Child abduction and child sexual abuse by strangers are high profile cases but are rare, in the majority of abuse cases (up to 94%), the perpetrator is someone the child and/or family knows, loves and/or trusts. We must teach our children about safety and hold ourselves accountable to protect children. Below are some tips to help keep kids safe!

Talk to your children about safety and listen to what they have to say.

When children know they can discuss this issue and their feelings with you they are more likely to tell you if something is wrong. If a child does not want to be with a particular adult or appears scared or aprehensive, discuss this reaction with your child. Some families have a “no secrets” rule.

Education

Teach children about sexuality and healthy development.

  • Start this conversation when children are young and have it regularly. This includes helping children understand what healthy sexual behavior is and what behaviors might be of concern. Make sure your conversations are age appropriate and not overwhelming.

Learn about child sexual abuse including the warning signs.

  • Schedule a Stewards of Children Workshop for your PTA, office, church, school or community group. Stewards of Children is an evidence-based sexual abuse prevention program that educates adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, and motivates participants to take action.

Teach your child they have the right to say “no”.

  • It is important to teach children they can say no to any touch, even a kiss from grandma.

Teach your child the proper terminology for their body parts.

  • In many cases offenders want “easy” or “vulnerable” victims. So they target kids who are less educated about sexuality and who are more easily manipulated. If a child says, “Hey you are not supposed to touch my penis” this tells an offender sexuality and safety have been discussed and may deter the offender from pursuing that child.

Do NOT tell your child – “don’t let anyone touch you, your privates etc.”

  • This puts the burden of protection on the child.
  • If something does happen, it increases the likelihood that the child will blame themselves and not tell for fear of getting in trouble.

Reduce or eliminate situations where your child is alone with an adult.

Be involved in your children’s activities.

Make sure you know who your children are spending time with as well as where they are.

  • Drop in unexpectantly or pick your child up earlier then scheduled.

Avoid teaching “stranger danger” rule.

  • This concept is confusing for children and unfortunately they are much more likely to be hurt by someone they know, love and/or trust. Focus on teaching concepts about adults the child knows and that are considered safe versus people the child does not know or “kind of” knows. Grandma verses the karate teacher.

Suggested Rules for Children

Teach your children:

  • To tell a trusted adult if someone tries to or has hurt them or makes them feel sad or scared.
  • To always check with a parent or guardian before going somewhere – even if someone says it is an emergency or it’s okay to go.
  • It’s okay to say “no” to unwanted touches.
  • If an adult asks for help, remind children they can say no because adults should ask adults for help.
  • To RUN AWAY from danger which includes adults, but if someone does try to grab them they should run and yell “Help! This person is not my parent.” If the person has the child, teach them to yell, scream, kick and make a scene.

Red Flags

Does it seem like this person has no adult friendships?

  • Does he or she spend a lot of time with children ALONE?
  • Does he or she offer to take the child away from the caregiver or home or suggest activities where other adults are not present?
  • If this person can not be with the child alone, he or she does not what to be with the child.
  • Does he or she regularly offer to babysit many different children for free or take children on overnight trips alone?

Children need adult involvement, guidance and direction – not a big playmate.

  • Does this adult seem to be your child’s friend instead of a responsible adult?
  • Does he or she have toys, video games etc. in excess or have these things and have not children of his or her own?

An adult gives your child a gift for “no reason”.

Does this person refuse to allow a child set any of his or her own limits or fail to honor boundaries?

Does he or she ignore a child/teen’s request to not be touched, hugged, kissed, tickled, held, etc.

Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse

It is important to remember that identifying abuse can be difficulty, but not impossible. Unfortunately there are few signs that are absolute indicators of sexual abuse; the only one is when a child tells you that they have been abused. Most signs are indicators of stress and trauma and can be present when a child experiences any traumatic situation like parents getting divorce, a significant person dies or if they are involved in an earthquake. Any one sign does not indicate that abuse has occurred, however if several are present caregivers should be concerned.

Signs:

  • Genital bruising or bleeding
  • Sudden regressive behaviors
  • Changes in behaviors, wanting to be alone, not being with friends
  • Writes or draws stories/pictures with explicit sexual content
  • Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
  • Sexually acting out – simulating sex with dolls, stuffed animals or other children/siblings
  • Asks an unusual amount of questions about sex or sexuality
  • Suddenly does not want to bathe, use the toilet or take clothes off
  • Age inappropriate sexual knowledge
  • Excessive masturbation
  • Nightmares
  • New words for body parts
  • Loss of appetite or upset stomach
  • Withdrawal
  • Talking about a new older friend
  • Suddenly having money, toys or other gifts for no apparent reason
  • Promiscuity
  • Substance use/abuse

Stewards of Children Prevention Workshops

Stewards of Children is an evidence-based sexual abuse prevention program that educates adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse, and motivates participants to take action. The Stewards of Children program is designed for organizations that serve children and youth, and any/all adults interested in protecting children.
The curriculum can be used by organizations and corporations who are:

  • Seeking evidence-based training for staff and volunteers in the prevention of child sexual abuse.
  • Wanting to make a difference in their community by educating adults about the protection of children.
  • Needing to respond to insurance requirements regarding child protection.
  • Wanting to enhance community training initiatives.

The program includes:

  • An interactive workbook and a 7 Steps Guide for each participant containing the full program curriculum
  • An accompanying 1 ¼ hour VHS/DVD integrating segments of sexual abuse survivors relating their stories of violation and healing, with segments from the author of the curriculum and from professionals who interface daily with the problem of sexual abuse
  • Opportunity for discussion about important issues in sexual abuse prevention and the relevance of these issues within organizations that serve children and adolescents.

After training participants will:

  • Understand the facts of child sexual abuse – incidence rates and effects on individuals and society
  • Understand how child sexual abuse happens
  • Understand that adults are responsible for the protection of children
  • Understand the importance of screening staff/volunteers who work with children and adolescents
  • Understand the importance of a well conceived one-adult/one-child policy
  • Have resources to react responsibly to incidents of child sexual abuse
  • Understand the proactive role youth-serving organizations need to take to protect children and educate their communities about child sexual abuse

Dealing with abuse can be an overwhelming and scary situation; consider support and/or counseling for you and your child.

Important Resources:

State Police: 302-739-5882

Division of Family Services (if the abuser is related): 1-800-292-9582

Division of Child Mental Health: 302-633-2571

Delaware Helpline (database of services available in Delaware): 1-800-464-4357

CONTACT (24 hour helpline-rape crisis): 761-9100

Violent Crimes Compensation Board: 302-995-8383

Contact your family physician and/or insurance company for counseling referrals.

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