“I didn’t know.”
When abuse occurs, that is what we most frequently hear from parents, ”I didn’t know what to ask.” Or, “I didn’t know what to look for.”
We understand. That’s why we are providing parents important questions to ask any youth serving organization with which your child is involved, as well as tips on how to talk with your child of any age.
You may feel uncomfortable asking these questions, but everyone would agree that doing all we can to protect our children outweighs our possible discomfort. Some unsettling – yet important – statistics for every parent to understand….
- 1 in 10 children are sexually abused by their 18th birthday, and
- 90% of abused children are abused by someone they know, love or trust.
What does that mean to you as a parent or guardian? It doesn’t mean to trust no one. It does mean that child protection efforts need to be done consistently, regardless of…well, anything. The questions below are a good start.
Important Questions Every Parent Should Ask:
- Does the organization have specific youth protection or child abuse prevention policies & procedures?
Any youth serving organization should be able to show a parent their policies & procedures upon request. At a minimum, the policies & procedures should prohibit one-on-one situations; limit outside-of-program interaction between staff and minors; outline a reporting procedure that doesn’t require a supervisor’s approval; and mandate annual child sexual abuse prevention training. If these things are not in place, you should consider taking your child elsewhere.
2. How does the organization eliminate one-on-one in some common scenarios like taking children to the bathroom or carpool?
3. What child sexual abuse prevention training is required of the staff?
Training should be done annually and should include recognizing and how to handle boundary violations, because boundary violations are warning signs of the grooming process; recognizing warning signs of possible abuse; and reporting procedures to law enforcement and within the organization.
4. What is the organization’s hiring process?
Criminal background checks only reveal individuals who have been caught, arrested and prosecuted, so a thorough hiring process should also include personal interviews by more than one staff person, professional recommendations and reference checks.
How To Talk With Your Child About Body Safety:
It is never too early or too late to start the conversation with your child about body safety. It will be helpful for you to think of child sexual abuse prevention as any other body safety measure you teach your child, such as look both ways before crossing the street, always wear a seat belt, or – for older children – don’t get into a car with someone who has been drinking alcohol. This will minimize your discomfort with the conversation and remind you that this an ongoing conversation with your child. Afterall, did you tell your child only once to brush their teeth before bed and they did it without further discussions or reminders? Exactly.
As a baby, you can start by calling body parts by the correct name. When parents use cute little nicknames, it sends a message to their child that there is something to be ashamed of and it doesn’t provide them the language they need to tell you about any inappropriate touching.
Very early, you can start communicating to your children that their bodies belong to them, and they have the right to say “No!” to unwanted touches or touches that make them feel uncomfortable or “icky.” Then, you as the parent or guardian, must model that behavior. Some examples are
- ask a child’s permission before you touch their private part when, for example, bathing;
- don’t require your child to kiss or hug a person who they don’t want to kiss or hug. Children can show respect and affection in other ways including a kind word for hello or good-bye, a high-five or fist-bump; and
- respect when your child says “No!” to a certain type of touch, such as tickling.
As your child becomes older, you can and should continually reinforce the message that their body belongs to them and no one…absolutely no one…has the right to touch them in a way they don’t want to be touched or in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
Since 90% of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know, love or trust it is important to teach your children that these body safety rules apply to anyone, no matter what. It’s not a matter of whether you trust a certain person, these are simply the body safety rules your family follows.
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