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PROTECTING YOUR CHILD FROM SEXUAL ABUSE, MOLESTATION OR RAPE

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Sexual Abuse has enormous effects on the child which are usually carried over into adult hood. These effects can be resolved and overcome for the survivor. Read these pages for further information.

How Can We Protect Our Children
Any child can be sexually molested, anywhere, at any time. How can children be protected?
It is impossible to give our children total protection. We can, however, prepare and educate them about sexual molesting. Children must be made aware of all the potential things that can happen, so that they know how to react to avoid them. Depending on the age of your child, you can teach him step by step about the different dangers to look out for, without taking away his innocence or frightening him. You should always try to be aware of where your child is and what he/she is doing. If your child has been molested, remember: It is not the child's fault.


How do we teach our children?

  • By using direct and simple language, as well as using the correct names for body parts (start with what the child already knows and build on that). Do not dramatise the situation. Stay calm and present the information in a positive way. We do not want to frighten or confuse our children.
  • Through games.

"What if ." game - where you act out different situations which could occur, e.g. "What if a stranger offers you a lift?" This game helps children anticipate what can happen and plan what action to take in these situations.
Through this game you can talk about possible solutions to the problem and agree on a solution that seems to be the best for your child.


Remember: Try and let your child find answers independently. This teaches him/her to be resourceful.


Safe and unsafe touches
Explain that touching which feels bad is unsafe. An unsafe touch is when someone touches them in a way or place that makes them feel uncomfortable. This can confuse and frighten them. Safe touches make them feel warm inside
Teach children that their bodies belong to them and no one can touch or kiss them in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable. They have the right to control what happens to their bodies. You as parents can help your child to recognize his/her own feelings of comfort and discomfort and to trust these feelings.


Teach your children how to say NO
Give your child permission to say No to adults. It is difficult for a child to say NO to an adult, but he/she must practice saying NO in a loud voice. Every child has the right to say NO.


Secrets
Offenders rely on children being willing to keep secrets. Encourage children never to keep something like this a secret, but to always tell an adult they trust.


Bribes
Molesters often offer children bribes in exchange for sexual favours, e.g. sweets, gifts, money, kittens. Gifts are given freely, but bribes are given to make children do things they do not want to do. This is unsafe.


Children Should Not Define People As Good Or Bad
Do not teach your child that there are bad people and good people. Children seem to think that strangers are "bad" people and people they know, or like, are "good" people and won't hurt them. This is wrong.
Teach children to think objectively:

  • Explain that people have good and bad in them and sometimes even good people could do things to them that they don't like.
  • Teach them to always say NO to anyone who tries to do something that frightens them.

Answer Children's Questions
Children are curious and often ask questions. They hear things on TV or from their friends. Parents should never ignore these questions. It is important to give honest answers to all their question. Parents do not have to give all the information to the child, which could frighten or confuse him or her, but just enough to answer the question. If you give honest answers, children will trust you and ask questions again. Questions are good. It gives you as a parent the opportunity to convey the correct information to your children.


Possible Danger Signal in Children
Although these signs do not necessarily indicate that your child has been sexually molested, they will help you as a parent to identify that something is wrong:

  • Suddenly children have more money and gifts than usual and the source thereof is unknown to you
  • Uncle or aunt or other person wants to take out only one child all the time
  • Your child takes much longer than usual to get home from school
  • The child's behaviour towards a certain person suddenly changes
  • Child makes strange comments about a certain person
  • Personality of the child suddenly changes and he or she clings to you
  • Lack of appetite or sudden increased appetite
  • Child suddenly wants to be isolated and seems withdrawn
  • Lack of concentration
  • Bed wetting
  • Nightmares, can't sleep at night
  • Child has a lot of sexual knowledge for his or her age
  • Depression, withdrawal, suicide attempts, etc.
  • Medical problems such as chronic itching, pain in the genitals, venereal diseases
  • It is also possible that a child show no outward signs, and hide what is happening from everyone.

If you child has been molested
It is important to stay calm. You must believe your child. Children don't often lie about being abused.

  • Question them gently
  • Don't make the child feel guilty. It is not the child's fault.
  • Tell the child that you are glad she/he told you, that you are sorry it happened to her/him and that you want to help him/her.

Get Professional Help
Child Protection Units
Cape Town - (021) 592 2601
Johannesburg - (011) 403 3413
Durban - (031) 307 7000
Pretoria - (012) 353 5867 / 810 / 806
Bloemfontein - (051) 447 9808
Child Line
Cape Town - (021) 461 1111
Johannesburg - (011) 484 3044
Durban - (031) 303 2222
Toll-free - 0800 055 555
Toll-free - 0800 123 321 (24 Hour)
Safe Line
(021) 26 1100 (23 3333)
Your Local Hospital
Local Child & Family Welfare Organisation
Encourage children to always tell an adult and to keep telling until someone helps them.
Remember: Teaching children and preparing them is the most important aspect. They will then be prepared to handle and react to situations in a correct and safe way. Children that know prevention techniques and how to look after themselves are the safest children and are less at risk.
Teach your child to:    Refuse .. Run ... Report

Sexual Abuse has enormous effects on the child which are usually carried over into adult hood. These effects can be resolved and overcome for the survivor. Read these pages for further information.

