How to Talk to Kids about Abuse

If you are concerned that your child has been exposed to inappropriate touching or child sexual abuse, you might wonder how to begin a conversation. With years of experience as both parent and educator, I’d like to offer some guidance on where to start with this difficult topic.

Start by talking about touches and who they like them from. I like to start the conversation by asking if I could give them a high five or a hug. I respect their response. I then talk about different types of touches so they understand that they may like some touches, but not others.

Do you like hugs? Holding hands? Tickles? Kisses?

Then talk about who they like certain touches from.

Do you like hugs from me? Your friend? Your teacher? Your brother or sister?

When do you like those touches?

This lets them know they can like different touches from different people and at different times.

Once this base of understanding is established, you can then talk about feelings around certain people.

How do you feel when you are around___________?

(If they are young and don’t have a large feelings vocabulary, try offering some examples such as happy, safe, worried, sad, and uncomfortable.)

Young children might not be able to relate detailed and chronological descriptions, but they will remember how experiences and interactions made them feel.

Has anyone has touched your body in a way that makes you feel hurt or sad?

Has anyone touched your body without asking first?

Kids might start listing all the times a kid at school or a sibling poked, pinched, or hit them. If you try to justify the actions, explain why it happened, or say it wasn’t a big deal, the child will learn that it is not safe to share with you. Listen to them and validate their feelings. They may be testing you with these stories to see how you will respond and if they can trust you enough to share a story about something that really hurt or scared them.

Has anyone touched the private parts of your body?

If they mention things like helping in the bathroom or getting dressed or at the doctor, explain that it is okay for some grownups to touch your private parts if they are helping to keep you safe and healthy. However, they should still ask first. If they don’t feel comfortable with some adults helping them, make a plan for what they can do to get help from a different adult – an adult they trust.

Has anyone told you to keep a secret that is making you feel worried/sad/scared?

A common tactic of offenders is to tell the child to keep it secret, with the explicit or implied threat of getting in trouble if they tell.

Your body belongs to you. If something that someone said or did is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, it is not your fault.

You deserve to feel safe and I want to help you.

If the child talks about touches they don’t like, people that make them feel sad or uncomfortable, or instances of inappropriate touch, you can validate their feelings and let them know it is not their fault.

It is okay to like different touches from different people.

I can understand how that would make you feel that way.

You look worried or upset, can you tell me how it makes you feel to talk about this?

If someone didn’t ask you first, then it was not okay for them to touch your body at all.

If someone showed you their private parts or asked you to touch them, and you did, it is not your fault. They knew it was wrong and they should not have done that.

If at any point they disclose sexual touching or abuse, stay calm. If you demonstrate anger toward the person that did that, the child might also think you are mad at them, or that they did something wrong. They need your support and help.

Thank you for sharing with me.

I know it is hard/scary/confusing to talk about this and you are so brave.

It is not your fault, you have not done anything wrong.

No one should touch your body without your permission.

Then call DSS to make a report. And you can always call our 24-Hour Help Line for support, concerns, or questions. We can help you make a report if you’d like.

Even if your child does not disclose inappropriate touching, don’t stop the conversation. Revisit this with your young children on a regular basis. The best protection for children is prevention. Let your child know that their body belongs to them and you respect that. And always model asking before touching.

Every night before bed, I ask my growing son if he would like a hug or a kiss. Some days he says yes and some days he says no. In fact, he is 12 now and most days he says no. But every once in a while he says yes and squeezes me tight. I want him to know that I will respect his body autonomy and that I am always there if he needs a little extra physical and emotional support.

When I model this behavior for my child, I am hopeful that he will internalize the concept of consent before touching and be comfortable with asking, especially when he starts having intimate relationships. This is true prevention.

Alexis Kralic is our Education & Finance Coordinator. In addition to managing the agency’s finances and bookkeeping, she coordinates Safe Touch, our safety education program for preschool and elementary students.

If you want to learn more please join us at our next Stewards of Children training. Info below:

Myth or Fact: “She Asked for It”

Myth: If a woman is raped, she probably asked for it in some way.

