Even the most well-intentioned parents and families can sometimes avoid having important conversations with their kids that feel too difficult or uncomfortable to discuss. One topic at the top of that list? Child sexual abuse. Adults often believe that instances of child sexual abuse only take place in someone else’s community — it could never happen here, right? While we all wish incidents of child sexual abuse were few and far between, the statistics say otherwise.
In the United States, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions, and at all levels of education. The stats are staggering, but the solution is clear: 95% of child sexual abuse is preventable through education and awareness. The conversations surrounding safety shouldn’t be scary or uncomfortable, prevention can empower kids and families by first building a P.L.A.N. for child sexual abuse prevention.
Building a P.L.A.N. for safety looks like:
P : Permission – Teach your child that they should always have Permission from the trusted adult who is in charge before they go anywhere or do anything.
L : Location – Before going anywhere, it is important for a child to tell their trusted adult the Location where they will be. This is a very important step, because if the Location changes, your child must begin the P.L.A.N. process again.
A : Activity – More specific than Location, “A” in P.L.A.N. tells the trusted adult about the Activity your child will engage in while they are gone.
N : Names & Numbers – It is important to have the Name and Phone Number of the person(s) with your child.
When building this P.L.A.N. for safety, begin by opening lines of communication, reminding your child that he or she can come to you to talk about anything – from a fight with a friend, to a bad dream, or a touch that does not feel quite right. After reviewing the P.L.A.N., help them identify three trusted adults, or ‘Grown Up Buddies’, that your child can turn to if they ever feel unsafe, confused or not quite right. And remind your child that adults should never ask children to keep secrets unless they will be told and make everyone smile, like a surprise party.
For more ideas on how to talk to children of all ages, and generate an interactive, custom Family Safety Plan for your family, visit SaferSmarterFamilies.org.