What Can You Do
Protect your children. Teach your children what appropriate sexual
behavior is and when to say “no” if someone tries to touch sexual parts
of their bodies or touch them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Also,
observe your children when they interact with others to see if they are hesitant
or particularly uncomfortable around certain adults. It is critical to provide adequate
supervision for your children and only leave them in the care of individuals whom
you deem safe.
Check out these resources for more details on protecting your children
Support child abuse victims. Children need to know that they can
speak openly to a trusted adult and that they will be believed. Children who are
victims of sexual abuse should always be reassured that they are not responsible
for what has happened to them. Offer encouragement for victims by supporting organizations
that help victims of incest or by simply reassuring victims of sexual abuse that
they should not feel shame or guilt. It is important to understand that troubled
families can be helped and that everyone can play a part in the process.
Here’s a good resource that goes into more detail about this:
Teach others about child abuse. Help make others aware of sexual
abuse by arranging for knowledgeable guest speakers to present to your organizations
or groups. Encourage your local school board to establish programs to educate both
teachers and students about the problem. This is a great activity for your local
community. Take Action.
Report, report, report. If you suspect sexual abuse and believe
a child to be in imminent danger, report it to the local child protective services
agency (often called “social services” or “human services”)
in your county or state. Professionals who work with children are required by law
to report reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, in 20 states, citizens
who suspect abuse or neglect are required to report it. “Reasonable suspicion”
based on objective evidence, which could be firsthand observation or statements
made by a parent or child, is all that is needed to report. Remember that you may
be the only person in a position to help a child who is being sexually abused.
For more information, see Overcoming the Barriers to Reporting Suspicions of Child Abuse
and Children Exposed to Family Violence .