You have probably seen and read many posts by social media activist Syed Azmi as of late, on Paedophile Alert and videos on Child Sexual Abuse. Every case story shared on his page brings chills to my bones, especially now that I’m a mother of two. But this topic is no stranger to me.
When I first moved to KL in 2008, my first job was for an NGO advocating Child Sexual Abuse Awareness. Although I was handling more of the general administrative running of the office, and not on ground, I learned a few things about the school programs they run on Personal Safety.
While it is the dread of every parent for something so abhorring to happen to any child, Child Sexual Abuse is nothing new we should no longer ignore this and shrug this issue off as taboo. We need to start addressing this and empowering our children.
Give them ownership of their body
Remind your kids that their body is theirs and no one should have the right to touch them or make them feel uncomfortable. Teach them that there are certain parts that are private and nobody should be allowed to touch them unless it is to keep them clean. There are safe touches further elaborated in point no. 5.
Children should be empowered to say NO if something makes them feel uncomfortable. Remember to empower your kids to say “NO” and to TELL immediately if anything was bothering them. Here’s a very simple video teaching children ownership of their bodies.
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Use the right language
As soon as your kids realise the differences in their genitals, teach them the correct names for their anatomy. Try not to use cute or pet names in place of the right names for genitals.
This really helps them to have the right words in case they need to explain or discuss anything with the parents. In most cases children do not have the right vocabulary to describe and tell what has happened to them during the reporting process.
Keep the conversation lighthearted
Create open communication and a comfortable environment to talk to your kids about their privates in a lighthearted manner so that they can ask their questions freely when they want to. There shouldn’t be any secrets kept from parents. Sex predators always bank on secrecy and favours.
Use the swim suit rule
Some Kindergarten and Preschools have implemented preventive education in their classes. Most guidance lessons would include pictorial guides that show where the boundaries are and if that is too technical to remember or difficult to explain, just use the Swim Suit rule - anything on the body that is covered by a swimsuit should not be touched, looked at, or photographed by another person or Underwear rule.
Contrary to what most people think, that sexual predators are usually strangers, but in actual fact most of the time it is someone the child knows. The sexual predator may not be so deliberate in their touch, and may groom children starting with safe touches.
So be sure to always remind them that their bodies belong to them and ANYTHING whether touch or invasion of space that makes them uncomfortable, they can say NO and to tell immediately.
Explain what safe touch is
Explain also that on rare occasions where parents, caretakers, or doctors might have to touch them in order to keep them clean and healthy. Follow up by giving them clear examples like getting a jab on the bum at the doctors, or a child needs diapering or help taking a bath. These are safe touches and it is ok when done in the presence of parents.