From Enough Abuse Campaign <[email protected]>
Subject Conversation #7: Talk to Your Children Early and Often
Date October 3, 2019 4:30 PM
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This is the 7th of

10 conversations

about preventing

child sexual abuse.

Next Conversation:

#8 Impact of Child Sexual Abuse

on Children

Tactics abusers use

so children won't tell

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.

As we have learned, child sexual abusers frequently groom children gradually
over time. As a result, a child will often not fully understand what is
happening until the abuse is well underway. At that point, the child may
believe – in fact, will most likely have been told by the abuser – that they are
to blame for what is happening and if they tell they will get into a lot of

As adults, it is our responsibility to communicate to children that it is okay
to talk to us or ask questions about any situations that make them feel confused
or uncomfortable. We need to help children understand that no matter what, their
feelings will be respected and taken seriously.

There are key prevention messages we can share with children about their bodies
and their rights that will help them feel more confident and that may reduce
their risk of abuse. Sharing these messages with your child will make it more
likely that he or she will talk to you about anything confusing that might
happen to them in the future, including any behaviors that might lead to sexual

You can begin sharing these concepts with children as early as three years of
age. Remember these are prevention messages. It's easy when you start early and
reinforce these messages often. Don't postpone speaking to your child until they
are "just a little older". The most frequent age of child abuse victims is nine
and nearly a quarter of victims are under eight years of age.

Here are some "Parent Talking Points" that you can use to increase your child's
safety. Practice saying them, and then share them with your child.
1. "All the parts of our bodies are good and special and they deserve care and
respect. Just like knees and noses, all body parts have their own names. We can
refer to them by those names without feeling embarrassed. The names for what
some people call 'private parts' are penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks."
Talk to your child about these body parts in an open and relaxed way. Mentioning
the correct names for private body parts during your child's bath time can be a
comfortable and natural occasion to share this information. Remember, when we
purposely avoid mentioning private body parts, we send our children the message
that these parts are not to be spoken about and mentioning them makes us
uncomfortable. Sexual abusers count on children to follow their parents' lead
not to bring up matters involving private body parts. If they know that
children will be reluctant to bring up any issue about private body parts, the
abuser gains confidence they can abuse without being found out.

2. "Grown-ups and older children have no business 'playing' with a child's
private body parts. Sometimes grown-ups need to help children with washing or
wiping these body parts, but that's not the same as playing with them. Sometimes
doctors need to examine these body parts if there is a problem. But they never
do that without a nurse or parent present and it's never a secret."

3. "Grown-ups and older children never, ever need help from children with their
private body parts. If any grown-up or older child should ask for this kind of
help, you can come and tell me right away, even if it's someone in our family or
someone we know. Also, if any grown-up or older child shows you their private
parts or pictures of private parts, you can come and tell me. I promise I will
listen and I will not be angry. If you are ever feeling 'mixed up' about
anything, including secrets, feelings, or private body parts, you can tell me
and I promise I will help you."

4. "Children and adults, too, have body boundaries that you should not cross.
So it's important to follow the bathing suit rule - never touch other children
on the parts of their bodies that would be covered by their bathing suit. It
will be upsetting to them and to their parents, teachers, and friends. It will
be a problem for you, too. If you are curious about all this, come and tell me
and we can talk about it. Remember, if you are ever feeling 'mixed up' or
confused about anything, including secrets, feelings, or private body parts, you
can tell me and I promise I will help you."

5. "Surprises are good for children but secrets are not. Surprises are secrets
that are meant to be fun when they are told, like a surprise party. But secrets
that are not supposed to be told can be dangerous because they don't let me know
if you are safe. For example, if a friend is playing with matches, someone
offers you drugs, or someone is playing with your private body parts or asking
you to help them with theirs, I won't be able to keep you safe if I don't know
about it."

6. "You are a special person and deserve to be treated with love and respect.
You are special in so many ways. You are …"
Children with a strong sense of self-esteem and who are confident and assertive
may be less likely to be targeted by a sexual abuser. Find ways and words to
express love to your child every day. Spend quality time with your child and
always provide appropriate supervision. Just as parents have to remind children
regularly to do homework, clean their rooms, brush their teeth, etc., parents
need to have ongoing communication with their children about these important
body safety messages.
Avoid a one-time lecture or discussion about child sexual abuse. Instead take
the opportunity to weave these simple prevention messages into everyday
conversations and situations. Let your children know that talking to them about
these issues means you are serious about your responsibility to protect them.

REMEMBER – it's easy, if you

start early and communicate often.

We hope these tips have helped you better understand the nature and scope of
child sexual abuse. If you are interested in speaking with other parents,
concerned adults, and trained professionals about this information, go to
[5] and check out events in your community where you can gain
more information and skills about how to reduce the risk of abuse for your
child. Working together, we as parents, adults and communities can prevent the
sexual abuse of our children!


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Enough Abuse Campaign
Massachusetts Citizens for Children
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Boston, MA 02109
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