Addressing Sexual Assault With Your Child

Published on September 15th, 2015

Updated on January 3rd, 2024

Addressing Sexual Assault With Your Child

Child sexual assault and body safety is a difficult but important topic to address with your children. Tuning your child into their body and the importance of setting boundaries can begin as early as toddler-aged.

There are some key points to focus on when addressing body safety with your child. The following are approaches for explaining to a child how they can best take care of their bodies and stay safe.

“There is Good Touch and There is Bad Touch”

Teach your child that good touch is a touch that is invited, whereas bad touch is an uninvited or unwanted touch. This can be a sensitive subject, especially when it comes to encouraging kids to hug or kiss relatives and friends. It’s the classic: “Come here and give your Aunt Jane a big kiss!!”

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Some children are more affectionate than others, so they must not be pushed into physical contact. As a parent, a polite way to handle the ‘Aunt Jane’ scenario may be to politely say: “Oh, it’s unusual for him/her to warm up that much right away. Give it a little time and he/she may be ready for a high five.”

Example: Good touch might be holding hands with a parent crossing the street, putting an arm around a friend who is having a bad day, or giving a hug to someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Bad touch would be violence like hitting, kicking, pushing, or any unwanted touch.

“Your Body Belongs to You”

Teach your child that their body is not anyone else’s. Every single part of the body from head to toe belongs to them. Many times, perpetrators will use “sharing” kind of language to confuse and manipulate young children. Make it clear to your child that they do not have to share any part of their body- even a hug or a kiss- if it does not feel okay. 

This may also be a good time to introduce the concept of personal space and respecting other’s personal space and privacy. You can refer to private parts as “bathing suit areas” that are extra personal and private. These areas stay covered up all the time unless you are taking a bath or going to the bathroom. 

As your child ages, empower them to take care of their hygiene. Of course, children will still need help with bathing and other types of hygiene, but do what you can to instill the message that they are in charge of what goes on with the body. Make it clear that nobody should touch them in a way they do not like or want.

Girls Hugging Each Other

“Take Care of Your Body”

Teach your child each person’s body has great value. In a balanced way, talk about health, good diet, exercise, and good hygiene. This will tune your child into what is going on with their body and how they feel. 

Your child’s self-esteem grows when they learn how to have a healthy perspective about their body. They have more confidence and pride in their ability to take care of themselves. This can encourage a child to protect themselves from unwanted contact with others. They will trust themselves to know that something is not right and will act accordingly. 

Note: Stay away from body image language and value judgments. Terms like pretty, skinny, sexy, attractive, etc. imply that their body is open to judgment. These messages are powerful for a child and may relay unhealthy messages. They send the message that the approval and affirmation of others are important, which can be used against them. Predators often use this as another tool to gain a victim’s trust.


“Listen to Your Body”

Teach your children about body intuition. If given the opportunity, many children would describe their abuse experience as ‘scary’ or ‘icky’ or ‘wanting it to be over.’ For many survivors, the relationship they have with their bodies can become marked by shame, anxiety, and disconnect for years to come. 

Teach your child that their body can teach them things. If their body feels uneasy or ‘icky’ or weird, there is probably something ‘icky’ going on. Conversely, if your body feels relaxed and normal there is probably less to worry about. 

Open the doors of communication. “The minute something feels off to you, go tell an adult that you trust, even if you are not exactly sure what is wrong.”

Sexual abuse is not an easy topic to discuss with your children. No parent wants to worry about such dangers for their child, but it is an important thing to prepare them for as early as possible. Addressing the topics above provides your child with a firm sense of body awareness. They will be better equipped to handle unwanted or unsafe contact with others and will have peace of mind that you did your part in teaching your children how to protect and take care of themselves.

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