With each new year, come New Year’s resolutions. Usually these focus on improving one’s appearance, health, financial situation, or personal relationships. This year, the Sexual Assault Crisis Center challenges YOU to resolve to make your community a safer place for children in 2015!
It is highly likely that you know a child who has been or is being abused. This year, make the choice to stand up and protect children from sexual abuse. The statistics are staggering. 10% of children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday, and 35% of child victims are 11 years old or younger. It is OUR responsibility, as adults and community members, to protect children.
So, what can you do?
1. Talk with your child about sexual boundaries. Start these conversations at a young age because talking about personal safety creates a protective bond between parent and child. Let children know that you are a safe person for them to talk to about anything going on in their lives.
2. Redirect an adult who is crossing a child’s boundaries or acting inappropriately in front of children. It can be difficult and even scary to take risks to protect children, but if we don’t say anything, then who are we really protecting? The abuser? Ourselves? Definitely not the child.
3. Trust your gut. If you feel like something inappropriate is going on, it probably is. And tell your children to trust their gut feelings also. Our bodies have built-in warning signals that we can’t afford to ignore. It is not healthy to expect the worst in people, but we need to pay attention to behaviors that are dangerous or “iffy,” even by people who we know personally.
4. Make a report of suspected child abuse to the police or child protective services. The law doesn’t require that you have evidence of abuse when you report, it only requires that you have reasonable suspicion. And you’re not making an accusation when you make a report. You’re just requesting a professional service be done, and the law does protect you when it comes to making a good faith report.
90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser, which makes disclosing the abuse that much harder for them. However, if a child discloses abuse to you, it can be a traumatic experience for the child and for you, but try not to overreact. Listen calmly and openly when the child talks to you, even about sensitive or uncomfortable topics. Reassure the child that you believe him or her and that what happened to them is not their fault.
So, when you are making your New Year’s resolutions, resolve to make 2015 the year of protecting children! Please contact the Sexual Assault Crisis Center to learn more about keeping our children and our community safe, or to schedule an adult training about how to protect children from sexual abuse at no cost to you.
Reference: Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children. Charleston, SC. www.D2L.org.