Experts Reveal How To Talk To A Child About Sexual Abuse

Dear parents,

Imagine a situation like this…

You switch on the TV to catch the news…

The news reporter on screen talks about a molestation / sexual abuse case.

Your child who happens to be in the same room, asks you out of curiosity…

How will you answer this?

“Appa/Amma, what is molestation?”

What do you tell him/her…?

And how do you answer this?

Well, before we head there…

Here’s why you should:

Sexual abuse is a burning issue that has to be addressed at home TODAY.

With an increasing number of such news doing the rounds, it is inevitable that your child will come across words such as ‘rape’ and ‘molestation’ in some way or the other.

And before they hear information from the wrong sources, it is essential to address them now.

And that’s not all…

Here are some facts:

1 out of 2 children face sexual abuse in India.

52% of child sexual abuse happens to boys.

88% of child sexual abuse cases are caused by trusted family members and most go unreported.

But this number can go down…

IF parents break the taboo and TALK to their children about sexual abuse, educate them about boundaries and respect private space, and encourage them to communicate their troubles.

We approached parents asking what they would do if their child asked them what molestation / sexual abuse means.

Here’s what they said…

A lot of them replied saying sexual abuse is an important discussion to have with a child… but also admitted that they weren’t aware where to start or how to tell their child what sexual abuse means.

Some parents said they weren’t willing to speak about it to kids since children are too sensitive at that age.

So we did some research and spoke to experts, authors and parents on how to address children about sexual abuse in the right way.

And from a collective understanding, we found that, for parents, all it takes is just 4 simple steps to open communication with children.

They are:

    1. Start the conversation 
    2. Explain sexual abuse 
    3. Create an action plan 

And finally,

  1. Become an approachable parent.

So let’s break down each step and take a look:

 

Step One: How to start talking to your child about sexual abuse

Vidya Ragu, psychologist, learning and development specialist from Chennai says, “Let go of the myth that children will not be able to understand and that there is a right time to talk about it. In our experience, even a 3 year old understands, so there is no right time.”


But before that, do your background research!
Gayathri - Counselor from YourDOSTGayathri Rao, counselor from YourDOST states, “The first step is that as a parent, you need to understand the issue in entirety first. It is very important to not give wrong information to the child. If you as a parent, realize you are uncomfortable talking to your child about it, rope in a trusted family member or even the family physician or a child psychologist or the school counselor to explain it in a sensitive way.”

And not just that…

“Always stick to the truth and facts. Make efforts to overcome your shyness on these topics. Use labels/words that describe body parts as they are.”

How should you talk?Anahita Irani - Teacher and lifestyle blogger

Anahita Irani, a teacher and lifestyle blogger from Mumbai suggests, “Never be nervous to talk to a child. Look into their eyes and speak with a soft tone. Time to time, reassure them!”

When should you start?

There’s no better time than TODAY! But how much to tell? Gayathri Rao explains, “The depth of the explanation should be proportionate to the age of the child. With younger children, it is important to educate them about ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ for both boys AND girls.

Garima Nag - popular Indian blogger Garima Nag, who is a popular Indian blogger says, “Slightly older kids should be explained the meaning of consent & physical intimacy in an understandable way. As the word rape & molestation keep popping up on TV channels & newspapers, children are bound to get curious. Parents must talk to them in a manner that they don’t feel embarrassed or confused.”

Lata - Founder of Fabulous Mom Life blogAnd talking to kids do not depend on one particular gender alone. Children of both genders are prone to sexual abuse. Mother to a son and daughter, and founder of Fabulous Mom Life blog, Lata said she has spoken to both kids about safety in terms of good-touch-bad-touch and consent. “In an age appropriate manner, I explained to them the basics of right and wrong. In easy examples, I told my son about the importance of ‘consent’.”

