The Well-Armored Child: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Sexual Abuse by Joelle Casteix will be in bookstores in September. It's a great book for parents to help protect their children from one specific form of abuse. It's a sensitive topic that the book handles well, equipping parents to help protect their children, while still letting them be kids.
Child sexual abuse is surrounded by myths and misconceptions, with some of the most common listed here.
- Kids are so sexual these days, it’s no wonder abuse is on the rise
- Children can’t sexually abuse other children
- If my child is abuse, we should keep it a secret
- The legal process is bad for child victims of sexual abuse
- Abusers are easy to spot because they are creepy looking
- My child is smart enough to walk away from an abuser
- Women don’t abuse kids
- Children who are sexually abused themselves will abuse later
- Real victims fight back
- Child sexual abuse is about sex
1) Understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy sexual behaviors in children. Children are biological creatures with genitalia and curiosity. As they grow, they will exhibit healthy and age-appropriate sexual behaviors. These behaviors never involve force, threats, or sexual acts. There are many resources on the Internet that outline what healthy sexual behaviors are by age and what behaviors can be considered “red flags.” If your child is the offender, get immediate help for both your child and the victim, even if that requires reporting.
2) Take a stand on bullying, even when the bullying is not sexualized. Bullying is abusive, which is why every state has enacted some kind of legislation to protect children in bullying situations. Put a stop to the problem as soon as it starts. If necessary, seek help from your child’s school and law enforcement. They are required by law to help you keep your child safe.
3) Take immediate action when there is child-on-child sexual abuse. If you see child-on-child sexual abuse, report it to law enforcement immediately. If you suspect child-on-child sexual abuse, contact law enforcement or ChildHelp, the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child. Trained crisis counselors will guide you through the reporting process. The justice system is kind and compassionate to victims of abuse and is growing in understanding of the dynamics of child offenders.
4) Watch for warning signs. Research and understand the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse. Talk to your children about their bodies and respecting body boundaries. Tell your child that no one has the right to touch them if they do not want to be touched. Tell them that no one should ever ask or force them to keep a secret, and that you will always help them and never shame them if they come to you for help.
5) Remove the stigma and shame from sexual abuse, and do not minimize the damage caused by child-on-child abuse.