Fact: Only the perpetrator is responsible for the decision to violate someone. 

This myth restricts women’s behavior and places blame on survivors rather than perpetrators. Women and those who identify as female are often expected to dress or behave in certain ways and to follow strict but contradictory rules to protect themselves from harm. This myth perpetuates the double standard that reinforces an expectation of male aggressiveness and the perceived responsibility of women to avoid any behavior that could be seen as provocative.

This myth also helps distance non-survivors from survivors. By insisting that a survivor played some role, others can alleviate their own fear of assault by assuming that certain behaviors will protect them from a similar circumstance. For example, if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were drinking, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you don’t drink too much. Or if you believe women are partially responsible for being assaulted if they were dressed provocatively, then you can take comfort in the idea that you are not at risk if you dress more modestly.

But offenders select their victims not based on the way they dress, but rather on their perceived vulnerability. Rapists target people who seem vulnerable to assault and who seem less likely to report them.

Asking potential victims to be responsible for protecting themselves from victimization is a form of oppression. Only perpetrators are responsible for their behavior, and they should be held accountable. Even if you believe that women should adhere to certain behavioral standards – how they dress, how much they drink, who they spend time with, etc. – the consequences of not meeting these standards should never be rape. No one “asks” to be raped, and no one deserves to be raped. There is never an excuse, an invitation, or a justification for sexual violence. Bottom line.

myth 3

This post is part of a series on Myths & Facts about Sexual Violence:

Myth #1: “He Didn’t Mean To”
Myth #2: “She Lied”
Myth #3: “She Asked For It”
Myth #4: “It Wasn’t Really Rape”

Myth or Fact: “She Lied”

Myth: The rate of false reporting for rape is higher than for other violent crimes.hiring-myth

Fact: Rape is the most underreported crime, NOT the most falsely reported.

Actually, the prevalence of false reporting of rape is about the same as it is for other felonies – between 2% and 8%. A study of 136 sexual assault cases in Boston found only a 5.9% rate of false reports.

This myth serves to blame the survivor. It increases suspicion and hostility toward people who come forward. Although there are isolated incidents where people have lied about being raped, these are the exception rather than the norm.

One major reason that Americans believe that rape is often falsely reported is that the media sensationalizes false reporting stories, while it minimizes or fails to cover the hundreds of thousands of true stories that happen every year.

Another major reason this myth is so commonly accepted is the misconception that rape is “easy to claim and hard to dispute.” But this is far from the truth—many survivors describe their experience of pressing charges or reporting their assault to law enforcement as a “second rape.” Reporting a rape or assault is a difficult and lengthy process. The survivor must share very personal details with complete strangers, undergo a traumatic evidence collection process, and will likely be subjected to a great deal of scrutiny or suspicion. Most survivors experience negative impacts, such as trauma from re-living/re-telling violence committed against them, victim-blaming comments that compound self-blame, and a general lack of support.  It is unlikely that someone would go through this long and painful process if their story was not true. In fact, the reality is that rape is extremely underreported — most survivors never report their experience, especially on college campuses.

Furthermore, many cases are eventually dropped because the structure of the criminal justice system – from police to judge – is not designed to handle the particulars of sexual violence cases. RAINN estimates that out of every 1,000 rapes, only 6 rapists will be incarcerated, meaning that “perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals.” Considering this, most survivors feel that there are enormous costs to reporting with usually very little to gain. So very few reports of rape are false — which means that the vast majority of them are true.

myth 2

This post is part of a series on Myths & Facts about Sexual Violence:

Myth #1: “He Didn’t Mean To”
Myth #2: “She Lied”
Myth #3: “She Asked For It”
Myth #4: “It Wasn’t Really Rape”

Myth or Fact: “He Didn’t Mean To”

Myth: If a guy rapes someone, he probably didn’t mean to things just got out of control.hiring-myth

Fact: Perpetrators rape with intention, and they do so out of sexual entitlement, in order to gain power and control.

