In today’s world, every parent must equip the kids with ways to deal with any untoward situations. Every parent wants to keep their kid as safe as possible and sensitizing them and teaching them to protect themselves from sexual abuse should be one of the biggest priorities of parents.
What is the difference between “good” or “safe” touch and “bad” or “unsafe” touch?
- A “good touch” or a “safe touch” is one that makes the receiver feel safe and comfortable.
- A good touch is used by people to help another person.
- An example of good touch is when a mother hugs the kid to comfort him when he falls on the ground, mother changing a baby’s diaper, a father teaching the kid to hold a bat, grandmother giving a birthday kiss.
- Not every child has the same comfort level and some kids prefer non-physical ways of greeting. Even though greeting someone by hugging is a good touch, some kids don’t like it.
- Let your kid determine their comfort level but inform them that such touches aren’t particularly bad or unsafe.
- A “bad”, “unsafe” or “inappropriate” touch is the one that makes the receiver feel bad, disgusted, confused, scared, or uncomfortable.
- Bad or inappropriate touch often involves touching private parts.
- Tell your kid that it is a bad touch if it hurts you.
- Teach your kid that it is a bad touch if someone touches a part of the body where he/she doesn’t want to be touched.
- Tell your child that it is a bad touch if someone touches him/her under the clothing or touches their innerwear.
- Tell your kid that it is bad to touch if he/she feels scared and nervous.
- Tell your kid that it is a bad touch if a stranger forces him/her to touch the person.
- Tell your kid that it is a bad touch if someone asks him/her to not talk about it with anyone or call it a ‘secret.’
- Tell your kid that it is a bad touch if a person threatens him/her if he/she talks about it to anyone.
The Three Types of Touches
- Safe Touches
These are touches that protect and make children feel safe and vital. These touches are good for them. Hugging, pats, and an arm around the shoulder can be safe touches. Safe touches will also involve hurtful touches like the removal of a splinter. Explain to kids that you do so to keep them healthy, making them safe. When you remove a splinter.
- Unsafe touches
These are touches that injure the body or feelings of children (for example, hitting, pushing, pinching, and kicking). Teach kids that those touches are not all right.
- Unwanted Touches
These are touches that may be safe, but a child does not want this person or at the time. Even though it is from a familiar person, it is all right for a child to say “no” to an unwelcome touch. Practice saying ‘no’ in a solid, but respectful voice to your children.
This helps children to understand how to set their limits. Become the best friend of your kid and spend quality time with them. Listen to your kid when he/she is sharing what you did during the day. Make sure that they feel comfortable sharing everything with you.
How to approach the subject of good touch and bad touch?
- Make the child aware of his/her body
Tell the kid that it is their body and nobody has any right over it. Start saying things like “You have to keep your body safe, so you have to wear a seatbelt”. In the same way, empower the kid to speak up against siblings or friends if they hit or push him/her.
Then gradually start saying “To keep your body safe, don’t let anybody touch or see your private body parts”.
- Use correct names for private body parts
Depending on the age and curiosity of the kid, parents are asked about the names of private parts. Always use correct anatomical names and not nicknames.
Correct anatomical names dispel the sense of secrecy. It also helps any outsider like a teacher or a doctor to understand quickly if anything wrong happens.
- Swimsuit method
If your kid is very young, use the swimsuit method. Tell them that any part of the body that remains covered by the swimsuit is a private body part and should always remain hidden in public and nobody is allowed to touch those parts.
- Don’t force any touch
If your kid doesn’t like to hug relatives, let them use verbal greetings or maybe just a high five. Your kid needs to feel comfortable at setting boundaries about his/her body.
- Practice getaway scripts
After talking about different touches, practice simple scripts about what to say in simple events. They don’t have to be anything intense. Say things like “Suppose a silly friend of yours asks you to open your pants, what do we do then? We say “NO” and report it to the teacher.”
Or “Suppose someone is trying to touch you or is coming very close to you when we are traveling by bus, what do we do? You should immediately tell mommy.” Such simple practices will make the kid more comfortable in dealing with such situations.
- Use books
There are a lot of good guide books that use simple illustrations to teach kids about different touches. If you feel unsure about how to initiate the discussion, buy such a book to ease into the broader discussion.
- Open lines of communication
The kid should never feel embarrassed to ask or talk about such issues with the parents. Make your kid feel heard and understood. Don’t laugh at their questions. Use a matter of fact tone. Tell the kid that you are always there for him/her and you will always believe her.
The kid should never feel scared or guilty about reporting any relative or family friend to you.
- Teach your kid to run away
Tell your kid that if he/she feels uncomfortable with someone around or feels threatened then he/she should immediately run away from that place and seek help. Tell him/her that it is okay to ask for help during such times and he/she can also seek help from the police if required. Tell your kid that you are there to help him/her out.
- Tell your kid what safe touch is
Tell your kid that there will be moments when his/her parents or the doctor will touch him/her and that he/she should not feel insecure about that. Tell him/her that a safe touch will make him/her feel comfortable safe. Teach your kid that he/should not entertain a touch from a stranger if he/she feels uncomfortable.
