Preventing child sexual abuse before it starts is called primary prevention.
We can create a world where sexual harm does not impact children by taking a few important steps ourselves and encouraging those around us to do the same. Here are the foundations of preventing child sexual abuse.
- Maintain open lines of communication and encourage children to come to them at any time with concerns about others’ behavior, feelings of discomfort, or sexual abuse
- Keep conversations honest, respectful and developmentally-appropriate.
- Adults must believe children.
2. Teaching about healthy sexuality
- Understand age-appropriate sexual behaviors and communicate them to your children throughout their childhood. Download our Keeping My Family Safe handbook (English) (Spanish) with helpful suggestions of books about healthy sexuality if you need more information!
- Use the proper terms for all body parts, including genitals, throughout a child’s life
- Make moments teachable throughout childhood. refer back to this foundational information about healthy sexuality often, directly and when specific questions arise.
3. Consistency with rules and boundaries
- Teach your children about boundaries, privacy, and consent, and ensure that everyone who cares for your child is aware of and agrees to abide by your family rules. See page 8 of our Keeping My Family Safe handbook for more ideas in our template family safety plan!
- Teach all adults who interact with your children about the rules and boundaries you have set for your children and family, and let them know that you’ll speak up if you have concerns about boundary violations.
- When adults are consistent in setting rules and boundaries for children, this helps everyone, including adults and kids, know what to expect and anticipate what’s coming next. This consistency keeps all adults in a child’s life accountable. It provides kids that are vulnerable to abuse with safety and comfort. It also signals to anyone who might cause your child harm that you are paying attention and leaving no room for inappropriate behavior.
4. Online rules and boundaries
It’s essential for parents and caregivers to have regular prevention conversations at an age-appropriate level with their children. Professionals can play a role in this by helping parents keep this in mind. See our internet safety resources for specific suggestions to reduce the risk of sexual abuse online.
5. Observe, intervene and speak up
- Take the time to plan for safety, talk and listen, and voice your concerns.
- Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions or intervene in situations that “don’t feel right”.
- Ask questions of your child’s daycare, school, and recreational activities. Every organization that cares for your child should have policies to prevent abuse, including background and reference checks for staff members, professional training for preventing sexual abuse, and rules regarding unsupervised or one-on-one time between adults and children. You can always recommend that organizations contact ChicagoCAC to get a prevention consultation.
6. Remember: you are your child’s ultimate role model.
Show your child that these rules apply to everyone! And trust your instincts. Report anything you know or suspect might be sexual abuse to the child abuse hotline: 1-800-25-ABUSE.
It is never easy to report abuse, especially if it is someone you know. But remember: it is our responsibility as adults to speak up and stop abuse.