Center for Family Services has been consistently addressing the problem of child sexual abuse in our county. The SAFE Kids Program (child sexual abuse program approved by the Department of Health) is focus on the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse. Part of our role in the community is to support parents in their important role of raising productive and healthy citizens. This month we would like to share with parents some tips to keep children safe from sexual abuse.
Children need to know that:
- They can count on trusted/safe adults, when they feel confused, uncomfortable, and fearful.
- Their body belongs to them. Children should know the correct name of their private parts (parts of the body covered by the bathing suit).
- They have an inner (safety) voice in their heads that helps to recognize that something is not right.
- They have the right to say “No, thank you” when people (including family members) want to hug, kiss, touch them in ways they feel uncomfortable.
- There are safe ways to welcome people such as a wave, a handshake, a fist bump or a high five.
- There are two types of touches: safe (the child feels loved and protected) and unsafe (the child feels embarrassed and confused).
- They should not keep secrets.
- They have to report situations where they do not feel safe or are at risk of being hurt.
- They can talk to you and you will listen without judgment and will provide emotional support.
Parents need to know that:
- Anybody can abuse children. Studies show that 90% of the time, the offender is someone the child knows and trusts.
- There is a grooming process before the abuse happens. This process starts with building trust, giving gifts, keeping secrets, and starting the abuse.
- Supervision is key to prevent child sexual abuse. It is important to check the webpages children access as well as apps they use, and the pictures they take and exchange with peers.
- A safe/healthy family environment is a protective factor. Having clear household rules such as sleeping arrangements, locking the bathroom door when using it, time to go to bed, hours they can use the cellphone, time to watch TV and appropriate channels, visitors, and sleepovers, among others.
- Visitors (adults and children, relatives and friends) should follow family rules related to intake of alcohol or drugs, places of the house they can access, and expected behavior and boundaries.
- Children that run away, have unstable housing or have substance abuse problems are at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking. According to data from Polaris Project, 2018, Florida is the third state in the country with high numbers of human trafficking after California and Texas.
- They have to advocate for children when their rights are violated (talking to teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, and other parents).
- There are signs of child sexual abuse, such as nightmares, upset stomach, acting out sexually, crying, tantrums, mood swings, difficulty focusing, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
- There are community resources they can use when their children need professional assistance due to sexual abuse: Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873), KidSafe Foundation 855 844-SAFE (7233), National Human Trafficking Hotline 1-888-373-7888, and Center for Family Services/SAFE Kids Program 561-616-1222.
Click Here to learn more about our SAFE Kids Program
KidSafe Foundation. A guidebook for Families. Ways to empower your children & keep them safe. Children’s Services Council Palm Beach County.
Polaris Project, 2018 Statistics from the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Retrieved from https://humantraffickinghotline.org/states
Prepared by: Claudia Herrera, LMFT, CFLE/ Chief Operating Officer.