Parents sometimes cannot find the words to discuss personal safety with their children, but starting the conversation is the first step. It is important to make sure they know that NO ONE has the right to touch their private parts or touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. It is important that you empower them to take the right steps to stay safe.
Teach them to say NO to adults. Our children are raised to respect their elders. Children should know they have the right to say NO. Give them permission and support to say NO to adults that may try to hurt them or make them feel uncomfortable. Children have been taught to stay away from strangers, but most sexual assaults of children are by someone they know.
Teach them to immediately leave the situation. Tell them to get away immediately and go to a safe place.
Teach them there is “Strength in Numbers.” Teach them that if they are going somewhere, to go with their trusted friends, and to stay together.
Teach them to tell you, a trusted adult, teacher, etc. Children need to know that you will not judge them, but that their safety comes first, above all things.
Go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – www.ncmec.org for more information on keeping your child safe. Download and read: “Know the Rules…” (Five booklets) &
“Guidelines to Reduce Child Victimization.”
A great Child Lures Prevention education booklet that you can download for free is Think First & Stay Safe! PARENTS GUIDE at www.childluresprevention.com (for Parents). Review this booklet with your children and practice their responses and reactions to these lures.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the
following age appropriate topics to discuss with your children.
18 months – 3 years old: Teach your children the
proper names for body parts.
3-5 years: Teach your children about private parts of the body and how to say no to sexual advances. Give straightforward answers about sex.
5-8 years: Discuss safety away from home and the difference between safe and unsafe touch. Encourage your children to talk about scary experiences and reassure them that they can talk to you about anything.
8-12 years: Stress personal safety. Start to discuss rules of
sexual conduct that are accepted by the family.
13-18 years: Stress personal safety. Discuss rape, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases, and unintended pregnancies.
How Do I Know If A Child Has Experienced Sexual or Physical Abuse?
Children may show signs of depression or other signs of concern for many reasons. Not just one of these signs means that the child has been abused, but several signs may mean that you should be investigating, and seeking support and assistance. If you believe that the perpetrator may be a parent or guardian, you may anonymously call the state Office of Children & Family Services, or Department of Family Services (each state may have a different name for this agency). If you are unsure whom to call, contact your local Department of Social Services for the toll-free Child Protective Services hotline number. In New York State, the telephone number is 1-800-342-3720. If you believe that the abuse is by someone who is not the parent or guardian, contact the parent or guardian, and ask what they plan to do. For abuse by someone who is not a parent or guardian, the police should be contacted.
Physical and Behavioral Indicators of Child Abuse
- Symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
- Recurring nightmares or the child awakes with “night sweats”
- Complaints of pain, irritation or discharge in the genital area
- Painful urination or defecation
- Repeated complaints of stomachaches, headaches, leg pains, throat infections, etc.
- Change in cleanliness
- Change in clothing, dressing more sexually, more revealing, or covering up more than usual
- Fecal soiling
- Sexualized behavior
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Bed-wetting, or thumb-sucking at an older age
- Sexualized talk
- Touching other children or saying inappropriate sexual statements to children and/or adults
- Social withdrawal
- Onset of depression or other behaviors
- Onset of truancy
- Chronic runaway behavior
- Onset of substance abuse
- Suicide attempts
- Hints or comments from the child about an incident
- Stories about friends who may have experienced sexual abuse or physical abuse
- Crying excessively
- Sexual activities with toys or other children
This is in no way a complete list, but does provide some ideas of physical and behavioral indicators. You may call the Victim Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, Inc. at (315) 331-1171 or if an emergency, our hotline at (866) 343-8808, in Upstate New York, look in your phone directory, or call telephone information for the Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis, Domestic Violence, or Child Abuse services agency in your county or state.
If a child discloses to you, believe the child, and do not question the child. Do not show your emotions in front of the child, but be supportive and tell the child that it is not her/his fault. Tell the child that you believe what s/he has shared with you, and that you are thankful s/he told you this “secret” or information and will do your best to help. Do not confront the alleged perpetrator. Take the steps to ensure that the child does not come in contact with this person again, and notify the authorities. Contact your child’s pediatrician immediately. Contact your victim services agency for advocacy, counseling and/or referrals for therapy for the child.
“One in five girls and one in seven boys will be a victim of some type of sexual abuse/assault before the age of 18. Coupled with physical and emotional abuse, this translates to over TEN MILLION CHILDREN being abused over the next 18 years in this country.” National Child Advocacy Center
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) connects a history of child abuse with increased risk of other health-related issues including, but not limited to, alcoholism and drug abuse, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, fetal death, heart and/or liver disease, intimate partner violence, sexualized behaviors, sexually transmitted diseases, suicide attempts, and unintended pregnancies.
*Every six minutes a child is sexually abused in the United States.
*90% of the time, a child is sexually abused by someone they know, love and, trust.
*Children younger than three years old accounted for 75.5% of child abuse and neglect fatalities.
*Only 10% of children who are victims of sex abuse are abused by strangers.
*80% of young adults who have been abused met the diagnostic criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder at the age of 21 which included depression, anxiety, eating disorder, panic disorder, dissociative disorders, post traumatic stress disorder, reactive attachment disorder and suicide attempts.
*Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy and 3x more likely to practice unsafe sex.
*Nearly 2/3 of people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused as children.
*Children who have been sexually abused are 5x more likely to develop alcohol abuse and 8x more likely to develop drug addictions.
CHILD ADVOCACY CENTERS
A Child Advocacy Center (CAC) is a team approach to providing protection and justice for child victims of abuse, while increasing the rate of conviction of the perpetrators of these crimes. The team, a “multidisciplinary team,” includes specially trained therapists in forensic interviewing and evaluation, the local sexual & domestic violence services agency, district attorney representatives, police, child protective services, medical & hospital personnel, school representatives, public and mental health, and others working together to ensure that children are not further victimized by the intervention systems designed to protect them. The interviews and/or evaluations are completed in a neutral, centralized, child-friendly setting to determine appropriate interventions. The CAC may or may not have a medical team specially trained in the physical examination of children. CAC’s not having this medical team onsite work with local hospitals to provide this examination and evaluation.
The multidisciplinary approach to intervention, investigation, prosecution, and treatment of abuse is a successful approach used in over 300 communities across the country. Members of the team for each case are selected on whether the case is custodial or non-custodial. The Forensic Interview is conducted with alleged victims of child abuse to obtain accurate and reliable information to be used by the team in making child protection, criminal offense, therapeutic, and intervention decisions. The Forensic Evaluation involves a licensed clinical social worker’s assessment of a child in situations where the child is too young or too frightened to fully disclose her/his experience during an initial forensic interview. Along with these services, many Child Advocacy Centers provide counseling for children and their parents, therapy for the child, and services for abuse-reactive children. The majority of CAC’s require a referral from a police department and/or Child Protective Services. Two Child Advocacy Center’s in our area are:
Bivona Child Advocacy Center
One Mount Hope Avenue
Rochester, New York 14620
Tel: 585 935 7800
Bivona CAC is affiliated with Strong Memorial Hospital’s REACH Clinic for Medical Examination of children of sexual and physical abuse.
Child Advocacy Program of the Finger Lakes
482 North Main Street
Canandaigua, NY 14424
Tel: 585 394 2573
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