Safety Tips

Myths about Child Sexual Abuse

    Social acceptance of myths silences victims and encourages public denial about the true na- ture of this silent epidemic. Accurate information is key when confronting and preventing child abuse.
1. Myth: He looks normal and acts normal, so he can't be a child molester. (Only boogeymen are child molesters.)
    A common and dangerous public assumption is that a person who looks normal and acts normal simply could never abuse a child. Offenders are knowledgeable about the importance of their public image, and can hide their private behaviors from their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and even their own family members. Offenders use a number of strategies which allow them to gain access to children while hiding their true actions. Many perpetrators seek out volunteer or em- ployment positions that place adults in close proximity to children. Some offenders appear to be charming, socially responsible, caring, compassionate, morally sound, and sincere. Parents and other responsible adults trust these individuals. This leads to continued access to child victims.
2. Myth: Only men sexually abuse children.
    While male perpetrators tend to be the majority of reported cases of abuse, women are also ca- pable of child abuse. Reports of female perpetrators are on the rise, and female offenders have been reported in cases of abuse involving both male and female children.
3. Myth: Offenders target any and all children nearby.
    Just because a child is in the proximity of an offender, this does not mean that the child will automatically become a target or a victim. This may seem obvious, but some people believe that if a perpetrator didn't abuse a certain child to whom he had nearby access, then the children who do make an outcry of abuse must be lying. Offenders carefully select and groom their tar- geted victims, employing an outline or plan to get a particular child alone. Not every child fits the mold of what an offender is looking for. There is a process of obtaining a child's friendship or trust, and in some cases, the parent's friendship or trust, as well. Once trust has been ob- tained, the child is more vulnerable, both emotionally and physically.
4. Myth: Abused children always tell! (My kids know they're supposed to tell!)

See More Myths about Child Sexual Abuse Here

Tips to Foster Nurturing Families

    Educate yourself about normal child development. Caretaking can become frustrating if an adult has unreasonable expectations about a child's behavior.

    Learn and utilize effective discipline strategies that help children develop their own self-control. Do not use hitting, whipping, etc. which are linked to increased aggression and antisocial be- havior. The goal of discipline is to teach appropriate behavior, not just "punish" wrongdoing.

    Practice self-care. Parents and caretakers need to attend to themselves to handle the many stress- ors life can bring. Whether through relaxation, pursuit of a personal interest or using creative energy, adults who nourish themselves are better equipped to handle the many challenges of parenthood.

    Ask for help. It's okay to ask for help if you need a break, need advice or need assistance such as financial, safe shelter, food, healthcare, etc. Your local children's advocacy center can help identify community agencies that provide such assistance.

Protection Tips for Caregivers

Talk to kids about their personal safety, not just once, but initiate ongoing age-appropriate conversa- tions. Most importantly, teach kids not to keep secrets and to report unwelcome touching or sexual be- havior to a trusted adult. Open communication with kids is a protective factor for children and a deter- rent to perpetrators.

Know everything you can about the people who care for your children. Monitor who interacts with your child. Ask your child questions about what he/she does when with a babysitter, at a friend's house, etc.

Select activities for children through organizations that carefully screen their staff and volunteers who work with kids. Work with those organizations to implement policies and procedures that discour- age one-on-one isolated interactions between children and adults.

Monitor children's computer use, especially that of teenagers. Keep computers in a public area of the house. Discourage children from posting personal information or photos online. Teach children to end any online communication with an unknown person that asks for identifying information or is sexual in nature.

Use "What If" situations with younger children to explore safety issues and help identify appropriate safety strategies. "What if you become lost in the store?" "What if you are at a friend's house and feel uncomfortable?" Create a family plan before the situation arises, so children know their action plan and how to get help.

If a child tells you about abuse, listen. Believe. Children rarely lie about abuse. Reassure the child it's not his/her fault. Report the abuse to the authorities. Secure mental health and medical services to help the child heal.

Material on this page are derived from several sources including the National Children's Alliance.

Child Advocacy Centers in the U.S.

Below is an interactive map of the child advocacy centers across the U.S. Zoom in to the your area to find a local center near you.