National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. During the month of April, communities are encouraged to share child maltreatment prevention awareness strategies and activities. In that spirit, the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy is excited to share 30 Prevention Tips for the prevention of child sexual abuse.
1. Visit the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy for a Center of Change Tour to learn more about the important work we do to “build a better world, one child at a time.” Join us on the 4th Wednesday of the month, at 12 pm. Join Us As We Kick Off April's Child Abuse Prevention Month!
2. See Something? - Say Something. Be an active bystander. If you see a situation that makes you feel uneasy, do not assume that someone else will respond. Be empowered to say and do something.
3. Plant a pinwheel garden at your home or organization to help raise awareness about child abuse prevention.
4. Be ready to make a report – it’s not always easy, but it is an adult’s job to protect children. Take a mandated reporter training (free online training HERE). Call 1-855-GA-CHILD if you suspect abuse. Kids are counting on you!
5. Do you know if the organizations that serve your child have policies reducing isolated one-on-one interaction? They should. 80% of sexual abuse incidents happen in isolated one-on-one situations. Ask about their policies today.
6. Listen calmly to what kids are telling you! Ask them who and what is important in their lives. It is important they feel heard, safe and supported.
7. Let go of the “stranger danger” myth. 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know and trust their abuser. We need to be vigilant and know how to recognize, prevent, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.
8. Start talking with children about sexual abuse and the value and privacy of their bodies when they are young, and call body parts by their proper names.
9. Never force children to give affection. Teach children about giving and asking for consent. Model these concepts with your child. “Are you sad?" "Would you like a hug?”
10. Encourage children to trust their gut feelings. If they feel uncomfortable or unsafe encourage them to share those feelings with you or another trusted adult.
11. Have an open relationship with your children. Answer their questions honestly when asked rather than changing the subject or eluding the truth. Children sense your apprehension and will be less likely to come to you if something happens to them.
12. Make it known to your friends and family that you've talked to your children about safety from sexual abuse. Tell them that you've empowered your children to not keep secrets.
13. Participate in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training to learn the 5 steps to protecting children. Encourage those who look after your children to do the same.
14. Pay attention to sudden changes in a child’s mood or behavior. These signs could potentially be an indicator that a child has been sexually abused. Take interest and ask some simple, open-ended questions.“It seems like something is bothering you. Do you want to talk about it?” If you are concerned about sudden behavioral/emotional changes or about the healthy development in your child, call Prevent Child Abuse Georgia’s toll-free informational and referral helpline 1-800-CHILDREN (1-800-244-5373).
15. Hear first hand from an adult survivor of sexual abuse and how you can prevent the children in your life from experiencing the same abuse. Join us for the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy’s Change Maker’s Breakfast in April.
16. Talk with children about boundaries amongst their peers. 40% of sexually abused children are abused by older or more powerful children. Help them identify when someone means no, and different ways they might show it.Check out these tips on How to talk to your children about sex abuse 'early and often'.
17. Monitor children and teens internet use. Children under eight should be directly supervised while using internet devices. Pre-teens should have reasonable time limits and be restricted to use in a common area. Privacy settings should be set to the highest level.
18. Use “teachable moments” and real life situations as conversation starters for tough topics – diaper changing/toileting, events in the news, bath-time, movies portraying romantic relationships, a fight with a friend, etc.
19. Talk to your pre-teens and teens about topics like sexting and cyber-bullying. Explain the potential long-term consequences of sending sexual messages and pictures. Let them know they can come to you should they have questions about a communication. Check out these tips on Talking to Youth about Digital Safety.
20. Children should have more than one trusted adult they can turn to. Help children identify who they feel comfortable talking to other than you. Think about settings such as at school, in sports, at faith centers, etc.
21. Role-play different scenarios with your children to help them determine how they would handle different situations. “What could you do if someone asked you to keep a secret that made you feel bad? What if…? How would you handle…?”
22. As an organization that provides programs or services to children, remember that "Passive trust is not a substitute for proactive prevention." No one, no matter their role, degree or relationship, should be excluded from written policies.
23. Avoid one-on-one interactions with children that are secluded or out-of-sight. Ensure that interactions with youth are observable and interruptable – in a public place, with the door open, with two adults, etc.
24. Embed comprehensive child sexual abuse prevention into your organization’s policy and make sure they are up to date and reviewed on an annual basis.
25. Require both background checks and reference checks for all staff and volunteers.
26. Become a Partner In Prevention and require that all staff and volunteers participate in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children training to learn the 5 steps to protecting children.
27. Host regular trainings, presentations, parent cafes and community fairs for parents on Strengthening Families, discipline alternatives, Stewards of Children, digital safety, healthy sexual development, etc.
28. Create an organizational culture of complete intolerance of child sexual abuse by posting signs around the building with empowering messages for children to use their voice, stand up to bullying, and protect their right to say “no”. Posters should also include numbers to call if someone has been abused or is in danger.
29. Organizations should have a clear Code of Conduct describing how staff, volunteers, and older youth will interact and conduct themselves with children. The Code of Conduct should be posted within the physical environment and website, and shared with parents and children.
30. Create a safe, supportive learning environment and decrease vulnerability to abuse. Implement a comprehensive broad skills-based prevention training program for students you serve K-12, including information on personal body safety, appropriate boundaries, social and emotional health, healthy sexual development, relationship building and resistance skill development. Empower children while protecting them!
We hope you have found this information useful and important to follow in your everyday life as a parent and/or a professional. If you would like to get involved with the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy's Prevention Initiative visit HERE, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.