Protecting Your Child From Sex Abuse
Experts explain how to recognize signs that your child may have been a victim of sex abuse.
Good Touch, Bad Touch continued...
"Explain that there are 'good' touches -- like a hug, or a pat on the
back, or a kiss on the cheek; there are 'bad' touches -- like when somebody
hits you or pushes you. And there are 'secret' touches -- where somebody wants
to touch you and they say you have to keep it a secret," Amaranth tells
Then, she says, make sure the child knows that if anybody wants to give them
a "secret" touch, they should say "no" -- and tell Mommy or
Daddy right away.
Moreover, Fiedler says many parents can also use the bathing suit analogy to
further help their children define "secret touch" areas.
"You can tell them that any area where a bathing suit covers is their
private place -- and this is the area they don't want other people to touch. As
the child gets older, more age-appropriate details can be added," says
Moreover, both experts say parents need to have this talk with their
children on a very frequent basis.
"Make it part of family conversation. When your child comes home from
school ask them to tell you about the 'good' touches they had that day; then
ask them about any 'bad' touches. Finally ask if anyone tried to have a secret
touch. If your child gets used to hearing these terms they will feel more
comfortable sharing information with you on the subject," says
Listen to Your Children
In addition to talking to your kids, child advocacy experts advise parents
to listen -- and become tuned in to what is "normal" behavior for their
children. The point here: To immediately be able to recognize when something is
out of sync -- often an early sign of abuse.
"Basically if a child's behavior changes significantly in a way that
does not fit with normal development, parents should inquire what's up -- and
consider sexual abuse or other traumatic experiences as a possibility, "
says Lucy Berliner, director of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault &
Traumatic Stress in Seattle, Washington.
What's also important, say experts, is to look for patterns in behavior
changes, specifically as they relate to an individual -- such as an uncle,
stepfather or neighbor -- or a specific event, such as soccer practice or a
"Does your child become upset or seem uncomfortable every time he has to
spend time with Uncle Joey -- or in older children, every time they have soccer
practice or gym class? You need to pay attention to these kinds of outside
cues," says Amaranth.