This is not an easy conversation to have.
But it can not be delayed.
While conversations about sex is an adult subject, avoiding these difficult topics could pose a safety risk.
You can not let your own discomfort with talking about childhood sexual assault delay discussion around body safety.
Statistics report that one in five children are sexually assaulted before the age of 18.
This is a staggering statistic and unfortunately, it is likely to be under reported.
Research also shows that delay in the reporting of assault greatly impacts an individuals life.
Those who wait until midlife to disclose have carried this burden alone for half a lifetime. It shapes their self perception, relationships and life choices.
Encourage your kids to tell you and make sure they know they will be believed.
I have used the term sexual assault rather than the widely used term abuse.
I do this intentionally as I think this differentiation is important.
Language and how we refer to crime is important, and plays a role in how we respond.
Abuse is defined as -
To misuse or use, to bad effect or for a bad purpose.
Use (something) in the wrong way or for the wrong purpose.
The wrong or improper use of something.
By using term abuse it suggests a deviation from the right way of using something.
A child is not a something to be used or misused.
There is no scenario in which a child can consent and be held responsible for decisions.
Regardless of the scenario, It is assault.
It is not a deviation of proper use.
Let's call it what it is. Abuse down grades the assault to a deviation of the proper activity rather than what it is. An attack on a child.
The language that we use with kids of course needs to be age appropriate.
Body safety like all aspects of self development is not a single conversation.
There are opportunity all the time to reinforce safety with your child.
•Talk about appropriate touch and inappropriate touch.
•Encourage them to care for their own bodies. A three year old can wash their own body. _Of course they need help to develop independence. Use this moment as a learning opportunity to talk about privacy, safety and anatomy.
•Teach them about their body.
•Use the correct term for body parts. Penis, Vagina. In the event that an incident needs reporting a child that clearly identifies there body is a more credible reporter.
•Make sure they know that NO-ONE is allowed to touch them inappropriately. Not a parent, uncle, teacher, church leader, sports coach.
•Don't have secrets. Call a birthday present a surprise. A paedophile will encourage secrecy, just don't have them.
•Practice scenarios with them, such as visiting a friends house or attending a sleep over party.
•Have responses ready for situations that may arrive.
•A predator doesn't want their nature exposed.
•Encourage your children to stay in a group and not isolate themselves while visiting someone's home.
•Believe them. This is important. If they tell you something, in the first instance believe them. You can clarity details later, that instant validation is crucial.
•Teach them a phrase to use in any situation that they feel uncomfortable. Teach them to say it loudly and firmly.
Stop it I don't like it!
An outspoken child with confidence is much less likely to fall victim, or indeed even be selected for grooming by a paedophile.
While sometimes kids are harmed by a stranger, usually it is from someone they know well.
Often this involves a grooming process.
Many predators actively profile their victims.
Often it involves grooming and gaining the trust of the parent too. Placing themselves as a admirable, unquestionable trusted figure within the family.
To some paedophiles the grooming process is like a courtship.
Gifts, special attention and praise are often used. A good self concept will also safeguard against the need for this attention.
Even before an assault on the child's body has occurred, they are themselves already involved with your child.
Grooming establishes an environment ripe for confusion, doubt and responsibility to be placed on the child
So how do you identify grooming?
Surely every nice person is not a child predator.
Of course they're not.
But unfortunately those that are don't have a sign stamped on their forehead.
Caution, vigilance and maintaining an open conversation with your children is key.
While some paedophiles are opportunistic many will profile and take the time to choose vulnerable kids and families.
Be bold and assertive.
I intend to expand on the topic of grooming in a follow up post.
I previously worked for many years in mental health and child protection and advocacy.
I partnered in hosting the 1inFive movement and toured and spoke out against childhood sexual assault.
In 2015 and 2016 we worked together to encourage survivor's to come forward and to educate the community to create a safer environment for children.
My work was my passion.
I intend to utilise this platform to continue this work.
I have resources and knowledge that I wish to share.
I will be commencing a series of posts regarding these topics.
As well as discussing these heath issues I also intend to find a new perspective to share my own recovery from illness.
A fresh focus on Wellness and establishing a healthy life balance.
Please keep an eye out for this initiative too.
I have a chronic illness.
It was diagnosed last year and has taken some time to come to terms with.
For too long it has defined me and taken my power, my life balance and meaning.
It is time for me to redefine what it means to have Ehlers danlos syndrome.
If a label does not assist in reestablishing wellness it is of little use.
Time to find a fresh path.
Join me on My journey to wellness.
Follow and support me as I climb back into the land of the living.