- Do not force your kid to show affection
It is okay if your kid doesn’t want to hug someone or get touched by someone. Do not force them to show affection if they do not want to. A hug from a known adult isn’t necessarily a bad touch but it is okay if he/she doesn’t want that.
This will make your kid feel empowered about his/her body and it will also develop a sense of ownership about their body.
- Teach your kid to trust his/her feelings
Help your kid to develop the sense so that he/she can differentiate between a safe and bad touch. Tell your kid that if a touch makes him/her feel uncomfortable and insecure then that is a bad touch and he/she should always be aware of such touches in public.
Help them to trust their intuitions and at times also give them the upper hand to decide on what is right and what is wrong.
- Role Play
This is a great way of teaching your kid what to say and how to react if someone touches him/her inappropriately. Tell your kid to repeat after you what he/she should say during any such incident.
Prepare a small skit along with your kid based on such a situation; act it out along with him/her and see if he/she is being able to understand what you are trying to preach.
- Promote them to talk about the subject
Research indicates that children learn prevention skills much more when they engage actively in activities or role-playing. Make sure that your toddler engages during your talk. Ask for an example of the ‘good touch’ (mom’s hug) and ‘bad touch’ (a kick while playing).
With time they will understand the difference and will also become aware of it. Promoting them to talk about the subject will help them clear their thoughts and ideas about good and bad touch.
- Tell your child which body parts he/she should not let others touch
Tell your children that it is forbidden to touch body parts – chest, breast, bottom, and buttocks and between thighs. These are the parts of the body that nobody can touch. It is often a bad touch if someone touches them, and the person warns them not to tell anyone about them, making them feel puzzled or uneasy. Tell your children that they can be touched inappropriately even if they are wearing clothes.
How should a kid react to a bad or unsafe touch?
Parents need to teach their children how to react if such a situation ever arises. These are the steps that every child should follow in such a situation
- NO. Teach your kid to say NO whenever they feel uncomfortable. Your kid should know that nobody has the right to touch their private parts or make them feel uncomfortable by touching them in any way. Such knowledge will prompt the kid to say NO to the perpetrator in such a situation.
- Your kid must get away from the person and place as soon as possible.
- Your kid needs to immediately call for help. If there is nobody around, the kid needs to start screaming to draw attention.
- Your kid should immediately contact a trustworthy person like a teacher and later the parents about the incident.
- Teach your kid to never be scared in such situations and call for immediate help. Your kid should never feel ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed if any such event ever happens but should rather immediately report everything to the parents.
- Teach your kid to carry pepper spray with them when they are going out. Tell them to be always aware of their surroundings and if they feel uncomfortable or feel someone is touching him/them inappropriately, he/she should spray the pepper spray.
- Teach your kid to also help others from being touched inappropriately. Tell your kid that he/she should always raise their voice against what is wrong. Teach them to promote knowledge about good touch and bad touch whenever they can.
- Tell your kids that if an adult or anyone elder to him/her touches him/her without consent and tells that it is secret, then to never listen to that person and also seek help. Teach your kids about which secrets are good and bad. Tell him/her that someone touching his/her private parts is not a secret and he/she should always talk about it with his/her parents.
- Tell them to stay away from the person who is trying to touch them in their private parts or making them feel uncomfortable. Tell them to not stay near the person who is touching them or making them feel unsafe.
- Teach them to tell somebody they trust, if someone touches them in the wrong way. Do not allow threats to frighten them to flee or to remain silent. Tell them to ask themselves, if a person touches them and asks them to keep it a secret between the two of them, “Does the secrecy bother me?”
What are the signs which may indicate that a kid is experiencing sexual abuse?
Noticing any one of the following signs in your child doesn’t indicate sexual abuse. However, the presence of several of these signs should trigger the parents to start talking with the child.
- Acting out in any inappropriate, often sexual way, with own toys or objects
- Usually, an energetic kid gradually becoming withdrawn or more clingy than usual.
- Unexplained and sudden outbursts or mood swings.
- Sudden fear of any particular person or place.
- Sudden lack of interest or apathy in meeting or being alone with any particular person.
- Sudden incidents of bedwetting.
- Changes in way of talking about private body parts.
- Signs of self-harm.
- Signs of physical abuse about private body parts.
- Developing tendencies of masturbating in public.
- Touching his/her sibling’s genitals.
- Showing his/her genitals to friends and in public.
- Being too physically intimate with someone like sitting or standing too close to someone.
- Looking for opportunities to watch anyone naked.
- Watching nightmares.
- Showing signs of being too clingy in public.
- Becoming secretive and not sharing his/her thoughts with anyone.
- Sudden mood swings.
- Showing symptoms of multiple personality disorder.
- Fearing to socialize with people.
- Stop eating or having an unhealthy eating routine.
- Showing symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
- Feeling uncomfortable to stay around kids or anyone younger than him/her.
- Soreness near the genitals and bruises near the mouth.
