel at risk, use their words and say no, run as fast as they can away from their situation, yell or even scream as perpetrators don’t want to draw attention to themselves, and tell a trusted person as soon as possible.
Good Touch Versus Bad Touch
Finally, going over what a “good touch” versus “bad touch” is critical in this teaching and can save children from any form of abuse. For example, they should know that hair pulling, hitting, pinching, pants pulled down (even as a joke is not okay), or touching private parts is not a good touch. Getting a high five or a consensual hug is a form of good touch. Tell children that they should always tell an adult if they experience a “bad touch.”
We know this information can be overwhelming, but set some time aside and educate your child on protecting themselves. You can also make this a regular part of your home’s teaching, not just an awkward one-time discussion. Make yourself available and open to answering questions, as this can make all the difference.
For more information and helpful videos that can also help guide your children through this process, we’ve created a list below.
For a guide to talk to college aged kids about sexual assault, read this guide.