Knowledge is Power When Protecting Your Child From Abuse.

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    Knowledge is Power When Protecting Your Child From Abuse.

    As we make choices every day to keep our safe. The intention of keeping our healthy and well, both emotionally and physically, is an overriding motivator in almost everything that we do. While some wellness issues are frequently discussed and subject to widespread educational efforts, many unintentionally miss opportunities to discuss sexual abuse with their .  But we know that loving, open communication between and is a significant factor in reducing the risk of child sexual abuse.

    A big welcome and thank you to our guest blogger, Rachel Thielmann.  Rachel is the Prevention Education Specialist for Foothills Child Advocacy Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, a non-profit, accredited agency designed to provide a coordinated system of effective response and intervention to who have been victimized.  Foothills Child Advocacy Center believes that all are entitled to be safe,healthy, nurtured, and valued. 

    Discussing child sexual abuse with is often intimidating to . Additionally, well intentioned and well informed are often unaware of the realities of sexual abuse.

    Child sexual abuse is:

    • Any sexual contact between and adult and a minor or sexual contact between two minors when one exerts power over the other.
    • Forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in a sexual act. It also includes non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, voyeurism, exposing a child to pornography.
    • Communicating in a sexual manner with a child via phone or internet. 

    While it is difficult to pinpoint exact statistics on child sexual abuse, experts estimate that 1 in 10 will be sexually abused before their eighteenth birthday (some studies indicate prevalence as high as 1 in 4 experiencing abuse).  Ninety percent of that are sexually abused know their abuser. that experience sexual abuse are at significantly higher risk of long term mental and physical health problems, dropping out of , becoming teenage , substance abuse, incarceration and numerous other negative consequences.

    For , this information can feel frightening and overwhelming.  What do we do? How do we protect ?

    • Teach the correct names for parts. This empowers to say no to unwanted touch and reduces shame about their bodies.
    • Teach about their bodies and about sex in an age appropriate manner.
    • Remember that the greatest risk to our is not abuse by strangers but by people we know. If a situation or individual makes you or your child uncomfortable, take precautions.
    • Let your child know that it is okay to say no to and to , even that they know. Regardless of the relationship, there are certain things that are never acceptable. Use clear and specific examples of actions and behaviors that would not be okay (‘if Mr. So-and-so, your teacher that you like very much, wanted to show you a picture of someone without any clothes on, that wouldn’t be okay’).
    • Let know that you will believe and support them if they say no to unwanted touch. This means allowing to give and receive affection freely. Sometimes this means helping a child politely decline unwanted affection from and relatives. While sometimes find this embarrassing (‘your uncle really wants a hug! Be a nice girl/boy and hug him!’), it is a wonderful opportunity to let know that their bodies and their affection are their own. Rather than try to coerce the child, can let the child and others know that this is okay.
    • If a child discloses abuse or your suspect abuse, listen calmly. Let the child know that you are glad s/he told you. Try not to ask leading questions about the abuse. Report suspected abuse to Child Protective Services/Department of Social Services.

    Child sexual abuse is a traumatic experience for and their members and poses a significant health risk to our . Additionally, the spillover from being abused impacts all of us. But can empower themselves and their to dramatically reduce the risk of abuse. Foothills Child Advocacy Center (www.foothillscac.org) provides free training for and concerned that want to learn how we can better protect our . To learn more, visit www.beaheroforkids.org!

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