How To Prevent Abuse in our Young Children

You may have seen the stories about abuse circulating. They are not new. The latest in Lagos, a case currently in court, involves a two year old. A two year old was raped in a place her Parents thought she would be safe at  – school.

Parents, we must protect our children by arming them with the right information. The predator is not tame in his methods to ‘groom’ and assault our children. We must in turn be bold and steadfast in preparing our children to defend themselves if they are ever in the situation.

Do not believe it will not happen to your children, protect them!

……

Firstly, I want to touch on are these facts:

A. The predator who assaults your child is known by them (and possibly you too).

90% of abusers were people known by the children

30% of abusers were family members (statistics from the US)

B. The average age for abuse to begin in a child is 8 years old but, it could be younger. As we see in the example i my opening paragraph. 

C. Talking to our children is our best defense. What we say and the words we choose, will be adapted as they grow older. I provide plenty of examples of ways to phrase the conversation.

D. Your child is never too young for you to begin these talks. You teach your child their facial body parts before age 1. From 1+, you can help your child label their private body parts, using the correct words and then build on the conversation as they get older.

E. The aim is to teach our children what abuse may look like, so that if a Predator tries anything, your child is uncomfortable, knows to trust that something has happened that is worth reporting to you and takes that next step to report to you.

 

OK, lets get right into it:

1.Teach Body Part Names

Please do not use bum bum or pee pee and private parts is not enough. When children know the correct names they can correctly identify to us and to a courtroom exactly what happened more easily.

Breast, Penis, Nipple, Vulva (outside), vagina (inside part).

The best place to do this is during your child’s bath or as you’re getting them dressed up or during during diaper changes.

Keep a cool and calm demeanor as if you were talking about saying please and thank you. You don’t want to scare them.

2. Introduce the concept of Safe and Not-safe touch

There are two types of touch: ‘safe touch’ and ‘not-safe touch’. This is better than using bad or good touch because sometimes a child may feel guilty about what has happened because it felt good even as it simultaneously felt bad or made them feel ‘somehow’.

Use these sentences:

Mum and Dad give you hugs and kisses – that’s safe touch. Mummy or Daddy can give you a bath – that’s safe touch.

Mummy or Daddy or Ms Rika (your nanny) can help wipe your vulva after you wee wee  – that is a safe touch.

But someone who is not mummy or daddy, hugging or kissing MIGHT be a ‘not-safe’ touch.

You don’t have to hug or kiss anyone else who is not mummy or daddy, if you don’t want to.

No one should kiss you on your mouth or put anything in your mouth.

No one should touch your vuvla or vagina or put anything in your vagina. These are your private parts (add the term private parts for older children, but I wouldn’t bother with a younger one. Better for them to just know actual names so you don’t burden them with too much info).

No one should touch your penis. This is part of your private parts (add the term private parts for older children, but I would’nt bother with a younger one. Better for them to just know actual names so you don’t burden them with too much info).

No one should touch your breast or nipple. That’s not-safe touch.

No one should ask to look at your penis or breast or vulva or vagina.

No one should ask you to look at or touch their penis or breast or vulva or vagina.

 

3.Tell them what to do if someone does touch them in their private area

You can exaggerate the NO, DON’T TOUCH ME THERE part.

Tell your child: it is OK to not do what someone says if you feel uncomfortable or there has been not-safe touch. Even if they are an adult or someone in charge. It is OK to run away if you don’t feel safe or if someone gives you a not-safe touch.

If anything happens that is not a safe-touch, tell me or tell your Daddy immediately.

 

4.Do not keep secrets from me

Tell your child that there should be no secrets between them and any other adult or child.

If someone tells you to keep a secret, don’t listen to them, come and tell me (mummy) or tell Daddy. Even if they tell you they will hurt you or me if you tell, tell me anyway.

 

5. Tell your child – I will always protect you

If someone gives you not safe touch tell me, I will never be angry. No matter what happened, come to me and I will help me.

You will never get into trouble for telling me if someone made you sad or uncomfortable. Or for telling me a secret someone else told you to keep.

You can always tell me.

 

6. Pictures or videos should not make you feel uncomfortable

Your body belongs to you and you alone. Nobody should take pictures or a video, of your body. Nobody should show you pictures or videos of other people’s bodies.

