Child sexual abuse. 

It’s an uncomfortable topic. But if adults can’t have an open conversation about it, how can we expect our children to?

{Because it’s not something that “just happens to other families.”}

“We’re not bowling alone,’ said Adam Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. “Preventing child abuse has everything to do with you and your family. We should all be so lucky that our children grow up trauma free, but the odds are that they will interact with others and they may encounter others who have been victims of abuse. Kids and adults need to know what to do.”

A fact that might surprise you: the largest age group population BCAC helps are kids ages 7-12.

Another fact? The average offender creates 100 victims before they are stopped.

According to BCAC, only  1 in 10 children who have been sexually abused report it. Why? A child may not have the language to report sexual abuse, may not know that their personal boundaries have been crossed, or may not feel as though they have a trusted adult they can talk to.

BCAC is aiming to change that through prevention education — for parents, caregivers, schools, and youth-serving organizations. Research shows that an educated child is more likely to deter an offender, because an educated child is more likely to break the silence. 

We need to push past the uncomfortableness. We need to have the conversation. And then we need to give the words to our kids. 

“When companies audit their policies and adopt a blueprint for child protection, there is a cultural shift,” said Adam. “And that shift protects children.”

So we know that prevention starts with dialogue. But how do you have those conversations? It might not be as hard as you think. Start with your own home.  Communicate healthy boundaries to your kids. Answer the tough questions in stead of avoiding or passing them on to your co-parent (we’re all guilty of that at some point.)

Establish family rules. Some example family rules, as suggested by Talking About Touching, might be:

  • Everyone should have the right to privacy in dressing, bathing, and toileting.  If any adult or child breaks these rules, there should be a discussion with repercussions.
  • Teach your children that they can say “No” to any type of touch, and that their “No” will be respected.
  • Demonstrate boundaries and how to say “No” in your own life.

If you’re having trouble starting the conversation, BCAC has tips for caregivers.

Are you ready to talk about it?

(cool) progeny is a proud media sponsor of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center. Photos by Laura Black.