We often teach our children about stranger danger, but the dialogue needs to be shifted. More often than not, when a child is abused, it is done by someone the child trusts. In fact, according to Darkness to Light, 90% of children know their abuser. Instead of stranger danger, we need to teach the importance of body safety. Since children typically know and trust the person who abuses them, we need to teach them what to do when they don’t feel safe. We need to teach children to say “no.” We need to teach children that their body belongs to them, and that no one else is allowed to touch them (yes, even hug and kiss) without permission. A child should never be told to “go kiss Grandma.” Instead, a child should be asked whether or not he or she would like to go kiss grandma. Just as you do not want someone forcing him/herself on your child, a child should not be forced (or influenced) to touch someone else.
Of all reported cases of child abuse, only 2% are false reports. We must believe our children. We have an obligation to keep them safe, and that means we have an obligation to listen to them when they say anything about abuse. Even if they say it was in a dream, take the child seriously. Children will typically disassociate when they are abused, which will cause them to be confused about what happened. If a child seems confused about something that happened, listen closely.
On average, children have to tell three people before someone believes them about being abused! However, when children only have to tell one person before someone believes them, their chances of making a full recovery increases by 50%. Let’s give them all the opportunity to make a full recovery!
Every child deserves to be heard, to be kept safe, and to grow up well. If your child or a child you know has told you that someone has touched him or her inappropriately, made him/her do anything that made him/her feel uncomfortable, or showed him/her any parts of someone else’s body, you should find a good play therapist in your area. You can search for one at www.4apt.com, or you can search for local non-profit agency that specializes in sexual abuse.
As adults, we have a responsibility to our children. Listen closely and take everything seriously. If you are in the process of reaching out to a therapist or think you need to begin the process, I have an office in Fort Collins, and you can contact me at Kari Weiler
Darkness to Light: https://www.d2l.org
National Center for Victims of Crime: https://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics