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How to Help Your Children Protect Themselves From Sexual Abuse

Talking to your children about their bodies can help protect them from sexual abuse. From the time your children are quite young, have a conversation with them about who can touch them and what to do if they are uncomfortable with someone's touch. To start, establish clear family rules for safe touches and review them with your children often.

Empower your child

Help your children protect themselves by sharing the information they need to be assertive:

  • Teach them to trust their feelings. If they feel badly about the way someone touches them they should say something.
  • Coach them to say, "Stop touching me" anytime they feel uncomfortable.
  • Instruct them to get away from any person making them uncomfortable.
  • Make sure they know to tell you as soon as possible.
  • Direct them to tell another trusted adult if you aren't there to help.
  • Assure them that you will always believe them.
  • Teach them that it is never a child's fault if a grown-up is doing something wrong.

Role-playing is a great way to start a conversation about touch. Through role-play, you and your children can practice the rules for safe touches.

Role-play with the "What if?" game

Have your child practice responding to dangerous situations with a question-and-answer game called "What if?" Here's how to play:

  • Start by asking your children age-appropriate questions. Then, provide the correct answer. Remember that younger children require simpler explanations than older children.
  • Focus on making sure they understand the answer and why it's important.
  • Next time, ask your children the question and wait for them to respond. Calmly supply the answer when they forget any part of it.

Play this game often — in a low-pressure manner — until your children learn the answers without your prompt.

Get started with these questions

Here are a few "What if?" game questions to start with:

  • What if someone touches you (even someone you know) in a way you don't like?
  • What if a grown-up (even someone you know) gives you a big hug, or touches you in any other way, and it makes you feel bad or creepy?
  • What if they offer you something you really want, such as candy or a toy, to keep touching a secret?
  • What if they tell you that they will hurt you or someone you love if you tell anyone?
  • If someone is bothering you at school or in the neighborhood and I am not around, whom should you tell?
  • What if someone you tell doesn't believe you or gets mad at you?
  • What if an adult does something to you that's wrong and then tells you that it was your fault?

In addition to role-playing, you can begin practicing other techniques with your children to help them understand sexual abuse and what they must do to protect themselves. Talk to your child about safe touches. Find your Family Advocacy Program for support.