WHY ADULTS NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR PREVENTING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
It's Our Responsibility to Keep Children Safe
As adults, we teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street. Still, we instinctively hold their hands while walking in traffic. We make sure to buckle them into the back seats of cars. We put suntan lotion on them to keep them from getting sunburned at the beach. We prepare healthy meals. We teach them to avoid alcohol and drugs. Most of us also teach our children to say “no” if someone tries to touch them inappropriately. Does our responsibility stop there? Can we rely on our children alone to keep themselves safe from sexual abuse? It is unrealistic to think that a child can consistently fend off an adult sexual predator. Helping children grow up safe and healthy is an adult's job. Adults are the ones who need to step in and stop child sexual abuse. It is our responsibility to learn about child sexual abuse - how to prevent abuse; recognizing the warning signs that someone may be abusing a child; and where and when to report it.
Adults protecting children from adults
We teach our children to listen and respect adults. Coaches, teachers, clergy, caregivers, and parents are authority figures children should be able to trust. However, even the adults we trust to protect children can't always be trusted. A large percentage of those who sexually abuse children are from this group. Imagine how difficult it is for a child to say "no" to a parent, a teacher, a coach, or clergy member. These are adults who have the opportunity to "groom*" children with affection and attention, making it difficult for children to understand that certain behaviors constitute abuse. These adults know that children have been taught to obey them. This is why programs that focus on adult responsibility to prevent child sexual abuse are critical. Adults need to:
- Set and respect family boundaries.
- Speak up when you see behaviors that violate a child's personal boundaries or make children vulnerable.
- Watch for signs of sexually inappropriate behavior in adults, between adults and children, and in children. (see Warning Signs)
- In your own life, demonstrate to your children that it is OK to say "no" when someone you know and care about does something you do not like.
- Practice talking about difficult topics such as sexual abuse with other adults.
- Be sure that you are comfortable saying the proper names of body parts before you teach them to your children.
- Teach children the difference between OK touch and touch that is not OK. As they get older, teach the more subtle differences between red light, yellow light, and green light behaviors. These three levels of behaviors are a clear way to describe the gray areas which include sexual behaviors that are clearly inappropriate, but are not legally sexual abuse.
- Teach children that secrets about touching are not OK.
- Set up a family safety plan that is easy to remember.
- List for yourself whom to call for advice, information, and help.
What is the HERO Project?
HERO, a project of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, is a community-based, media-driven, child sexual abuse prevention program designed to educate and motivate adult community members to call the 24-hour HERO Hotline if they suspect child sexual abuse.