We’re going to talk about something hard today: preventing child sexual abuse.
I lived in Boston at the time when the first child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic church broke and became public. Like many people, I was shocked, disgusted, and angry. It was such an abuse of power by “holy men” and covered up by a powerful and trusted institution. Recently a grand jury in Pennsylvania detailed 1000 instances of child sexual abuse by over 300 clergy. I wanted to throw up when I heard the news. Though I am glad we are living in a time when we are bringing these horrific abuses to light, it floors me that there can be such DISREGARD for children.
If there is any trauma parents want to prevent, it’s child sexual abuse. And I am about equipping parents with knowledge, insights, and tools to “trauma proof” their children — to reduce the likelihood of such tragedy happening to your child.
Child sexual abuse is one of the most damaging traumas a child can experience. As a psychotherapist and personal and professional coach, I have sat with adults who have courageously shared with me that they have been molested, raped, and sexually assaulted as a child. It impacts a person’s whole sense of safety and self. It hurts a person to their core. And it is a long journey to recover from child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse is more common than is reported.
Child sex abuse is linked to later sexual exploitation. Children who had an experience of rape or attempted rape in their adolescent years were 13.7 times more likely to experience rape or attempted rape in their first year of college. (source)
90% of children who experience sexual abuse know their perpetrator (source).
You can read more statistics from the Department of Justice here.
You can also find more information from Darkness to Light, an incredible resource for ending child sex abuse. Be sure to look at their pdf on statistics that may surprise you, including at what time of day abuse usually takes place and by whom.
Child sexual abuse has long-term consequences. In working with people in private practice, I see that it impacts people emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually, and relationally. Children who are sexually abused risk developing PTSD, depression, neurobiological problems, immune functioning problems, and suicidality.
Okay, pause and get grounded for a moment. Feel your feet on the earth. Feel the chair supporting you. And exhale fully. It’s a lot and it’s scary to think about child sexual abuse.
There are things you can do NOW to help prevent your child from being sexually abused and sexually abusing others. When I was designing my 30-day course, Regarding Our Children, I knew that I had to include a lesson on regarding our children’s bodies – how to help our children stay safe, develop a healthy relationship with their bodies, make wise decisions, and treat their bodies (and other people’s bodies) with regard.
We have the capacity to help “trauma proof” our children. We can empower our children to know their bodies, trust their instincts, communicate their emotions in healthy ways, and be resilient.
We can utilize our connection and atunement with our children to communicate messages that children internalize as being worthy and that their bodies are to be regarded.
Here are four ways you can start now to prevent your child from experiencing sexual abuse:
- Help your child to develop good body awareness. We want our children to develop a good relationship with their bodies, to know its signals when it indicates that a child isn’t safe or something doesn’t feel right.
- Have them practice saying, “No.” While I wrote this article for Upworthy on teaching our children about sexual consent, the practices I share help to give our children a voice and regard their bodies.
- Talk to them in age-appropriate ways about staying safe. Educate them on sexual abuse in age-appropriate ways.
- Create a safe, calm, regarding environment at home.
Not easy, I know. And it’s not a “once and done” deal when it comes to talking to our children about bodily safety. And it triggers our own stuff, including our sexual history. But I am here to tell you that it’s possible to help our children stay safe – at any age. AND not only is it possible, it’s necessary we as the adults in their lives do what we can to help our children. From toddlers to college-aged children, there’s so much you can do to help your child develop good body awareness, know that their body is to be regarded, and to be safe.
If keeping our children safe and creating a world that regards children interests you, I would highly recommend registering for my 30-day course, Regarding Our Children.
EVERY SINGLE audio lesson you’ll receive are about helping your child to thrive, to feel good about themselves, to honor the integrity of their personhood and bodies, and set them up to leaders of their own lives. It’s ALL about the power of regard and powerful ways we can nourish their inner sense of self and resilience. If you choose, we’ll also have a private Facebook group where you can share and support one another.
I am all about creating a more compassionate world. I am investing in our future by supporting parents, coaches, family members, and mentors today to parent and teach with presence, regard, and compassion in order for our children to thrive now AND in the future.
I hope you’ll join me for Regarding Our Children.