What should you say?Anamika - Founder of WiseShe

According to Anamika Sureka, founder of WiseShe, “Make them understand how to say NO. Also, make them aware that no one should touch their private parts and if someone does, then they should not feel guilty about it.”

Rachna Parmar, an award-winning blogger and content strategist, says “Teach them that areas like their groin, chest, butt etc. (by demonstrating) must not be touched even by parents or relatives except while bathing them (very young kids).”

Sid - Parenting bloggerSid Balachandran, a popular parenting blogger and writer says, “Personally, we’ve started teaching my son about good touch and bad touch and telling him not to let anyone touch him anywhere he doesn’t want to be touched – no matter who the person is; and also respect others when and if they say that they are uncomfortable”.

“Why would someone do that?”Vidya - Writer and parenting blogger

Vidya Sury, a writer and parenting blogger says, “When my son started school, we wanted to “educate” him in an age appropriate way about being careful about the “bad touch”. But the media overtook us and we found ourselves facing the question “what is rape” from our precious 3 year old.

We told him that rape is when someone forces another person to touch their private parts or forces themselves on someone. Of course he wanted to know why.

We had to say that some people get a kick out of invading others’ boundaries even when they say no, and enjoy treating others badly and being mean. Then he wanted to know what he should do if someone did that to him. We recognized a golden opportunity to explain what private parts are and why he should be wary of anyone giving him the “bad touch”.”  

And that brings us to the next step!

 

Step Two: How to explain sexual abuse to a child

Go down to your child’s level and explain the topic creatively!

According to Vidya Ragu, it is important to not make the conversation fear-driven for your child. “Instead look at how to do it in fun ways. Some things that can be done are, engage kids with worksheets where you have body parts drawn out, you talk to them about it, and ask them to mark them. Another could be to give them different shades of colours and ask them to colour out different private parts.”


Here’s a worksheet we found by Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Task Force — it contains a bunch of activities that introduce kids to good touch, bad touch, voicing out, etc. Click here for the worksheets >>

“You can also initiate the conversation through a puppet show — you can get creative around this. You can enact and show them. You really need to go down to their level and make it fun for them to reinforce that every individual has private parts and they’re special for everyone. So neither should they allow anyone to touch them or hurt them, nor should they go and touch any other individual’s private parts.”

Shelja - Writer and child psychologistShelja Sen, author of ‘All you need is love:  The art of mindful parenting’ and child psychologist says, “Kids need to know the difference between safe and unsafe touch. Steps you need to take if children feel unsafe — role play and rehearse.” 

Gayathri Rao suggests using story cards! “Stories with animals and pictures could be used to help children relate to it and understand better.”

“There are comic strips or graphic representation that can be used for the purpose.” says Garima Nag.

Zainab - Entrepreneur and founder of Chimerical CreativityZainab Attari, entrepreneur and founder of Chimerical Creativity adds, “Maybe narrate the beauty and the beast story with a little twist and turns where there are some beasts who indeed are bad and there are some princes who are also bad. Only if we let the children see the world for what it is, will they believe and accept it.”

 

Step Three: Set up an action plan!

Gayathri Rao emphasizes that it is essential to talk to your child about what they should do if they are a victim or a witness or perpetrator.

Children should be taught that they are in-charge of their body and should be free to yell or shout when anyone touches them inappropriately, tells them to touch their body parts, or calls them a bad child if they refuse to. Teach your child to say NO and immediately run and inform an adult they trust.

Rachna - award-winning blogger and content strategistRachna says…  “Teach them to scream loudly if someone does that and to run to a teacher or parent.”

Vidya Sury shares what she told her son, “We told him to let us know if someone tried to touch his private parts or wanted to look at them, or if someone tried to show theirs. We taught him to say NO, and told him not to feel scared if he was uncomfortable. And most of all, to let us know immediately if someone threatened him and asked him to keep it secret. What about the doctor, he asked. We said it was okay if it was providing care, and to make sure we, or someone he trusted, was around.”

