Misinformation Age

Posted on April 8, 2013. Filed under: Child Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault Awareness Month | Tags: , , , , |

by: Heather DePeal

If you are a parent, grandparent, guardian, or someone who works with children, learning about sexual development and healthy sexuality is key to preventing child sexual abuse. Healthy sexuality incorporates:  self esteem, values, boundaries, respect, and personal awareness.

When children have accurate, ongoing, and age-appropriate information, they will be more confident and better equipped to handle an uncomfortable and inappropriate situation should one arise. Types of information include: anatomically correct names for “private parts”, when touch is harmful and abusive, and that the abuse can occur from someone they know, such as a family member or older, stronger child.

The earlier children learn this information (suggested age is four years) the more comfortable they will be in their ability to protect themselves or disclose to a trusted adult.  It’s not uncommon for parents to have questions about how to approach the topic with their young children. Many parents feel uncomfortable verbalizing anatomically correct words to their young children and may find it helpful to practice saying them aloud to themselves in a private location, such as on the drive to work, before talking with their children.  When parents are comfortable with the conversation, children will understand that the subject is not something to be ashamed of, and that they are allowed to talk about it with their parents or other trusted adult.

Historically, programs such as “Stranger Danger” were taught to alert children of the dangers of being abused or abducted by a stranger.  However, studies have shown that a majority of sexual abuse cases involve an individual known to the child victim, such as a relative, family friend, or other child. For this reason, the “Stranger Danger” curriculum has been replaced with more appropriate curriculums that teach children that it’s not ok for ANYONE to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Dr. Betty Caponera of the New Mexico Interpersonal Violence Data Central Repository, reported that 245 out of 281 children under the age of 12 years, was sexually abused by someone known to them.  “Approximately three-quarters (77% of 189) were victimized by a family member, 17% (41) by an acquaintance, and 1% (3) respectively, by a stranger or brief encounter”.

Sexual Assault Services of Northwest New Mexico (SAS) now offers the Care for Kids Program, which is a health based curriculum for children ages 4-7.  This prevention program is taught to children and reinforced by parents or care givers. It helps adults understand the link between healthy sexuality education and child sexual abuse prevention.  For more information, please call SAS of NWNM at (505) 325-2805.

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