Learn Important Steps To Protect

Our 10 steps are actions you'll take to help children: build resistance, prepare them to disclose, and inhibit opportunities for abuse to happen. By following these steps, you will be more equipped to prevent child sexual abuse in our area. Read the full list below.

We shouldn’t push children to show affection only with hugs and kisses. Teach about high fives or fist bumps.

Let them choose how to show affection. Then respect their choice. When we push a child to kiss an adult relative, we take away and disrespect their boundaries. When we let them express affection in way they feel comfortable, we empower them to enforce a personal safety zone.

As you hug and tickle, respect their boundaries when they say, “Stop.”

A conversation about boundaries might sound like this:

“You’ve got your own personal space around you, like a hula hoop. And it’s up to you who to let into your hula hoop. It’s your decision. This is your space, and people have to ask to come in. You can let them in when you say, ‘yes, I want a hug.’ Or keep them out when you say, ‘I want a high-five, not a hug.’ “

Encourage grandparents to ask, “Can I give you a hug, or would you prefer a high-five goodbye?” Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can help teach body autonomy and consent when they demonstrate that people should ask.

Taking this step gives children the words they need to tell exactly what’s going on.

With this vocabulary, there is little confusion if someone begins to touch their private parts. Slang words or euphemisms create room for confusion, and delay help for a child who is disclosing.

Another reason for correct words is that it may deter abusers. In one study of 91 convicted sex offenders, some said they were less likely to target children who knew the correct anatomical names for body parts. They assumed these children were savvier and more likely to know about sexual boundaries. They assumed this might increase their risk of getting caught.

Finally, using correct anatomical names conveys a healthy attitude and a comfort level to talk about any part of the body. Our communication style models to our kids how they should feel. When we’re confident and comfortable, they are, too. When we’re shy or embarrassed, they adopt the same attitudes about their bodies.

Just as we teach to wear bicycle helmets and look both ways before crossing the street, we should establish firm safety rules about private parts.

And easy way to teach which parts are “private” is to show a picture of children in bathing suits. Private parts are those kept covered by swimsuits.

Basic rules are:
1. Don’t touch or look at other peoples’ private parts.
2. None but you can touch or look at your private parts.
3. Don’t show your private parts to other people.
4. No touching private parts in public.
5. No taking pictures or videos of private parts.

These basic rules can be expanded and adapted as a child gets older. For example, you may tell your school age child that they can touch their own private parts as long as it’s when they’re alone and doesn’t take too much time. 

Taking this step helps them see this one kind of secret is always off limits.

Teaching about secrets might sound like this: “Some secrets are fun – like what’s in a birthday present. But some secrets are unkind or unsafe. Hiding someone’s gym shoes so they are scared and can’t find them is an unkind secret.”

“It’s an unsafe secret if someone was hurting you and told you to keep it a secret. Or touched your private parts and told your to keep it a secret. If someone tell you to keep a secret about touching private parts, ALWAYS tell me or another safe adult right away. We never keep secrets about touches. We talk about touches.”

Taking this step helps them guard their exposed body. Begin this conversation when a child is old enough to do their own self care. Typically, going to the bathroom no longer needs a caregiver at about age 3.

Teach that brothers and sisters – or anyone else – shouldn’t be present once they can go to the potty alone.

Teach that baths, showers, dressing, changing clothes, and going to the bathroom are all times when bodies deserve privacy.

Around preschool age, children should stop taking baths together. Sexual curiosity begins between ages 6 and 9. Curiosity between children the same age is normal: exploring this curiosity between children with a significant age difference – like older siblings and cousins – can lead to dangerous situations. Bathing together should absolutely stop at the time a child enters school. If possible, sleeping in the same room should stop before puberty, which is as young as 10 for some children.

Taking this step diminishes their exposure to risky situations.

If an adult does ask, they should says ‘no’ and tell you that this situation happened.

You might say:

“Big kids and adults should never ask you for help in the bathroom or shower, or with getting dressed. Always say NO, and tell them to get another adult to help them.”

Help your child make a list of five trusted adults who they can go to when they’re feeling hurt, scared, confused, or worried.

You can put this list in their backpack, in a night stand or in the cell phone of an older child. 

Sometimes, one adult might misunderstand or miss the message. If they talk with one adult and are still feeling hurt, scared, or confused, they should keep telling until they feel safe.

Because one of their trusted adults could be their abuser, children must keep telling.

Supervision reduces opportunity, improves safety, and spares a child from having to enforce safety when trouble starts, when they’re scared or being manipulated by someone older or stronger.