This myth is often used as an excuse for male aggression. It assumes that women and other survivors are responsible for male sexual arousal and that that arousal is an uncontrollable urge that must be satisfied. Other versions of this myth suggest that men may be too dumb or too bad at communication to recognize if a person is not interested, especially if he is drunk or aroused.

This myth gets two things wrong. Firstly, it lumps all men in the category of rapists. While most rapists are male, the vast majority of men never commit rape. Sexual arousal is a strong urge in human beings, but it is controllable. Claiming that men cannot control their urges is inaccurate and unfair to men. Secondly, it makes rape seem unintentional.

David Lisak’s research into what he terms “undetected rapists” has found that while perpetrators don’t name what they do as rape, they do intentionally use violent and predatory behavior in order to commit multiple acts of sexual violence. Lisak says: “Date rapists are widely assumed to be basically good guys who, because of a combination of too much alcohol and too little clear communication, end up coercing sex upon their partners. This image is widely promulgated, but it is flatly contradicted by research.”

The motives for rape are complex and varied but often include belief in male privilege and their entitlement to sex; hostility toward women and historically marginalized and oppressed people; a rigid belief system regarding gender roles; a commitment to hyper-masculinity; the desire to exert power and control; the desire to humiliate and degrade; and in some cases, the desire to inflict pain. A study of convicted sex offenders in prison found that most incarcerated rapists already have available and willing sexual partners. Many perpetrators rape in order to gain power and control – not for sexual gratification or because of sexual frustration. Sometimes, erection and ejaculation are not even present during the rape.

Yet because of cultural messages surrounding sex and a general lack of education about consent in our society, many people assume that rape is just a matter of confusion or miscommunication. But that’s not true. Rapists know when they do not have consent; they intentionally inflict violence on others. This is either for the gratification of the violence or because they have been taught that they are entitled to others’ bodies regardless of their feelings or desires.

There certainly may be situations where the desire for sex can be seen as a motive for rape. However, choosing to engage in sexual activity without the other person’s consent – that is, the definition of rape – is an expression of entitlement, power, and control.

myth 1

This post is part of a series on Myths & Facts about Sexual Violence:

Myth #1: “He Didn’t Mean To”
Myth #2: “She Lied”
Myth #3: “She Asked For It”
Myth #4: “It Wasn’t Really Rape”

Myths & Facts about Sexual Violence

Take a moment to consider something we don’t always think about—a difficult topic that is rarely dfc611b122ae4cf6e5c73abfa05342b0discussed: rape. We hear about it in the news, on social media, in public safety announcements, on TV. But we don’t always take the time to really think about rape. For example, if someone asked you for an explicit definition of rape right now, do you think you could give an accurate one?

If you’re as informed as the general public is, the answer to that question is probably no—and that’s okay! Because over the course of this blog series, we’ll be taking the time to break down the myths and facts about sexual violence.

Simply put, people tend to know more myths than facts about rape. Rape myths are dangerous because they normalize sexual violence and tell us that violence is the natural order of things. They say that only certain types of people can experience rape and only certain types of people can be perpetrators, which leads to victim-blaming and leaves the root causes of sexual violence unaddressed.

So why do people subscribe to rape myths?

  • Because they believe in stereotypes and discriminatory ideas.
  • Because they have never thought to question myths they have been told since childhood.
  • Because the myths give them a sense of safety. For example, if you believe that women who dress provocatively are more likely to be raped, then you could take comfort in the idea that dressing modestly would protect you from violence.


It’s important that we recognize the myths that we ourselves hold about sexual violence because rape myths have serious consequences. Without critically rejecting them, we encourage perpetration, discourage bystander intervention, and promote victim blaming—sometimes without even realizing that we’re doing it.

People who accept rape myths are more likely to commit rape.
Rape myths act as a justification for perpetrators’ aggression—a way to rationalize what they’ve done as something other than violence. Perpetrators often believe that victims secretly want to be coerced into sex, or that they “deserve” to be raped. Rape myths allow perpetrators to justify their violent behaviors. And when bystanders make comments or jokes supporting rape myths, that encourages perpetrators and provides “cover” for their actions. In order to effectively prevent sexual violence in our society, we must address the common myths that support acceptance of rape, denigration of survivors, and impunity for perpetrators.

