1. Trust no one. When it comes to this issue, there should be no assumptions. In every four women you meet, one was, most probably, sexually assaulted before she reached 18 years! In addition, 40% of these abuses were by a family member! Follow your instincts. Act on your suspicions. Most child victims will never report the abuse and, surprisingly, parents do not believe most of the few children that are bold enough to report! 80% of those that abuse children are those you trust, because they appear trustworthy and act friendly (in order to gain access to your child!) Shine your eyes! Discourage family friends from calling your child, “my wife” or” my husband”, and so on. Trust no one.
2. Minimize opportunities. Reduce situations where one adult will be alone with your child. Decrease one-on-one contact of your child with an adult as much as possible. Let there be a third person – an adult. You too, as an adult, avoid being alone with a kid as much as possible. Set an example. Any one-on-one time with your child should be in public places, not behind closed doors! Who picks up your child from school? Minimize opportunities.
3. Talk to your child. Consistently, and in a friendly way, ask questions about outings and visits, and watch your child’s moods and reactions carefully. Do not asking leading questions like, “Did he touch you here?” The child is likely to say “yes”. Rather ask, “What did he do?” Abusers tell the child not to report, and that parents would be angry with or disappointed in them if they do, or that no one will believe them. They could also try to convince them that it is nothing wrong, or that it is a “play” or a “game”. Educate your child early and often. Teach them how to use the internet wisely and chat (on social networks) decently. Clearly and firmly instruct your child not to allow anyone touch their private parts – genitals, anus and breasts; and not to allow anyone remove their clothes. Encourage them to report any of such actions. Teach your child, as early as possible, to undress and dress up, to wash and clean private parts. Teach them how; show them. Stop doing the private things for them. Assist them instead of doing everything. Talk to your child.
4. Watch out for signs. It is very difficult to know if your child is being abused. Notice when your child starts resisting, avoiding, or becoming uncomfortable with a particular family member or family friend. Observe for use of certain inappropriate language and sexual behaviors. Look at your child’s body. Ask questions. Talk to your child. Check for redness, rashes, swelling of genitals or genital areas. Look out for pain during urination or symptoms of urinary tract infections. Do you notice depression, unexplained anger, withdrawal, anxiety, and rebellion? Does your child always complain of “stomach pain?” Watch out for signs.
5. Learn how to act and react. Do not overreact. Be careful. If you respond with anger or disappointment, the child will “lock up” or “shut down”. Your child will not open up. You must win your child’s trust. Be your child’s friend, not just a parent. Confirm first. Report to the police, religious leader, traditional head, or a reliable family leader. Let the child see and know that you believe what he or she told you. Thank the child. Praise the child for the courage. Encourage the child to talk if it happens again.
6. See a doctor. You child might need medical examination and laboratory investigations. The last case brought to me was a 9-year-old girl that was raped by a family friend, a married man! I insisted the police bring the man to me. He turned out to be HIV-positive after running some tests! In fact, he never knew he was reactive. See a doctor.
Sexual abuse during childhood increases the likelihood of drug abuse, alcohol addiction, suicidal thoughts (and attempts), eating disorders, prostitution, and relationship difficulties in later ages.
Protect your child. Preserve your child’s future.