Four steps to protect your child against sexual abuse
How to protect your child
The news of a 28-year-old man and a 17 year old arrested on charges of child pornography in Hurst, Texas, may be surprising to some, but not to Jamye Coffman, M.D. As a pediatrician and medical director of the Cook Children’s CARE (Child Advocacy Resource and Evaluation) Team, who treats young victims of physical and sexual abuse, these type of children being taken advantage of are part of her daily job.
But it doesn’t make her any less infuriated by the actions of an adult taking away the innocence of a child. Dr. Coffman said parents need to take certain steps to teach their children how to protect themselves:
- Educate your children. Most importantly, educate your children about the dangers of predators. “The main thing is to educate your child and let them know what is not appropriate. What’s not OK,” Coffman said. “For children, young adults reading this, it’s not OK to be touched inappropriately. I don’t care who it is. Mom. Dad. Grandma. Grandpa. A family friend. A pastor. A police. A coach. It doesn’t matter who the authority figure is. If you are being abused, tell a trusted adult. If they don’t believe you or do something about it, keep telling an adult until someone does something.”
- Start at a young age, making children aware of what is and what isn’t inappropriate touching. Dr. Coffman said at around 2 or 3 years old parents can use certain teaching moments to inform children on inappropriate touching. “When you are bathing your child that’s a good opportunity,” she said. “Make sure to name their body parts. I don’t care what you call it, just make sure your children know what their privates are called. During a bath or while they are using the potty, use that opportunity to teach them the difference between caregivers performing necessary child care during bathing or toileting and inappropriate touches. Let children know if someone else makes them feel funny or uncomfortable by touching them, to let you know.”
- Let your children know it’s OK to talk to you. Generally speaking, Dr. Coffman said pedophiles don’t usually start out being extremely aggressive. They usually start with more generic touching and gaining the child’s trust. Dr. Coffman said that’s why it is extremely important to let your children know that they need to be able to come to you, as a parent, and let you know of anything that’s inappropriate. They also need to be assured that they will not get in trouble if they tell you they are uncomfortable about anything.
- Communicate and report abuse. Let your child know to tell someone. Just letting someone know and reporting the crime can prevent a whole lot of tragedy.
Child maltreatment, sometimes referred to as child abuse and neglect, includes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child's health, development or dignity. Within this broad definition, five subtypes can be distinguished - physical abuse; sexual abuse; neglect and negligent treatment; emotional abuse; and exploitation. Read more at the child maltreatment prevention resource page.