People who accept rape myths are less likely to intervene when they witness sexual violence.
Bystanders are less likely to intervene in cases of sexual assault when they accept rape myths. For example, a bystander may witness a situation in which someone is too drunk to consent, but they may not intervene because they accept the rape myth that victims are responsible for preventing their own assaults. When bystanders don’t intervene, rapists think their behavior is okay (or at least accepted by their peers), and it allows them to further rationalize the violence and continue to perpetrate.

People who accept rape myths are more likely to blame the victim.
Many rape myths disguise themselves as efforts to protect women—as “safety tips” to “prevent” rape. You’ve probably heard phrases like, “Use the buddy system,” “Don’t walk alone at night,” “Dress and act modestly,” or “Always carry a cell phone!” The idea that women are even partially responsible for preventing their own victimization leads to risk-reduction strategies that often encourage victim blaming. Regardless of the efficacy of these tips for any individual person, they fail to address the fundamental problem: the behavior of perpetrators.

Additionally, “while it’s not a bad thing for women to learn how to assess risk, learn self-defense, and learn how to define personal boundaries,” it puts the responsibility on the survivor to not be raped and does not guarantee their safety. Furthermore, if one person reduces their risk of rape by following a restrictive safety plan, they’re only trying to ensure that they’re not the person experiencing rape. This is not true prevention because the perpetrator will end up targeting someone else. Only by addressing perpetrator responsibility and active bystander intervention can we help make everyone safer and ensure that we are all able to live without fear and constraint.

The pervasive nature of common rape myths often plays a big role in keeping survivors silent, increasing feelings of self-blame and stigma that survivors experience after an assault. Identifying and recognizing harmful beliefs as myths can help us support survivors with compassion and without question.

Untitled-300x218In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we are going to explore the following common myths and explain the facts that counter them over the next few weeks. 

Myth #1: “He Didn’t Mean To”
Myth #2: “She Lied”
– Myth #3: “She Asked For It”
– Myth #4: “It Wasn’t Really Rape”

If you want to make an end to sexual violence in your community we hope that you’ll follow along and start important conversations with your friends and family about these damaging beliefs.

5 Tips for Finding the Right Babysitter

blog postWhether you’re rushing to complete errands or enjoying a nice date night, it’s likely that you often find yourself in need of a babysitter for your kids. However, it can be difficult to find a person you trust completely to take care of your child. 1 in 10 children experience sexual abuse before the age of 18, and 40% of instances of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by older youth. With Child Abuse Prevention Month coming up in April, here are some tips for choosing the right person to care for your child.

1. Ask the potential babysitter for references. Talk to parents of kids they have cared for in the past as well as references for any other jobs they may have held to get a better sense of who they are. Continue reading “5 Tips for Finding the Right Babysitter”

Place Your Bet on Us with GoodBookey!

Do you love basketball or other competitive sports? Always wanted to dabble in gambling? Looking for a fun new way to support the Center?

Well, you’re in luck, because the OCRCC has recently partnered with GoodBookey, an app that allows you and your friends to bet on popular sporting events – except instead of the wager being exchanged through individuals, the money you gamble is donated to the winner’s choice nonprofit! As you know, we take basketball seriously here in Orange County, and fortunately, we’ve partnered with GoodBookey just in time for March Madness!

To support the Center through GoodBookey, download the app with this link on your iOS or Android device, enter your information, and invite your friends to play! If you “lose” your bet, your money will go to the winner’s favorite charity. Your donation is tax deductible, and GoodBookey will send you a receipt! Whether you’re new to betting or an old hat, your donation is sure to make a difference in Orange County.

