Be One with Courage — Talk with Your Children about Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse-we hear about it almost daily on the news, in print, or on the internet. Victims, family members, and the community experience a sense of shame when such crimes occur. Nothing can truly prepare you for seeing and hearing the bad things that others do to children. Nothing can truly scare you as much as the thought of a trusted person abusing your child. Child sexual abuse occurs every day, in cities large and small, among the rich and poor, affecting children of every age. 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some type of sexual abuse before they reach age 18. 85 – 90 % of abused children are victimized by someone they know. Our minds struggle to comprehend the fact that the very people who are meant to care for children commit such crimes, so we do our best to keep this reality at a safe distance, and tell ourselves, “Not in my family, not among my friends, not in my community.”
Most parents never talk with their children about the dangers of sexual abuse. Some are afraid the conversation will scare their child. Some simply do not know where to start. At Owens House CAC, The Shelby County Children’s AdvocacyCenter, we believe that child abuse is preventable, and that the best hope we have of ending abuse is to break the cycle before it begins. Join our efforts to protect children. Start with these easy steps:
- Learn the Facts and warning signs of abuse (stopitnow.org)
- Talk about touches. Use concrete examples. For example, “it’s not OK for anyone to touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable or funny or scared–not Mom, not Dad, not aunts, teachers or even friends. Your body is yours and you can say No to someone.”
- Teach your children 3 basic safety rules: Say “No!” get away if possible and tell an adult if someone tries to harm you
- Model healthy boundaries. If your child tells you she doesn’t want to hug and kiss everyone at a family event, support them by showing them another way to show respect (such as high fives)
- Make a Plan: Involve other adults by creating “My List of Helpful Adults” with your child. Post it on your fridge, in your child’s backpack, on their phone; review and update the list regularly
- Stay Alert: Learn the warning signs of abuse and of those who abuse children (d2l.org)
- Monitor your child’s cell phone and internet use (enoughisenough.com)
- Register for community sex offender notification (shelbyso.com)
- Act on Suspicions-Report suspected child abuse to your local law enforcement and/or DHR
- Support efforts of your local children’s advocacy centers to prevent abuse and help those who’ve experienced abuse (www.owenshousecac.org, become a fan on Facebook)
- Create open communication with your children
Remember how many teaching moments it took for your child to learn about the dangers of crossing the street? The same applies to the dangers of sexual abuse. Talk to your children, give them the tools they need to protect themselves.
And for those who have been abused, there is hope. In Alabama, Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) are available to assist. CACs coordinate child abuse investigations, provide mental health services, and provide prevention programs, among many other services. CAC advocates work hand-in-hand with law enforcement, child protective services, prosecution, and medical and mental health providers to ensure each child receives the best care possible to promote healing and ensure safety.
What Do YOU Do When you suspect that a child has been abused? When a child tells you that he/she has been abused? In emergency situations, call 911.
Report any suspected child abuse to:
Department of Human Resources
- Shelby County: 669-3000
- Weekend & Evenings: 669-4181
Law Enforcement Contact Information
- Alabaster Police: 663-7401
- Calera Police: 668-3505
- Columbiana Police: 669-5511
- Harpersville Police: 672-2490
- Helena Police: 663-6516
- Hoover Police: 739-6822
- Montevallo Police: 665-1264
- Pelham Police: 620-6550
- Shelby County Sheriff Office: 669-4181
- Vincent Police: 672-2261
All of the agencies listed above are dedicated to the protection of children and are trained to intervene when a child has been abused. Please save that child by contacting someone on the above list immediately.
What information goes into a report? The report should include the child’s name, location, nature of the abuse, and specifics about the incident(s) being reported. Make it clear to the person who receives your call if you think emergency intervention is required.
What happens after I report? The appropriate agency will respond. Response time will vary according to the nature of the report.
What if I am not sure if a child is being abused? It is not necessary for you to prove abuse or neglect. If you are suspicious, please report.