Experience has taught us that actions by adults can be more effective than expecting kids to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Still, we know that children* also need accurate, age-appropriate information about child sexual abuse and confidence that adults they know will support them.

Clear communication is a cornerstone of effective prevention. Make sure other adults and older children understand the expectations kids will have of them and how their cooperation will help keep kids safe.

When teaching kids about others’ behavior towards them

Don’t miss a real prevention opportunity

In more than 30 percent of child sexual abuse cases, a child is sexually harmed by someone under 18 years old, frequently by another child or adolescent who may not fully understand the impact of their actions. Most parents talk with their children about how to keep themselves safe from others who may sexually harm them. We also need to talk to our children about why it is so important for them not to harm others. “Just like it is not OK for you to hit and hurt other people, it is not OK for you to use tricks or force to touch other people in a way that makes them uncomfortable.”

Learn about child development

Children are born as healthy sexual beings. Just as they are curious about bugs, airplanes and animals, they will be curious about their bodies and other people’s bodies. As parents, it is very helpful to be knowledgeable about healthy sexual development so we are able to tell the difference between expected behaviors and behaviors that may be cause for concern.

Clarify the rules

When you find your child exploring his or her own body or playing “doctor” with another child, calmly acknowledge what you’ve seen and set clear expectations. “It looks like you and Janie are comparing your bodies. Now get dressed. And remember, even though it feels good to take our clothes off, we keep our clothes on when we’re playing.” If a child continues behaviors after you’ve set clear limits, you may want to talk with a professional.