April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Nationally, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18. The Orange County Rape Crisis Center regularly provides prevention education at schools Orange County through the Safe Touch program. In addition to classroom education, there are things that adults can do to help prevent children from becoming victims of sexual abuse.
You have heard it everywhere, from your doctor to your mechanic, that prevention is key. However, we do not always jump to prevention as a key way to fight child abuse. Why is this? It’s because acknowledging that prevention is a powerful tool means acknowledging that child sexual abuse permeates every social, economic, racial, and religious group. It means acknowledging that “stranger danger” is not enough. It means that we need to have constant conversations with our children about their bodies, about consent, and about who they can turn to for help. If you have never done this and are stressed about how to do this- do not fret! The Orange County Rape Crisis Center has a wide variety of resources to help begin this conversation from books, to conversation starters, to online resources. While you may always call or email us with specific questions, below are some simple tips and tricks to navigating this topic with your child. Please remember that every child is different, and you will learn what works best for your own!
1.Help them understand which parts of their body are private without making those parts shameful or taboo. They should be able to distinguish their private parts just like they would their elbow or their nose.
2. Clearly distinguish the times when it is okay for a grown up to touch their private parts for example- “When mommy/daddy needs to change the baby’s diaper, when the doctor gives you an exam, etc.”
3.Practice active consent with your child and make it clear to anyone who spends time with your child to practice consent as well. This means asking before you touch their body (and vice versa) and listening to when they look uncomfortable or say no.
4. Normalize asking them about their feelings especially if they are involved in a new activity or if someone new enters their life. “How was your day at camp? What made you happy at school? Was anything confusing or uncomfortable?”
5. Create a safety plan with your child. Ask them to brainstorm different people they trust who they can tell if they every have a problem. Talk about how to contact each person.
Prevention education is a vital component to fighting child sexual abuse. If you would like to receive more information, contact the Orange County Rape Crisis Center at 919-968-4647 or visit www.ocrcc.org. If you or a loved one has had a negative sexual experience, call our confidential 24-hour help line at 1-866-WE-LISTEN.
Aryana Ainolhayat is the Youth Education Coordinator for the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and teaches Safe Touch at several schools in Orange County. Safe Touch uses research-based practices and age-appropriate material for children ages 3-12, along with companion materials for their parents. Safe Touch can be provided on request to schools or to other community groups.