 

Step Four: How to be an approachable parent

We as parents need to open all channels of communication at home to enable an approachable environment.

Vidya Ragu says, “where children get stuck is, the simple word called ‘secret’. Because we don’t talk about it, they feel it is something to not talk about, and that it’s a taboo.

Instead of shooing them away saying, “this is not for your age” or “that’s not for you”, let’s listen to them, and maybe tell them, “I’ll find out and tell you” and find out a better way to address it rather than just sending them back. It is essential for us as parents to build the communication.


And the most important part is, there might be issues the child has gone through or may have experience and at that point of time it is very essential for us as parents to enable children to come back and talk to us and especially reinforce that it’s not the child’s fault. And it’s completely fine and they’re safe and we’re going to handle it.

Apart from that it is hitting on the fact that it’s not their fault and keeping the responsibility of ensuring that their self-concept and self-identity is not hurt and this can be done with a lot of affection lot of open communication and lots of listening.”

Rachna adds, “Have regular conversations and ask pointedly if they have been touched inappropriately. Also look for body cues in case they don’t directly tell you.”

Shailaja - Parenting blogger and editor at Buzzing BubsShailaja V, a parenting blogger and senior editor at Buzzing Bubs suggests, “Explain that molestation is a serious offence and it’s good to always tell a trusted adult if they see/experience anything they are not comfortable about.”

Vidya Sury explains, “We made sure we were there for our son, and stayed involved in his life, his friends. We assured him that he could tell us anything.

In spite of all this, we would hear accounts of how the “autorickshaw driver kissed only the girls” or the bus driver insisted on lifting the girls to “help” them get on the bus and so on. It is a scary world out there, and parents must always be connected with their child to talk to them and make them feel safe, because even listening to something that happened to someone else is traumatic and induces fear. And of course, there’s always the media with graphic details!”

Wouldn’t you agree? 🙂

All children, irrespective of their age and gender, must be made aware of what is right, and what is wrong.

Research has found that children who are aware of private boundaries are less likely to be abused. They will also learn to respect others and grow into better human beings.

And the more you build communication with your child, the more they are likely to inform you in the case of any abuse.

 

There are many parents out there who don’t know how, when and where to start educating their child about this issue. So if you find this article useful and think it will empower parents out there, feel free to share it. 

One share on your part can protect a lot of children out there.

90% of a child’s permanent foundation for brain development occurs in the early years according to Rauch Foundation. An overuse of gadgets can only stunt this growth and cause a negative impact on the child’s overall development.
If your child is spending more time swiping and scrolling, instead of interaction with the real world, you need to act before it’s too late.
Find out if your child is being meaningfully and positively engaged by taking this simple quiz.

About

Gayathri breathes Harry Potter as much as she breathes air. Yes, a hardcore Potterhead! She loves to play with words, write goofy and humorous articles, dabble in art & craft activities, and crack terrible jokes. Having worked as a copywriter with an ad agency, she is currently a content writer at Flintobox!

15 Comments

  • Radhika

    January 20, 2017 - 5:04 pm

    Good article. Keep posting these kind of things. Thankd

  • Chitra Setya

    January 17, 2017 - 10:47 pm

    Good article and the Q & A bit. It’s a very burning and significant issue in today’s day and age. Most important is that children have to told about being careful even about the people at home including servants or even cousins or close friends manhandling them.

    • Rakesh

      January 19, 2017 - 11:00 am

      Yes you’re right.
      The more they know the better.
      Thank you so much for your comment.

  • Deepa

    January 11, 2017 - 10:49 am

    I agree that it’s important to talk to kids and educate them but how is an important question. We sometimes avoid such questions by kids but we should explain to them in a way they can understand. Avoiding is not a solution as they will try to find answers some where else.
    As parents, we are the best teachers for them.

