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Who Is Responsible for Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse?

Some advocates for sexual abuse prevention education (also known as Body Safety) believe it is solely an adult’s responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse. While I totally agree that adults must:

1. Educate the child in their care in Body Safety Education.

2. Become educated themselves in:

grooming techniques used by perpetrators

• what to do if a child discloses.

3. Believe a child when they disclose.

4. Educate the wider community in the importance of protecting children from sexual abuse and encourage educational institutes to provide suitable Body Safety programs.

5. Let friends, family and those who regularly come in contact with their child know that their child is educated in Body Safety and to respect their personal body boundaries

...I also believe that by educating your child in Body Safety you are reducing the risk of them becoming a target of sexual abuse, i.e., as an empowered child who knows not to keep secrets and has been educated to tell from the first inappropriate touch, in all probability, is less likely to be targeted by an abuser who relies heavily on a child to keep “the secret.”

In my opinion, a child who knows:

1. The correct anatomical names for their private parts and is comfortable using those terms

2. That their body is their body and no-one has the right to touch it

3. Not to keep secrets that make them feel bad and/or uncomfortable

4. The names of five adults that they trust and can tell anything to

5. If some-one does touch their private parts, shows them pictures of private parts and/or touches their body in a way that makes them feel unsafe, they can yell out ‘Stop!’ or ‘No!’, and immediately tell a trusted adult and keep on telling until they are believed…

... is indeed an empowered child. Let’s be honest. Our children cannot be with us 24/7. Fact. They will go on camps, they will be invited to sleepovers, and they will visit family and friends’ homes. Ninety-five per cent of children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know and trust (NAPCAN 2009). Those who seek to harm children are in our homes and in our communities. Young children can be groomed and abused right under an unaware and an uneducated adult’s nose.

I do understand that very young children find it incredibly difficult to say “No” to an adult or an older child. I do get that. And in fact, in an ideal world they should never have that responsibility. And we, as adults need to be vigilant to the grooming techniques of perpetrators.

But as your child becomes older, they will leave the safety of your nest and, sadly, they may have to implement the Body Safety Education they have been taught from a young age. One hopes they never have too, but look at this analogy — isn’t it better they wear a “safety belt” rather than totally relying on an adult driving the car slowly and carefully. A safety belt is there “just in case.”

Therefore, yes… it is an adult’s responsibly to educate a child in Body Safety and to educate themselves, but it is also in the child’s best interest to arm them with crucial Body Safety knowledge just in case we are not there to protect them… as I often say... forewarned is forearmed!

Free My Body Safety Rules poster to help keep kids safe.