Sexual Abuse

Estimates are that 1 out of every 3 female children and 1 out of every 5 male children will be sexually abused before reaching 18 years of age. In an effort to protect our children, we have told them to beware of strangers, but in 70-80% of the reported sexual abuse cases, children were sexually abused by someone they knew. The offenders were friends or family members.

Offenders look for vulnerable victims. Since we teach our children to trust and obey adults, they are very vulnerable. It is as important for a child to know how to prevent sexual abuse as it is to look both ways before crossing a street. We must talk to our children about sexual abuse. This can begin with children as young as two years old.

Here are Some Guidelines

  1. Familiarize yourself with the information and try to become comfortable with the topic. Once you do this you will notice that there are opportunities almost every day which could lead into a discussion. (Eg. children see several kinds of crime on T.V.-perhaps that could lead into the topic.)
  2. Help your child become familiar with some definitions. Sexual Abuse: When another person touches private parts of a child's body or has them touch their private parts. A child may be forced to, tricked into, or unaware of what is going on. Private Body Parts: Identify with your child, his or her private parts; talk about the area covered by a bathing suit; using the correct terms. Speak with your child's doctor or family physician if you are uncertain about the correct terms.
  3. Help your child identify good, bad, and confusing touch.

    Note: The situation and those involved often determines what is good or bad touch. The following are some general examples of kinds of touching.

    Good TouchBad TouchConfusing Touch
    holding handshittingpinching
    playing tagpushingwrestling
    snugglingtrapping holdssqueezing
    huggingbitingkissing someone you don't want to kiss
    kissingshovingtickling until it hurts
    any touch that you like and wantany touch that you don't wantholding when you don't want to be held
  4. Give your child permission to say ''No'' to any unwanted or confusing touch.

    Help your child with some ''NO'' answers:

    1. "I don't want to do that"
    2. "I have to go now. I have something to do."
    3. "I like you, BUT I don't want to be touched like that."
    4. "Get away or I'll yell."
  5. Encourage your child to come to you and tell you if they think they have been sexually abused. Remember, children seldom lie about sexual abuse.

    Help your child identify who they can tell if someone touches them in a bad or confusing way and you are unavailable. Tell them if that person does not believe them, tell someone else.

  6. Play "What If" games with your child to help them know what to do in dangerous situations.

    WHAT IF: Someone was following you after school? What could you do? Whom could you tell?
    WHAT IF: Your friend's older brother was always touching you when you did not want him to? What could you do? Whom could you tell?
    WHAT IF: A relative touched your private body parts when they thought you were asleep? What could you do? Whom could you tell?

What to Do if a Child is Sexually Abused.

If a parent overreacts or becomes angry, the child may feel guilty or blamed. If you ignore what the child is saying, s/he may feel that it is o.k. for the sexual abuse to continue.

  • Ask questions and try to remain calm.
  • Seek medical care immediately.
  • Call 911.

Children seldom lie about being sexually abused. It is not a child's fault if s/he is sexually abused. A victim of child sexual abuse needs support, understanding and love. An offender needs to be reported and stopped so that other children are not hurt by the crime.

You and your child may need some additional support in dealing with the effects of this crime. For more information and counseling, call one of the following:

Child Abuse Hotline
This is the official state Child Abuse Hotline.

Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes
(315)789-2613 or (877)789-2613 toll free
Individual counseling, family counseling, play therapy, sexual abuse assessment and treatment, Hispanic youth groups.

(800)310-1160 or TDD: (585)275-2700
Lifeline provides a variety of support and referral services including access to other agencies.

Ontario County Department of Social Services
(585)396-4060 or (877)814-6907 toll free
The agency's services are geared toward families and include financial assistance and family and children services including child protective, foster care and preventative services.

Planned Parenthood of the Rochester/Syracuse Region
Sexually transmitted disease testing for men and women; birth control; counseling; pregnancy tests, women's reproductive health.

Rape and Abuse Crisis Service of the Finger Lakes
(315)781-1093 or Hotline: (800)247-7273
The agency provides a 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, counseling, medical and legal assistance for people involved in rape or abuse.

(This section adapted from A Prevention Guide for Parents, Child Sexual Abuse, Planned Parenthood of Rochester.)

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