Northwest NEWS

August 30, 1999

Home & Garden

Sexual abuse prevention tips for parents

by Deborah Stone

   Sexual abuse of children happens more often than most people realize. One in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually assaulted before age sixteen. Over eighty-five percent of the time, the offender is someone the child knows rather than a stranger. The perpetrator might be a family member, a babysitter, coach, or family friend.

   Parents can help reduce the risk that their children will be sexually abused by following various awareness prevention tips and advice from the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center.

   The Center urges parents to talk to their kids and give them clear and accurate information about what is and is not appropriate touching and behavior, along with direct instruction focused on developing problem-solving skills. It is also important that children know their rights to privacy and safety and what they should do if they need help or are confused.

   Maintaining an environment that allows for open communication is essential, because it will help children speak freely about their feelings and concerns. Those who are abused are often reluctant to tell someone about what happened because they may feel shame or guilt or even think they won't be believed. Nurturing children's sense of self-worth and letting them know that they are cared about increases self-confidence and the ability to make decisions that will help them feel safer.

   King County Sexual Assault Resource Center also advocates enhancing the supervision of children. Parents need to identify approved routes for their kids to and from school, homes of friends, parks, etc., and encourage the use of a "buddy system," because children are safer in a group, as opposed to alone and isolated.

   It is important for parents to be sure of where their kids are and whom they are with at all times. This can be easily done by a check-in system of regular phone calls. Providing children with the names of a few adults who can be trusted (safety helpers) is a "must" and encouraging them to utilize these people when needed will make them feel more secure about their safety.

   Children need the support of adults to reinforce safety skills and information in order to reduce their vulnerability to sexual abuse. They rely on adults to help them build skills to negotiate through life safely.

   For more information on sexual assault awareness prevention tips, call the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center at 1-800-825-7273.