The topic of physical abuse is one of the most horrifying and saddening topics to discuss. And while many of us, including myself, may have a hard time discussing this subject, it’s important to educate ourselves so that we can protect the children of the world as much as possible.

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience sexual abuse at some point in their childhood. And 91% of child $exual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child or child’s family knows. Even sadder, the Department of Justice claims that an astonishing 23% of perpetrators are children themselves.

While these statistics may be hard to stomach, they prove a very sobering fact: that there is no way to 100% safeguard a child from abuse. There are ways that you can most definitely improve the odds of protecting them, and knowledge is power. Not only the knowledge of the parent, but also the knowledge of your child. Here are some helpful tips according to experts that should help empower both you and your child against sexual abuse.

1. Discuss body parts early.

Too many parents fail to teach their kids about their private parts, and instead, use names like “hoo-ha” or “cookie,” to describe their privates. When you do this, you are insinuating a need for shame surrounding their privates, and not only that, but predators are a lot less likely to try to hurt your child if they can correctly label their parts. And if something were to happen, if your daughter told her teacher that someone touched her cookie, they are a lot less likely to report that to you.

2. Listen and talk to your kids.

Communication is so important. Create a comfortable environment in which your child can feel secure in telling you things. Provide them with information and arm them with knowledge and continue to ask them the hard questions.

3. Teach personal boundary rules.

Start early with your children, age-appropriately to set clear safety boundaries. According to Bethesda, here are the five personal boundary rules that are beneficial for your child to know:

  • No one should look at the private parts of your body.
  • No one should ask you to look at the private parts of their body.
  • No one should touch the private parts of your body.
  • No one should ask you to touch the private parts of their body.
  • No one should show you pictures of private parts on the TV, in magazines, on the computer, or a cellphone.

4. Be aware of the people in your children’s lives.

No one in your child’s life should be a mystery to you. If they spend time with your child, you need to know them on a personal basis, no matter who they are. Even childhood friends, or the babysitter your friend recommended. I don’t care who it is- if they are around your kid, they need to be vetted.

5. Keep tabs on your children.

I am not saying to not allow your child any privacy, but you need to know where your child is and who they are with at any given time. It should be a household rule that if your child has a change of plans, you need to know what they are doing before they do it.

6. Teach your child that body secrets are not okay.

In many cases, predators will tell your child that they need to keep a secret. To thwart this, be clear with your child that any secret concerning their body is not okay. If someone asks them to keep a secret concerning their bodies, their first response should be “That’s not okay, I am telling my parents.”

7. Make it clear that no one should photograph their body parts.

Another thing to be aware of is the fact that predators take pictures and photographs and post them online. Right off the bat, tell your child that it’s NEVER okay for someone to photograph their body or private parts.

8. Have a code word for when your child feels unsafe.

When your child is away from you, they need to have all of the tools necessary to get in touch with you. And if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable, give them a code word to let you know they want to come home, because they feel unsafe.

9. Educate yourself on the signs of abuse.

Empower yourself with knowledge. Learn about the signs of abuse, and stay aware of your child. Pay attention to the minor changes in their behavior, mood, and tendencies, so if something is going on, you will be the first to know.

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