According to Save the Children, 23% of girls and 15% of boys living in Spain they are sexually abused at least once before they turn 17. The percentages are all the more serious as a large part of these episodes are hidden, as they frequently occur within the family and are therefore not reflected in the statistics.
These disturbing figures, added to the harmfulness of this type of experience, have helped a large number of parents and caregivers in general to become very aware of this problem.
However, knowing that cases of sexual abuse do exist and must be avoided is not enough if you are to do all you can to prevent them. This is the subject that we will discuss in this article.
Keys to Preventing Sexual Abuse of Boys and Girls
The first thing we need to understand when developing a strategy to prevent child sexual abuse is that although the youngest people still cannot understand a lot about life, from an early age. they are already able to learn a lot more abstract ideas than you think. You just need to understand the kind of logic that governs them.
Thus, the job of parents should not be so much to restrict the movements of their sons and daughters, but to educate them so that they understand certain concepts that they will allow them to assimilate the idea that they govern of their body and that anyone who wants to touch it or see it in certain ways will need a good excuse and act in a very specific context.
Let’s see what these learnings are adapted to the child population.
1. It is not enough to warn strangers
Since a large number of cases of sexual abuse occur in the home and family setting, it is necessary, but not sufficient, to warn about the dangers of dealing with totally unknown adults and without the supervision of parents or teachers. Having this clear allows us to have a more complete view of the possible flanks from which this class of violations can occur.
This is precisely why the following point makes sense.
2. Talk about sex from a young age
Sex has always been a taboo subject, but if children are to be prepared to identify sexual abuse as such, they need to learn some basics about this facet of life. Educating boys and girls about it is not harmful to them at any age, quite the contrary.
This is why this question must be approached in a didactic and clear way, avoid formulas to shift attention to another topic it has nothing to do with sexuality and using simple, non-masking concepts, such as “penis” and “vagina”. This will serve to prevent them from being manipulated from magical thinking, for example, by making them believe that the genitals are like a button that activates objects.
Likewise, it is appropriate to talk about what abuse is and the existence of people who take advantage of their position of power to deceive the little ones with strange arguments to see or touch parts of their body.
As to when is the right time to start preventing children from being sexually abused, the answer is simple: just like before, and as long as they get the message. Obviously, young boys and girls will not be able to grasp all the nuances of this phenomenon, but this does not mean that they cannot come to assimilate everything that is said to them. It is important to be understood clearly and unhindered, adapting the explanation with the gaze fixed on their degree of understanding and not on anything else.
3. Help them understand the idea of ”private parties”
To know how to distinguish the moments when it is appropriate for them to touch them and those which do not depend very much on knowing if they know the concept of “private parts” of the body, those which cover the underwear.
Something as simple as teaching this concept makes it possible to have a fairly clear view of the situations that can be the start of sexual abuse. But also it is necessary to educate boys and girls in the right way, And name the exceptional cases in which an adult may touch these areas: when hygiene requires it, and when it is time for a medical examination by a healthcare professional. No adult should play with them.
4. Educate with justice
Preventing child sexual abuse also means educating boys and girls who are not used to not having decision-making power. The problem-solving attitude that is often produced by very strict educational styles filled with rules and punishments is something that facilitates the emergence of the fear of saying “no”.
That is why it is positive to always explain why certain actions are not authorized, instead of responding with punishments that do not allow us to understand what is going on. Once children start to be clear about the behaviors they can and cannot do, it is much more difficult for them to be manipulated for fear of retaliation for disobedience. Submission is bad for all parties involved.
5. Don’t force kissing and hugging
In family and friends gatherings, it is very common for parents to order their youngest children to greet people with displays of affection which, in fact, may cause them to be suspicious of being strangers.
This kind of action comes up against the idea of sovereignty over one’s own body which is tried to be passed on to them to prevent child sexual abuse, And that is why it is better to avoid them.