BONUS FOR THE CENTER! Right now GoodBookey is pledging to donate $1 for every donor who uses our link to download AND register for the app, up to $1,000 dollars! All you have to do is click here, and you will be taken to the app store to download this simple app. To make sure we get the dollar, please register! No purchase is necessary, but we hope you’ll play in our honor. By being represented on GoodBookey we have the opportunity to reach new audiences while giving loyal donors like you, a new and fun way to support our mission.

So get going! Click here or on the image above to get started.

Why I Decided to Become a Companion

men can stop rapeTo start, I am a man — a white heterosexual man to be exact.  I am probably not the first image that comes to mind when talking about an advocate at a rape crisis center.  But here I am, volunteering with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center as a Companion for survivors of sexual violence.  In sharing my story of how I got here, I hope that other men will read this and consider getting involved, either within our community or by taking a firm stand against sexual violence.

When I was finishing my final year of my undergraduate career, I began to take an interest in women’s issues.  To this day I cannot pinpoint what started it, but I do remember reading more blog posts and articles through Facebook about women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted, as well as more generic commentary about the everyday discrimination women encounter.  By the time I was in graduate school, my awareness of the frequency of sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, led me to change my academic focus toward women’s rights and gender equality.  Although my studies focus on the global stage, my conviction that women’s issues needed to be addressed only grew.

I volunteered as a Companion to learn more about sexual violence and how to combat it from a third party perspective.  Reading about instances of rape left me feeling angry that such actions occurred with stunning regularity, and frustrated that people could either brush it off or treat it as “just the way things are.”  While I am grateful for the training provided by the Center and have enjoyed my experience so far, I cannot deny that it has been emotionally trying.  Exposing myself to a subject that I could not personally relate to was difficult.  I certainly cared about what happened, but I understood very quickly that I could never fully comprehend the harassment, the violence, or the subtle discrimination because I was born a man. Continue reading “Why I Decided to Become a Companion”

Purple Ribbon of Excellence

purple-ribbon-of-excellenceWe are excited to announce that the Orange County Rape Crisis Center has been awarded the inaugural Purple Ribbon of Excellence! Presented by the Training and Education Committee of the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission, the Purple Ribbon of Excellence recognized the Center’s efforts to prevent child sexual abuse through our community education programs.

Over the last thirty years, our Safe Touch program for children and our Start Strong program for teens have helped prevent child sexual abuse by teaching children and adolescents to identify inappropriate behavior, to develop an understanding of consent and healthy relationships, and to stand against sexual violence in their schools and communities. These programs are designed for continuous learning, which means that students in every public school in Orange County will receive Safe Touch (preK through 5th grade) or Start Strong (7th and 9th grade) programming year after year, so the skills and knowledge they gain are consistently reinforced and built upon. Conversations that start with learning your own bodily autonomy and boundaries eventually shift to how these ideas apply to treating and respecting others. Continue reading “Purple Ribbon of Excellence”

Tips for Supporting a Partner in Crisis

d6eb60bcbd2c14fb8daabc773cd99ffcThe impacts of sexual violence can include a wide array of frustrations and barriers to daily functioning for survivors. Watching from the sidelines as a loved one struggles with those difficulties can bring a similar yet different sense of helplessness and frustration. Secondary survivors — the partners, friends, and family members of survivors — often go through their own trauma response as a result of hearing about the survivor’s experiences and witnessing the negative impacts.

Whether a primary survivor is still reeling in the immediate aftermath of having experienced sexual violence, or whether they are struggling with flashbacks and triggers months or years after the initial incident, it can be painful to watch someone experiencing a crisis. It is important to note that a crisis is different than an emergency. An emergency presents imminent risk of physical harm, whereas a crisis is the mental and emotional response when a situation is too overwhelming to be handled by regular coping methods.

As the person on the outside watching someone suffer, it is a common response to want to do anything you can to make it better, and also common to feel like there is nothing you can do to make it better. While you may not be able to fix the whole situation, your presence and support can be an invaluable benefit to your loved one. Here are a few suggestions for small ways to help someone through a crisis: Continue reading “Tips for Supporting a Partner in Crisis”