Keeping Children Safe from Sexual Abuse
is an Adult Responsibility
By definition, all children are vulnerable and are dependent on adults to keep them safe.
What you need to know to keep kids safe:
What is the prevalence of abuse?
- Remember that between 10-20% of boys and girls are sexually abused as children. 90% of the time, the abuser is someone the child knows. Learn the facts to find more information.
What is grooming?
- Know the signs of grooming. The vast majority of children who are abused are abused by someone they know and trust. Perpetrators gain access to children and build trust through the subtle and insidious process of grooming.
Why do children often keep their abuse a secret?
- Know that children are unlikely to tell someone they're being abused. The shame of being abused is a significant deterrent to divulging the abuse and it is not uncommon for abusers to threaten their victims if they tell.
What do your instincts tell you?
- Trust your instincts. If you have any questions or concerns about the interest that an adult is expressing in a child (regardless of that adult's status or reputation), intervene - speak up - err on the side of caution. It is a valid choice to have a child not spend time alone with anyone who raises any questions in your mind or in your gut.
What about other adults?
- To safeguard the vulnerability of children, be aware of all those who have access to children and especially those who have one-on-one or unstructured time with children.
How can you help your children build safety habits?
- Keep communication lines open with your children. Encourage your children to tell you about things that happen to them that make them feel scared, sad or uncomfortable. Respect and support your children in their choice to refrain from physical contact with people when they don't want to. (For example, don't force kids to hug their relatives.) Teach them to trust their instincts - let them know it's important to realize when they feel uncomfortable with someone and to act on their intuition.
What about the internet?
- Monitor your child's internet use. Unfortunately, predators have easy access to children on-line. The "Kids' Rule for Online Safety" can be a helpful resource for discussing online safety with your children.
What are red flags in young children?
- Common warning signs of abuse in younger children: deteriorating school performance, fear or resistance of being with a particular person or situation, changes in eating, changes in sleeping habits or nightmares, regressive behavior (for example, a return to thumb-sucking or bed-wetting), sudden unexplained personality changes (e.g. becoming especially clingy or secretive), sexualized behavior inappropriate to age of child (e.g. acting in out in a sexual manner with toys or with others, or excessive masturbation), anger outbursts, withdrawal from others, or "too perfect" behavior.
What are red flags in older children and teenagers?
- Common warning signs of abuse in older children or adolescents: self-injury (cutting, burning), inadequate personal hygiene, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, running away from home, depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, fear of intimacy or closeness, compulsive eating or dieting, or excessive secrecy.
If you have concerns or believe that a child has been sexually abused:
Always take a child's disclosure of sexual abuse seriously.Let the child know that you believe him/her.
Validate the child's courage in speaking up and assure the child know you will keep her/him safe.
Call to report the abuse to the proper authorities and seek out services to support the child.
To get support anywhere in the United States:
- Call your area Child Protective Services; In WA State: State Child Protective Services (CPS), 866-ENDHARM (866-363- 4276)
- Contact RAINN's 24 hour hot line at:1.800.656.HOPE.
- On-line support is available via RAINN's website: www.rainn.org/get-help.
- Call 911
In the King County area for services for children, call:
- Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress (HCSATS) at 206.744.1600, or
- King County Sexual Assault Resource Center's 24-Hour resource line at 888.998.6423.
Radio interview: What adults need to know about the vulnerability of children. Janice Palm speaks in light of the Sandusky trial.
Radio feature: Protect Your Kids from Sexual Abuse. A summary of the issue and how to keep kids safe.
- Savvy Parents Safe Kids is an outstanding Seattle resource offering practical, helpful classes and tips on how to keep kids safe from sexual abuse at all ages.
- National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers a helpful resource, Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know About Sexual Abuse, with information on what to do if a child discloses abuse, on dealing with the shock of intra-familial abuse, and more.
- Darkness to Light is online resource with abundant information on child sexual abuse as well as tools for parents and individuals.
- Stop it Now is another valuable online resource with tip sheets about what adults can do to keep kids safe: www.stopitnow.org.
We also encourage you to find out about books and films and other organizations for survivors and to see the education and advocacy services that Shepherd's Counseling Services offers to the community.