Ways to protect your kid
- Keep a check on the babysitter or counselors. Many states have government registries allowing parents to screen for records of crime and sexual offenses. Once the caregiver is selected, go suddenly to see how your kid is doing.
- Be attentive about behavioral changes in adults. Does an adult pay particular attention or take an uneasy interest in what your child does? Take time to discuss this with your children and discover why the person does so.
- Prepare circles of protection. Involve all family members or parents who attend after-school events or meetings. Talk to them about the subject and create safe adult circles that will also look after the children. You may not like to ask a community conversation group to learn about the problem and to process the feelings of your local law enforcement or child abuse prevention organization.
- Make sure you are approachable. A sense of safety and honesty with you is the greatest protection for your kids. If your child believes it’s all right to talk to you with his/her body, thoughts, and “bad touches,” the child would most likely warn you of unpleasant circumstances. If your children entrust you with issues, try to stay quiet, uncritical, and unjust.
Hearing his/her interest with sympathy and working with them for assistance in solving the problem. If you find that your child has been wrongly affected, then, as a parent, emotional support is the most important thing.
The ‘6 Cautions’
- ‘Look’ Caution
It is important to report acts of voyeurism, exhibitionism, children’s viewing of pornography, “having sex” and other behaviors involving “seeing.”
- ‘Hear’ Caution
It is important to be aware of who is talking with your kid over the phone or in person. You should make sure that no one is threatening your kid or passing lewd comments about him/her. Keep a check whether anyone is forcing him/her to touch them verbally.
- ‘Touch Caution’
A child must be supported and encouraged not only to report when touched in private parts but especially when touched unnecessarily by anyone else.
- ‘Hold’ Caution
Every act of hugging, making the child sit on the lap, or pervasive sex that discomfits the child must be notified.
- ‘Alone’ Caution
While it may well act as a precursor to sexual abuse or any other form of abuse, this does not include sexual abuse directly. This is to encourage a child to be alone or seek information about the child’s solitude in conditions.
- ‘Space’ Caution
Despite plenty of space, getting very close to infants. This may serve as a precursor to potential abuse.
How to deal with a child who has been molested?
This may alter a child’s future. After experiencing the emotional and physical torture that accompanies such gruesome crimes, a child has to deal with the insensitive attitude of society using terms such as ‘victim’ or ‘survivor.’
These children tend to lose every hope that they will get over this gradually and to blame themselves, which causes them to grow aloof. They just need sympathy instead, and certain reassurance that it was not their fault.
What is the reason behind some children abusing other children?
It is difficult and not always clear why children sexually harm others. Some of them were assaulted by themselves mentally, sexually, or geographically, while others were physically or verbally assaulted in their homes. It is therefore important that advice and assistance be sought as quickly as possible.
How to prevent abuse?
To make sure that your child doesn’t go through any form of abuse or molestation, make sure that your child is comfortable talking about his/her body with you. Let them know which touches are meant to feel comfortable and which ones are not. Teach your child the difference between ‘secret’ and ‘surprise.’ Tell your kid that he/she should never listen to a stranger who wants him/her to keep it a secret. Encourage them to raise their voice against what is wrong.
Reporting sexual abuse
It may not be easy to report a crime such as sexual abuse and it may drain mentally. Be aware that reporting abuse offers you the opportunity to protect your child who cannot defend himself/herself. You may be lawfully obliged to report allegations of abuse according to your location and your role in the child’s life.
- Tell the youngster you’ll talk to someone who can help. You do not ask for their consent, you must be straight. The child may not want to report and might be afraid, particularly if the victim or their loved one has threatened them. Recall that you include officials that can keep your child safe through reporting.
- Make sure the infant is in a safe position. If you have concerns about the safety of your child, be sure to talk to the authorities directly when you report. If you fear that when you find out about the investigation, the perpetrator may cause further harm to the child, express it accurately.
- You will consult them before reporting to authorities if you do not feel afraid that your parents are causing harm.
- You may not immediately hear or see evidence of an inquiry. You may be able to call back for a follow-up in a few days, depending on an agency procedure and your relationship with the child.
- If you can, continue to play the supporting part in the life of that boy. If reporting means that you can no longer have this connection, know that reporting helps this child to remain safe.
Only when a child is aware of their body and sexual abuse can he/she seek immediate help to stop such an incident from happening. Awareness about private body parts and openness with the parents is the only way to stop child sexual abuse from taking place.
Experts suggest that pre-school kids are ready to learn and know about different touches.
Almost one in every 4 girl children and around 1 in every 12 boys suffer from child sexual abuse in their childhood and the perpetrator is often someone familiar. The more parents squirm about discussing issues like sexual abuse and private body parts, the higher the risk a kid faces of suffering from such abuse unknowingly and helplessly.
Most parents delay talking about sexual abuse with kids because they fear that the kid will get scared or that it is too early for kids to learn about such issues. But kids have an innate sense of understanding crucial things if informed properly. When parents should start discussing the topic will depend on the child’s age and maturity level.