Protect your kids; prevent child abuse
Stopping it before it starts is always the best course
Educate yourself and your children about the dangers of child abuse, the warning signs, and how they can protect themselves. Then, keep an eye on your kids and notice when something is “not right.” Follow your instincts and remember that protecting your children is the most important thing you can do.
Make a Safety Action Plan for your family
A good Safety Action Plan includes education, communication, clear boundaries, a network of trusted adults, and knowing how to get help from community resources like Bivona Child Advocacy Center.
1. Educate everyone in the family.
- Understand what child abuse is. On this web site, you can read:
- Understand healthy sexual development in children as well as the sexual behaviors that may be of concern to you as a parent or caregiver.
- Learn the warning signs of a child who may have been hurt by sexual abuse as well as the warning signs in an adult, adolescent or child who may be touching a child in a sexual way. (You can find those below on this page.) Your concerns may be about non-touching behaviors as well (for example, showing pornography to a child).
- Teach children the proper names for body parts and what to do if someone tries to touch them in a sexual way. Remember to let young children know that no one has the right to touch their private parts (unless for medical reasons) and that they should not touch anyone else’s private parts. Download a PDF of Bivona’s Tips for Kids.
- Understand that the vast majority of child abusers are someone that the child knows, loves and trusts. So never assume that “Uncle Ed” couldn’t possibly be hurting your son or daughter.
- Keep kids safe on the Internet by making sure they know the rules. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has good information, and you can visit their web site:
They also have NetSmartz Workshops with good tips for Internet safety:
2. Open the lines of communication.
- Whether talking with a child, adolescent, or adult about sexualized behaviors or your concerns, the conversation is just a beginning and not a one-time event.
- Let everyone in the family know it is OK to ask questions. It is important for adults to set the tone for everyone by talking about the range of healthy sexual behaviors and speaking up about sexual abuse.
3. Set clear family boundaries.
- Talk about and set clear family boundaries with family members and with other adults who spend time around or supervise the children (for example, if a child does not want to hug or kiss someone hello or goodbye then she can shake hands instead).
- If a child is not comfortable with a particular adult or older child then you or some other adult must let that person know (for example, tell him that you don’t want your child to sit on his lap).
- As a child matures, boundaries within the home may need to change as well (for example, knock on the door before entering the room of an adolescent).
4. Get safe adults involved.
- Be sure that no one in your family is isolated. Identify one or more support person for every member of the family.
- Research shows that one of the key factors in a child’s resilience (ability to bounce back after stressful events) is that he had someone to talk with and confide in. Be a safe, responsible and consistent resource person for a child or teen.
- If someone is “too good to be true” then ask more questions—this friend or family member may not be a safe person for your child. Unfortunately, unconditional trust cannot protect children from harm.
5. Know your local resources and how to use them.
- List who to call for advice, information and help. Contact Bivona Advocacy Center first. Also, check out a host of local and national agencies on our Resources page.
- Learn about the agencies in your area. Know who to call to make a report if you learn that a child has been sexually abused. Here’s the information:
6. Care enough to reach out for help.
- If you are concerned about the sexualized behaviors in a parent, cousin, sibling, friend, or neighbor, care enough to talk with them. If you are concerned about your own thoughts and feelings towards children, help is available through Bivona Child Advocacy Center. Contact us and we’ll provide you with informaton and a referral.
- Contact us at Bivona Child Advocacy Center to learn more about the resources in your community.
- Make sure everyone knows that it’s OK to talk with you about what may have already happened—that you love them and will help them.
For additional resources or for advice on developing your Family Safety Plan, visit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children web site. You will also find valuable information at the web site of Darkness to Light, a national organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse.
Know what you need to know
Sexuality is a part of every human regardless of age. But notice if a child you know is showing sexual behavior that doesn’t seem to be appropriate for their age, or seems unusual when compared to other children of the same age.
Do you see this behavior by an adult? These are warning signs.
Have you ever seen someone playing with a child and felt uncomfortable with it? Maybe you thought, “I’m just over-reacting to her,” or, “He doesn’t really mean that.” Don’t ignore the behavior; learn how to ask more questions about what you have seen.
Here are some warning signs. Do you know an adult or older child who:
- Refuses to let a child set any of his or her own limits?
- Insists on hugging, touching, kissing, tickling, wrestling with or holding a child even when the child does not want this affection?
- Is overly interested in the sexuality of a particular child or teen (for instance, talks repeatedly about the child’s developing body or interferes with normal teen dating)?
- Manages to get time alone or insists on time alone with a child with no interruptions?
- Spends most of his/her spare time with children and has little interest in spending time with someone their own age?
- Regularly offers to babysit many different children for free or takes children on overnight outings alone?
- Buys children expensive gifts or gives them money for no apparent reason?
- Frequently walks in on children/teens in the bathroom?
- Allows children or teens to consistently get away with inappropriate behaviors?
If you answered “yes” to some of these questions, talk to that person. If you are uncomfortable, but don’t see these signs, be sure to trust your instincts and ask questions. If you don’t know how to talk to the person, contact us at Bivona Child Advocacy Center. We’ll help.
Are you worried about the behavior of an adult you know? You might be able to help.
Someone you love may be acting in a way that worries or confuses you. These behaviors may be a way for this person to ask for help. Many people with sexual behavior problems wish that someone had asked them what was going on or had told them where to call.
Do you know someone who:
- Talks again and again about the sexual activities of children or teens?
- Masturbates a lot or takes breaks from other activities to go masturbate?
- Talks about sexual fantasies with children and is not clear about what’s okay with children?
- Was abused as a child and won’t deal with it?
- Encourages silence and secrets in a child?
- Looks at child pornography?
- Asks adult partners to dress or act like a child or teen during sexual activity?
- Often has a “special” child friend, maybe a different one from year to year?
- Spends most spare time on activities involving children or teens, not adults?
- Makes fun of a child’s body parts, calls a child sexual names such as stud, whore, or slut?
If you do not know how to approach this person or you need other support, contact us at Bivona Child Advocacy Center. We’ll help.
Are you worried about your child being approached by a sexual predator on the Internet?
If you suspect your child is communicating with a sexual predator:
- Consider talking with your child openly with your child about your suspicions.
- Make sure they understand the dangers of computer sex offenders.
- Consider ordering a Caller ID service from your phone company to monitor calls.
- Monitor all types of live and electronic communications that your child has access to.
- Visit the NetSmartz Teen Workshop
- Visit the NetSmartz Kids Workshop
Be aware of sexual offenders living in your neighborhood
Learn more about the ways you can stay informed about sexual offenders in your neighborhood.