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Talking With Your Child About Sex - Topic Overview

Discussing sexual abuse and date rape

Sexual abuse is any type of sexual activity that is done against a person's will. It can be nonviolent abuse (such as being forced to look at sexual pictures), unwanted or forced sexual touching, or violent sexual assault (such as attempted rape or rape.) The attacker may be a stranger, someone you do not know well, a close friend, or a family member.

Giving your child information about date rape and abuse is important. About 10 out of 100 adolescents have been physically hurt by a dating partner.8

Talk to your child about the following:

  • Avoid places that are secluded. Go where there are other people, where you feel comfortable and safe. Don't go to a date's home or invite him or her to yours. These are the places where most acquaintance rapes (date rapes) occur.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel vulnerable, you might be. For example, avoid parties where boys greatly outnumber girls.
  • Don't be afraid to be rude. If a situation feels wrong or you start to get nervous, confront your date immediately or leave as quickly as possible.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. They compromise your ability—and that of your date—to make responsible decisions.
  • Go on a group or double date. Especially at first, dating in groups may be more comfortable and less risky. When children are with friends who are trustworthy, they tend to be safer, even when they break rules.
  • Don't keep secrets. No peer, parent, or adult has the right to tell you to keep secrets from either parent, especially when someone touches your body in an offensive way.

For more information see the topics Sexual Abuse or Assault (Rape) and Domestic Abuse.

Noticing unusual behaviors

A child's interest in sex and sexuality can range from none to a lot. It's natural and healthy for a child to explore his or her sexuality as long as his or her behaviors are balanced with other aspects of life. A child's sexual behaviors vary, based on his or her age and environment (both in and out of the home). In some cases, it's clear that sexual behavior is no longer natural and healthy and that a child needs help from a doctor or counselor.

Talk to your child's doctor if you are concerned that your child:9

  • Is intimate with an older or younger peer. In general, the wider the age difference, the greater the concern.
  • Is preoccupied with sex or interested in pornography.
  • Talks like an adult would talk about sexual behaviors or interacts with an adult in a manner more like adult-adult contact.
  • Behaves in sexual ways even though he or she has been asked to stop.
  • Harms animals or behaves in sexual ways with animals.
  • Sees everyday objects and interactions as sexual.
  • Violates others' body space or uses angry sexual language, gestures, or touching to hurt others.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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