If they do, you should say NO and come and tell me immediately.

7. Parents, Be Alert

If your child suddenly seems more withdrawn or quiet or seems to spend more time alone, talk to them. Ask specific questions. Ask about secrets or body parts.
What signs might I see (from the PANTS campaign)?
All children are different, and the signs could appear in different ways. You may notice:
• changes in the child’s behaviour • changes to achievement and progress • talking about sexual acts or using sexually explicit language • sexual contact with other children or showing adult-like sexual behaviour or knowledge • becoming withdrawn or clingy • changes in personality • becoming more insecure than previously observed • using toys or objects in a sexual way • changes in eating habits • inexplicable fear of particular places or people • regression to younger behaviours • becoming secretive or reluctant to share things with you. You would see a few of these together, because in isolation each one could be normal.

8. Practice what your child should say by using role play scenarios

This gives our children the exact words to use and get them comfortable using those words, if someone does try to abuse them.
What if our neighbour Mr X comes with a sweet and asks to see your breast. What do you say?
What would you do if someone touches your vulva?
Who would you tell?
When would you tell?
What if the person told you it’s a secret or that they would hurt you or me? Do you still tell?
Practice the mantras and let them say these words too.

9. Introduce a code-word for older children

If f you are not comfortable with an adult or something happened you say the code word – purple circle or whatever you choose.

10. Find out what your children’s schools are doing to prevent abuse.

Talk to the Principal about what safe guards they have put in place. Are there cameras? Can a teacher simply take a child to another room? How do they prevent that?
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Additional notes:
i. You can buy books on the topic. This helps you talk about these scenarios in a way that is gentle and not scary for your child. the topic is serious but our approach should be firm but light. Examples Don’t touch me there by Pastor Nomthi Odukoya.
ii. Never let your child do to the toilet in a restaurant or public place unsupervised.  Abuse can happen in one minute. It is better not to take the chance.
iii. Dont forget that your male children are vulnerable and may encounter abuse, too. These discussions are for both your male and female children. Similarly,  abusers can be female, male and even other children. A recent case of a 12 year old abusing a 4 year old was raised on Instagram this week.
iv. A mum reminded me that anus and I would add bottom (this is the bum cheeks), must also be taught. Please add it to your child’s vocabulary and discussions about places that should not be touched by anyone.
v. No means No is from the ‘Pants rule’ introduced by the NSPCC UK body. It means that as part of teaching our children that their body is there’s, if they say no we should obey. For example if you’re tickling your toddler and they say they don’t like it or say stop, you should immediately stop. To model that their body is theirs and no means no. Another example is if your children do not want to hug relatives, please do not force them. Greeting adults is important, and you can emphasise that, but anything that involves someone (anyone) touching their body e.g. hugs – should not be given by force. Your child should have the right to say no.
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Mums, I hope this has been helpful. If this is a lot of information for you, perhaps you have a 1 year old, just start with the first points. Even some information is better than nothing! If you have questions, please let me know. Let us fight hard against this abuse epidemic by arming our children with the right tools.

6 Comments

  • Thanks very much for this write up, it was very informative. You’ve done very well.
    The recent rape of the little girl in Lagos left me deeply troubled.
    I have an 8 year old girl, a soon to be 3 year old girl and a 1 year old boy.
    I have had encounters with child abusers, and I know 90 percent of the time there are either family members or very close relatives. One cannot relax and take anything for granted.

    • Thank you for reading, Doris. It’s important for us to arm our children with what to do should they ever encounter these abusers. I hope this post helps us frame the bold conversations we have with our children on this topic

  • Wow! I learnt a lot from this write up. Can My nanny join me in this since am not always with him? (especially during bath time) Thanks for this info

  • Thank ypu so much for this. My 1st daughter is 2 years and 7months i have being contemplating teaching her because her speech is not clear yet . Although she knows some parts of her body i am yet to tell her the names of her private part but i keep telling her if she is touched should tell me. But recently i stopped. But with this nau i will start asap. Thank you

    • Yes Mama. Keep talking about it regularly so that it’s at the fore front of her mind. Also be vigilant in supervising her too. Well done :).

    • That is a very good question. I would say its best that you do it, because that way you teach her to trust just her Parents. As often as you can talk to her about it, even if its just once a week.

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