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Sexual abuse prevention in the early years

4 out of 10 girls and boys are victims of violence in their homes. 70 to 95% of reported cases of sexual abuse against children are perpetrated by relatives. Sexual abuse happens in every demographic.

We are all at risk of sexual abuse, but a preschool-age child is much more vulnerable.

Let's begin by defining what sexual abuse is. Sexual abuse is characterized as "All those attitudes and behaviors carried out by an adult on a minor or a minor on another minor with a difference between them of 5 years or an asymmetry of condition, to obtain their own gratification or sexual satisfaction, using threats, physical force, manipulation, blackmail or deceit.”

What is not considered sexual abuse?

Parents often express concern when toddlers curiosity involves behaviors like kissing on the mouth or exploring their own bodies etc. At this age the behavior should be addressed but it is not considered abuse even if it involves another child because the child is not acting our of a need for sexual gratification, since it does not awaken the libido.

What is considered sexual abuse?

When an adult seeks sexual satisfaction by doing something sexual with a child, through images, videos, or physical acts, taking advantage of the child's vulnerability and naivety.

What can I do to prevent sexual abuse?

  • Teach your children to take care of their own privacy and their bodies. It is important to tell them that it is something precious and valuable that must be cared for and respected by the other. Dad and mom are the ones who set the first example.

  • You have to start respecting the privacy of your child, for example, in a tickling game when the child says "STOP", stop, even if it's just a game.

  • Avoid secrets, because the child is adopting in his mind that secrets are a game and this can cause that he adopts it as a behavior. Promote transparency and honesty in the family. When someone tells you "you can't tell or no one can know" there is something instantly wrong. Encourage the "it's information you don't need to know" when your child asks you an adult secret.

  • As soon as their age allows, teach them to clean themselves when they go to the bathroom, so they don't need help from someone else. When it comes to health issues in their private parts, explain the situation. I need to help you clean yourself, will you give me permission? or try to let them do it on their own and supervise afterwards.

  • Do not force them to kiss or hug anyone, respect their physical limits. Give other alternatives such as, you can smile or greet with a fist bump. Don't force them to do anything with their body.

  • The more present you are as parents, the less likely this will happen.

  • Pornography is one of the main causes of distorted sexual desire. Supervising and limiting tech use in young children is a way to prevent sexual exposure and abuse.

  • The average age a child starts viewing pornography is 6 or 7 years old. Take great care of what your children see when they have access to technology, they can only use it where mom or dad are.

  • Strengthen the bond between mom, dad and children. If you have a good relationship with your children, they will know that you will be there for them. Let them know that you are there to correct mistakes and validate their emotions. Tell them about your mistakes, so they know that you are wrong too. Let them know that you are a safe place. "If one day someone touches you or makes you feel uncomfortable, we can talk."

How can I detect if something is happening?

  • Sudden changes in attitude or personality for a long time.

  • If your child tells you explicitly that someone touched him/her or showed their private parts, believe them.

  • If you have any setbacks in potty training for an extended period (2 weeks or more, or something that is constant. The sphincters are closely related to the emotional, it is where they demonstrate the ability to control.

  • Constant nightmares, 1 week or 15 days of nightmares. Something that is already out of the ordinary.

  • When suddenly they are afraid to leave with a relative. It is important that we listen to the reason why.

  • When you can see a constant masturbation, or touching their private parts.

  • Anxiety behaviors such as nail biting.

  • Be very careful with sexual relations if your son is still sleeping with parents, even if you think he is asleep, it is important to be very careful and avoid having relations in the same room as your child. As surprising as it sounds this does happen in some families.

  • Avoid being the one who puts words in the child's mouth. Avoid asking "did they touch you, did they hit you?" It is very possible for them to answer yes. Change it to say: Tell me more, what do you imagine, what do you think, what did your friend tell you? Know what they are thinking.

  • If you suspect sexual abuse, it is important to see a professional.

  • As parents, it is important to react to these situations in a calm and relaxed way, because if you react strongly, the child will instantly think that something was VERY bad.


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