What is the Molestation of Children?

Every child is vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Child victims can be boys as well as girls and older as well as younger.
Child molestation can include

  • Fondling or touching
  • "Flashing" or exposing adult genitals to a child
  • Showing sexually explicit material to a child
  • So called "normal" sexual activity such as vaginal or anal intercourse or oral stimulation of the genitals
  • So called "deviant" sexual activity such as urination, defecation, sadomasochism, or bondage

Child molesters can use many methods such as

  • Coaxing or persuading a child into sexual activity
  • Overpowering or threatening to harm a child into sexual activity

Child molesters most often manipulate child victims into complying with sexual activity by "grooming" them with attention, affection, and gifts over a period of time. Sometimes this "grooming" is aimed at the parent of very young children in order for the child molester to obtain the family's trust and thereby gain access to the child.

SAFETY TIPS FOR KIDS AND PARENTS
1. Always check with parents or person in charge before going anywhere, even with someone they know, to state where they are going, who is going with them, and exactly when they will return.
2. Always check with parents before accepting any type of a gift: money, candy, toys.
3. Use the buddy system when they are going places or playing outside. Stress safety in numbers.
4. Say no to anyone who tries to touch them any place a bathing suit would cover - get away from that person - and tell you if anyone violates this rule. Be sure they understand that no one should expose or touch their private parts, ask them to do the same, or force them to handle body wastes.
5. Report any incidents of anyone asking to take their pictures.
6. Never open the door when they are home alone. Make sure they have a neighbour’s phone number in case someone tries to get inside the house.


EXPLAIN THE FOLLOWING SAFETY MEASURES
1. When separated from parents in a public place a child should find a cashier, security guard or manager and ask for help in finding their parents.
2. No matter what anyone tells them, children do not have to keep secrets if anyone touches them in a way that is not okay, or if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable by what they say or do. People who want children to keep secrets from their parents are not safe to be with.
3. Explain that adults should ask other adults for help - not children - and if asked by someone in a car for directions they should keep walking and never approach the car. If the driver gets out of the car they should be prepared to scream and run.
 4. Show your children how to call 911 and make periodic checks to see if they remember their address and telephone number.
 5. If approached by a policeman, children have the right to call the Police Department to verify that person's credentials, and any legitimate officer will honour this request.
 6. Instruct your children to tell you if they see anything that frightens or disturbs them. Younger children are often introduced to pornographic material by older children and later act it out on children younger than themselves.
 
SAFETY TIPS FOR PARENTS
1. Network with your child's friends and their parents to safeguard all children in your community.
2. Insist that all slumber parties be well chaperoned.
3. Never leave children unattended, especially in a car.
4. Notice when a stranger pays attention to your child and find out why. Question the motives of
adults or older children who want to spend time alone with your children.
5. Do not let your child spend time in an unsupervised home, and know who their friends are.
6. If your child prefers to spend a lot of time at a neighbour's home, find out why.
7. Play "what if" games: "what if a stranger offers you a ride home or asks you to help find a lost puppy?" A Portland, Oregon news reporter tested children in a park by asking to help him find his lost puppy. Had he been a child molester, he could have abducted over 80% of the children because that many were willing to go with him.
8. Screen baby-sitters and other care givers carefully - both male and female.
9. Be alert to unexplained toys or money. Find out who gave them to your child and why.
Develop and maintain open communication with your children so you can talk about any subject comfortably.
 

CHOOSING A DAY-CARE CENTRE FOR YOUR CHILD

One of your best resources when looking for day-care is through the recommendation of friends and neighbours who can speak from first hand experience. Lists are also available from your local department of social services and local schools and community resource centres. Call your local police and social services departments to determine if any reports have been filed against the specific facility you are considering.
 Choose a licensed day-care centre where:

  • Parents are free to come and go without calling first.
  • No areas are off limits to parents.
  • Bathrooms do not contain areas where children can be isolated (two thirds of all day-care sexual abuse takes place during visits to the bathroom).
  • There is adequate supervision during naps.
  • Criminal checks are made on all employees who will be interacting with children - including volunteers or teacher's aides.
  • Safety measures are taken to prohibit the release of your child to anyone without your written authorization.
  • Once you decide on a facility and your child is old enough to respond, ask what happened during the day. Communication is the key to safety.
     

Sexual Abuse has enormous effects on the child which are usually carried over into adult hood. These effects can be resolved and overcome for the survivor. Read these pages for further information.

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