    • Vijay

      January 11, 2017 - 12:29 pm

      Yes, Deepa! That’s true! We should make communication open and approachable at all times with our kids — else, they’re likely to get information from all the wrong sources. We’re collecting tips and information from child experts on HOW to approach kids about the same. Stay tuned 🙂

  • Vasantha Vivek

    January 9, 2017 - 9:52 pm

    It’s difficult to answer this question. But this is highly needed to be answered right at this moment. As a mother, I feel our kids should be taught right at the home. It’s our duty to do this.

    • Vijay

      January 11, 2017 - 12:26 pm

      Hi Vasantha, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I completely agree that this is essential to be addressed from an early age — and at home itself. Keeping channels of communication open at home will go a long way!

  • Ann

    January 9, 2017 - 9:33 pm

    Not a parent yet but obviously these kinda questions need to be answered. I’d highly suggest school counselors to address this topic as part of class counseling in schools so that children understand the topic as a collective rather than individually get some wrong idea because parents may not be articulate enough to convey the meaning in the right context.

    • Vijay

      January 11, 2017 - 12:24 pm

      Hi Ann, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us! School counselling will definitely help for collective understanding! But we feel that parents should also enable an approachable environment at home with open communication! We’re also collecting information from experts around to help the parenting community address this question. 🙂

  • Chaitali Bhattacharjee

    January 9, 2017 - 9:14 pm

    Just few months back, my only eight year old son asked me ‘what’s a women’s day mom?’.
    And I explained with my whatsoever ability that it’s a day dedicated to all women in respect, love and appreciation for what they do or contribute to a family or society in large. But I failed somehow with my words as it was a little obscure and puzzling for him(being a seven year old boy). So I had to make it simpler and tell him that since a woman is a mother and gives birth and takes care of the baby and the family like i do with lots of love, we thank them and appreciate them this day. We do the same for you as we acknowledge your effort, when you behave as a good boy.
    I didn’t want to bombard his untainted psyche with facts such as a woman’s fight and struggle for equality and respect in all aspects of society from generations as basic human right and that the battle continues regardless, in every walk of life for herself to prove to be an equal counterpart. And the women’s day being one of the nominal manner to reconcile with that.
    Then it struck in my mind. So,what is it that I do to contribute ? The very first thing I can do for being a mother to a son is to imbibe right set of values; as to respect woman and womanhood in true sense and treat them as equal being. That’s the basic. There are times when everything fails, all we need to do is to keep it simple especially with kids and start from the basic. So I say what’s in a day! Everyday is a women’s day if we value a woman everyday as much as we value a man too.
    It’s indeed tricky when you handle little minds and hearts but the answers do not lies on answers itself but the actions and the day to day interactions we have with them. Coming to the question here, probably I will tell him/her, it’s an inhuman act on a woman which a civilised society do not permit.
    Please accept my apology for a lengthy one as I felt in a forum like this I need to share a bit more to make my point.

    • Vijay

      January 11, 2017 - 12:15 pm

      Hi Chaitali, thank you very much for your detailed response. Like you rightly said, while talking to children, it’s important to start with the basics, and make them understand without causing fear. Making the environment approachable at home will make a lot of difference! Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts with us 🙂

  • Geethica Mehra

    January 9, 2017 - 4:37 pm

    Vijay I know it’s awkward to answer such questions to your little ones but as you said correctly that education starts at home itself. I answer the truth to my 9 year old girl keeping in mind that she understands the reason behind it and not fear the consequence

    • Vijay

      January 11, 2017 - 12:12 pm

      Hi Geethica, it’s great that you are opening up channels of communication with your daughter — without making it fear-driven. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  • Amrita Basu

    January 9, 2017 - 4:24 pm

    This is difficult issue whose answer I am struggling to answer .But a burning question whose answer may change a child’s world.

    • Vijay

      January 11, 2017 - 12:11 pm

      Very true, Amrita! It’s important to address these burning and sensitive issues when children are young — before they receive information from the wrong sources!

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