Dear Prevention Community,
Typically, concerned adults wait to bring up the subject of sexual abuse and prevention until there is a “reason” – a warning sign, a suspicion, maybe even a disclosure. Who wants to talk about this stuff unless you have to, right? However, waiting until there is a reason is not enough. In order to be vigilant and caring parents, caregivers or youth educators, we have to raise the topic of what we can do to keep children safe before there is a concern, a warning sign or even a “feeling” that something is wrong.
If we raise the topic
there is any cause to be worried about a specific concern, we have a better chance of having a conversation that is not blaming, shaming or confrontational, and that opens the door to planning for safety – rather than reacting to concerns later. Also, it’s just plain easier to talk about this issue before we have to ask someone about his or her behavior –
or is it?
How do you actually start this type of conversation, without having a specific incident or behavior that you want to address? If you’re a parent, how do you start talking to the other adults in your child’s life about how to make your child’s life as safe as possible? What if you want to talk to your colleagues – maybe even your supervisor – about how to create safe environments for kids you work with?
Presumably, the person you want to talk to about keeping children safe wants the same thing you do – to help kids live free of sexual harm. So beginning your conversation with, “I know that you care about (our) kids’ safety as much as I do,” is a great way to start, and acknowledges this common ground and shared value.
Recently, we asked our Helpline consultants what words they offer to parents and other concerned adults to start off a conversation about sexual abuse prevention. In addition to calling out the shared hope for children’s safety, our Helpline consultants submitted these examples:
- “I saw this piece on the news today about child sexual abuse and that got me thinking about safety.”
- “When I was a kid my mom never talked to me about healthy sexuality, but I want us to be more accessible as parents so our kids feel comfortable asking us anything.”
- “I wanted to talk to you about body boundaries because my kids really look up to you and want to emulate everything you do.”
- “I know this feels out of the blue, but I think it’s really important that we talk about what family safety planning rules we have in our house so that my kids are getting the same message from everyone in their lives.”
Just starting the conversation is half the battle. There are a lot of ways to share your commitment to sexual abuse prevention, and if you need help – we’re here for you. Once you start talking about prevention, you’ll find allies and partners. Prevention necessitates conversations about children’s sexual safety. You can begin the conversation today.