From Enough Abuse Campaign <[email protected]>
Subject Conversation #6: Responding to the Sexual Behaviors of Children
Date September 19, 2019 4:29 PM
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
  Links have been removed from this email. Learn more in the FAQ.
[[link removed]]




This is the 6th of

10 conversations

about preventing

child sexual abuse.

Next Conversation:

#7 Talk to your children

It's easy if you start early and communicate often.

Reporting suspected child sexual abuse is everyone's responsibility - whether a
mandated reporter or private citizen. If you suspect a child has been sexually
abused, contact your local child protective services. To locate the child
protective services reporting number in your state, as well as other resources,
call Childhelp at


Thank you for your commitment to

protecting children.


© 2011, Massachusetts Citizens for Children Inc.

Permission to copy, disseminate or otherwise use information from this report is
granted as long as Enough Abuse Campaign/Massachusetts Citizens for Children is
identified as the source.

In Conversation #5, we discussed ways to distinguish “typical sexual
behaviors” of children that are a common and expected feature of normal child
development from “problematic sexual behaviors” that are inappropriate, coercive
or abusive. We also indicated that in over 40% of child sexual abuse cases,
older children or teens are involved in committing these offenses. So it’s
important for parents and those who supervise children not only to know how to
distinguish these behaviors from each other but also how to respond
appropriately when witnessing either types.
1. Do not ignore what you have witnessed. If you see children engaged in
typical or problematic sexual behaviors don’t pretend you didn’t see it, don’t
walk out of the room, or wait for your spouse to deal with it later. Children
expect and want adults to correct, validate or help them interpret what is
happening around them. By refusing to ignore what you have witnessed, you can
help children feel safe and protected.
While we learned in “Conversation # 3” that those who sexually abuse children
can be socially adept, in fact, many have deficits in their ability to
communicate feelings that are not superficial. Modeling good communication for
our children, therefore, can help them gain these skills and protect them, not
only from being victims of sexual abuse but from developing behaviors that could
lead to the abuse of others.

2. Remain calm. This can be challenging, given that most of us are
uncomfortable witnessing sexual behaviors in children and probably haven’t had
much practice talking about them. In fact, depending on the situation, you might
have very strong feelings about what you have observed. No matter what you
feel, however, approach the situation with calmness. This will send the message
that you are in control of the situation, willing to understand what is
happening, and able to respond in the right way.

3. Avoid shaming. Don’t begin the conversation with statements like: “What on
earth are you doing!” “Get out of here right away!” “You are bad to do something
like this!” “Wait until I tell your parents!” First, you really can’t assess
the situation until you ask about it and get more information. Secondly, whether
the behavior is typical or problematic, it is important not to shame the
children involved. Shame is when a person does something wrong and are made to
believe, therefore, that they must be bad, too. Children need to know that even
if their behavior is wrong or bad, it doesn’t mean that they are a bad person.

4. Describe what you are seeing. Begin the conversation by simply stating what
you see. Don’t be afraid to use the correct names of private body parts. For
example, from a parent: “I saw you showing Johnny your penis.” From a teacher:
“I saw that you and Jenny pulled down your pants near the tree in the school
yard.” From a school bus driver: “I see that the two of you are making-out on
the back of the bus.” From a principal: “I see that you are in the girls’
bathroom and looking at girls from under the stalls.”

5. Label your feelings. It’s okay to say: “I am very confused by what I’m
seeing.” “I am uncomfortable…” “I’m embarrassed…” By accurately labeling how
the sexual behavior is making you feel, you let the child or children know that
their behavior can have a strong affect on others. By labeling and expressing
your feelings, you provide the opportunity for the child/children to modify
their behavior in response to those feelings.

6. Foster empathy. Point out how the behavior affects other bystanders. If
there is another child or children involved who seem/s upset or uncomfortable,
point out what you observe that leads you to that conclusion.
For example, “I think that Johnny is uncomfortable. He seems confused and upset
seeing your penis.” or “I was alerted to this behavior at the back of the bus
because others were very uncomfortable and embarrassed by what they saw.” By
doing this, you help children learn that their behavior affects others and that
it’s important to pick up visual cues about other people’s feelings.
In addition to deficits in communication, those who sexually abuse children
often have deficits in empathy. They dismiss or don’t care that their behavior
hurts others, only that it satisfies themselves. By pointing out how a child’s
behavior affects others, you set the expectation that children should be
deterred from public displays of private behaviors (e.g. masturbation in
children, making-out in teens) or from inappropriate, coercive or abusive
behaviors because of empathy for those around them.

7. Hold children accountable. In responding appropriately to children’s
typical or problematic sexual behaviors, remember that it’s not about blaming or
shaming. It’s not about finding out why or even about breaking rules. It is
about helping the child own their behavior, feel responsibility for the impact
it has on others, and change the behavior so others won’t be hurt.

A kindergarten teacher walked into the boys’ bathroom to discover one child
standing and another kneeling with his hands inside the other boy’s pants. She
stopped for a minute and then calmly described what she saw: “I see, Johnny,
that you have your hands inside your classmate’s pants. I am confused about
this. Can you tell me what is happening?” The child then went on to say that
Johnny had gotten his shirt stuck inside his pant zipper and that he was trying
to help get it unstuck.

Melanie’s teachers were becoming upset about her constantly rubbing her genitals
in school. At first, they tried to redirect her to other activities. It wasn’t
working. They called her parents to say that her behavior was starting to affect
other children and that if it didn’t stop, she would have to stay home from
school until it was resolved. Instead of shaming the child, her parents calmly
asked her about the behavior. She complained about being itchy and
uncomfortable. A visit to the pediatrician confirmed a common urinary tract
infection. After a bout of antibiotics the child was fine and returned to

If you suspect a child has been sexually abused, contact your local child
protective services. To locate the child protective services reporting number in
your state, as well as other resources, call Childhelp at 800-4-A-CHILD

If you suspect or know that your child is exhibiting problematic sexual
behaviors, you should be aware that there is help available to your child and
family. For information about the assessment and treatment resources available
in your state, go to the "Help" section of the EAC's website -


1. [link removed]
2. [link removed]
3. [link removed]
4. [link removed]
5. [link removed]
Manage Your Subscription:
[link removed]

This message was sent to [email protected] from [email protected]

Enough Abuse Campaign
Massachusetts Citizens for Children
112 Water Street, 2nd Floor
Boston, MA 02109
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

iContact - Try it for FREE: [link removed]
Screenshot of the email generated on import

Message Analysis