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The Unspoken Fear of Child Abuse
Please do not be afraid of this article.
Child sexual abuse is a despicable act; unfortunately, it is a reality that a lot of families must deal with.
This is a subject that is not discussed around the office water cooler, but it is a discussion that parents and teachers should be having, especially in light of the pervasiveness of the Internet, and new and "improved" ways for strangers to befriend children.
As a sex-crimes prosecutor for nearly 20 years, I have seen and heard it all, and want to share thoughts and options on dealing with this problem, if, heaven forbid, it happens in your family.
First and foremost, parents must be ready to address an uncomfortable topic, and not fear "having the talk." Parents are often nervous to discuss the "birds and the bees," and just manage to get through it. But as a parent, you have to realize that education is protection, and communication is key to prevention. When dealing with an issue like sexual abuse, kids need to know everything.
As a parent talking to your child, you must be able to describe sexual acts, what is considered to be abusive, and what to do if your child becomes a victim.
It is never too early -- only too late -- to discuss such issues; kids are a lot smarter than parents give them credit for.
As for comfort level, better that children be uncomfortable discussing it now, rather than later in the prosecutor's office. The talks you have today just might prevent aggravation you may have later.
Must Speak Up
Here are some important facts to focus on when talking about sexual abuse: Teach your children they can never be afraid to speak up and tell someone if they are inappropriately touched, that anybody mishandling them will be dealt with.
Explain to your kids that it is never their fault if they are the victim, and that they did nothing to bring on this behavior.
Remember that there are no "wrong" words to convey your message.
Warn your kids about the overly friendly adult who wants to "hang out with them." Some pedophiles tend to look for kids who are vulnerable, who may have bad relationships with their parents.
Remember, pedophiles don't always fit into a stereotype. The abuser could be the teacher, the gardner, the repair guy that comes to the house, the nice uncle, and, yes, even a rabbi.
The subject is difficult, and not everyone can discuss it freely. But letting children know that someone is on their side and always willing to help will empower them.
Stacey Honowitz, originally from Philadelphia, is the author of the newly releasedGenius With a Penis, Don't Touch! E-mail her at: [email protected].