When you have children in your home for play time, stay within earshot, check in frequently and unannounced. Keep doors open.

When your child is asked to the home of another child, ask:

  • Will my child be supervised by you at all times?
  • Will they be supervised by anyone other than you?
  • Will you be taking my child to the mall, an event, or places they’ll be unsupervised?
  • Who else will be around my child?
  • Where will my child sleep?

Based upon your child’s age, you can decide whether their answer is putting your child at risk. You can also make situations safer when your child always has access to reach you by cell phone.

When not present, supervise relationships.

  • Ask what your child and the babysitter or other person did in the time you were away.
  • Make unannounced visits. Ask questions. Assert your interest in the relationship.
  • Notice changes in the relationship or its patterns.
  • Talk often about the relationship; ask about feelings and interactions.
  • Look for changes: your child isolates from you or their friends, opting for time with this person instead.
  • Especially monitor when an adult or older adolescent has significant power: in sports, mentoring programs, jobs, clubs.

Stay involved and curious. Notice any increasing isolation, dependency, and anxiety that accompany a relationship.

Questions you should ask are:

  1. How are your employees volunteered or screened? Listen for verification that all adolescents and adults are interviewed and screened. For some positions, reference checks and even criminal background checks are called for.
  2. Do your programs limited isolated one-to-one interactions between adults and my child, and between older adolescents and my child? There should be monitoring of one-on-one time. Look for “no closed door” policies. It’s a realistic policy in many settings that at least two adults be present with youth at all times. Ask about policies for using the bathroom. 
  3. Tell me about your supervision policies. Are children supervised at all times? Look for assurances that children are continuously supervised during activities, when changing clothes, on field trips, on bathroom breaks, while waiting for parents pick-up. Learn about the ratio of adults to children
  4. Do you have a code of conduct or ethics and how is this code enforced? Ideally employees and volunteers sign a document describing both policies and procedures – and a code of conduct – demonstrating their understanding and agreement to them.
  5. Tell me how you report incidents involving my child inside your organization? When and how would I be contacted? Look for a well-defined reporting structure, and an attitude to immediately involve parents.
  6. Are your staff trained to know the signs of sexual abuse and grooming behaviors?
  7. Is staff trained in how to prevent and report suspected or known abuse? Training adds assurance that this organization is serious about protecting youth. Application processes, policies, and proactive training are strong filters that deter people at risk of abusing youth from becoming part of an organization or acting on urges.

It’s important to note that even when prepared with body safety measures, it’s possible you won’t prevent what an abuser is working mightily to cover up. It’s also possible that your actions won’t elicit a disclosure. Just as seat belts are life savers, we buckle up knowing they don’t come with a 100% guarantee.

Keep your eyes open. Follow up with direct questions when concern persists. Showing that you care brings the best chance of hearing what’s going on in your child’s life. These steps help you know you’ve done your best.

Sources:

Keeping My Family Safe {Workbook]. Chicago, IL: Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center.

Elliot, M., K. Browne, and J. Kilcoyne. 1995. Child sexual abuse prevention: what offenders tell us. Child Abuse and Neglect 19 (5): p. 579-594.

Jeglic, E., and Calkins, C. 2018. Protecting Your Child From Sexual Abuse. p. 25-35.

Jane Silovsky, Ph.D. Taking Action: Support for Families of Children with Sexual Behavior Problems. 2009. p. 27.

“Age Appropriate Conversations.” Age Appropriate Conversations – Gundersen Health System, Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, www.gundersenhealthcenter.org/ncptc/jacob-wetterling-resource-center/keep-kids-safe/personal-safety/age-appropriate-conversation/.

Saul J, Audage NC. Preventing Child Sexual Abuse Within Youth-serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2007.

Stand to Protect

Take a stand against child sexual abuse in Fargo-Moorhead.

Based at Dakota Medical Foundation
4141 28th Avenue South Fargo, ND 58104  |  (701) 271-0263

About Stand to Protect

We focus on adult education surrounding child sexual abuse prevention in Cass and Clay counties.

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse use profound manipulation to enforce secrecy, often overpowering abilities a child might have to disclose. We help adults see common abuser behaviors and learn 10 protection steps that empower kids, bring greater safety and lower risk. We teach through powerful and positive one-hour sessions at youth organizations, businesses, churches, schools, PTAs, service clubs or community settings.

This content is based upon evidence in research literature and shaped by collective experiences of Red River Children’s Advocacy Center, Cass and Clay County Social Services, Prevent Child Abuse ND, and Sanford Center for Biobehavioral Research. Leadership for the collaborative work of Stand to Protect is provided by Dakota Medical Foundation. 

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