Vaccinate Children Against Abuse

 Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D 

Preventive education against possible child abuse is like vaccinating children against chicken pox, diphtheria, or whooping cough. All children must receive it in good time. Teach children their "body rights." A child owns his or her body and has the right to say "No" to a touch that doesn't feel right or makes him or her uncomfortable. 

Education means strengthening the child rather than scaring the child. Too many daughters and granddaughters had been scared of the rapists lurking in the dark at the street corner without telling them what they can do to protect themselves except to stay inside the house and stay scared. That approach wouldn't work here since much of the abuse occurs at home. 

Risk of abuse from parents, siblings, baby-sitters, and relatives is far greater than the one from strangers. Focus on the actions children can take to stop the abuse rather than dwelling on the details of what adults can do to them. 

Incidentally, boys are not immune from child abuse; they need to be protected too. It is estimated that one in three girls, and one in five boys are sexually abused. Tips on teaching body rights and abuse prevention: 
1. Teach them about "Okay touch" and "Not-okay touch." Not okay touch is what makes the child uncomfortable or feel "icky." Teach a child to trust his or her own feeling about it. "If it doesn't feel right, it's a not-okay touch. Go ahead and tell the adult loudly, 'No! Don't touch me that way' " or "Don't do that! I don't like that!" Assure children that you will not get upset or mad with them if they said so, as you trust their "Okay" and "Not-okay" feeling about all kinds of touch. 

2. Teach them that certain parts of the body are "private parts. " Say, "Parts of the body that are covered by your swim suit or underwear are your private parts. It is not okay for someone bigger or older than you to touch your private parts. Also, it is not okay for someone older or bigger than you to make you touch their private parts. " 

3. Help a child to recognize threats, tricks, and bribes. "If an adult plays a trick, threatens, or bribes with toys, sweets, or money to touch you or asks you to touch him or her, say, 'Its not okay' and get away as soon as you can. " 

4. Teach them to get help right away. Ask them to "tell the teacher, parent, relative, or neighbors, and keep telling them until you can get the help to stop it." 

5. Teach them "Safety Rules" Rules about going to school, coming home, answering the telephone and the door. Let them memorize their parents full name, address, home phone number, parents' work number, etc. Teach them how to dial 911 and ask for help. Write down the names and numbers of trusted neighbors and relatives on paper and keep a copy of this paper wherever the telephones extensions are at home. 

6. About strangers. "If someone approaches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, run, scream, and tell. " 

7. Encourage children to always tell you if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable and touches them with a not-okay touch. The worst thing for children is to feel that if they tell parents, parents will get upset with them, not believe them, or blame them to somehow have brought it upon themselves. 

8. Some children may think that saying "No" makes them bad. It is okay to say "No. " Let children understand that sometime they may like the person but they may not like the way they touch the child. "You may like a person but you may not like the way they touch you. If someone touches you in a way, you don't like, it's okay to say 'No.' It is okay to say ' No' even to adults and teenagers who love you and whom you love. If they touch you in ways you don't like or ask you to touch them in a place that makes you feel icky, you have the right to say ' No' . " Ask the child to practice these statements in an assertive manner, "No! I don't feel like it. No! I don't want to do that." 

9. Play "What if" games with children by coming up with probable situations i.e. "What if a baby sitter asks you to undress, so that you could play a special game."

10. No "secrets" are okay between adults and children. So many children are abused by the infamous sentence, "This is our little secret." Explain to the child that "secrets or promises that make you feel bad or hurt, need to be told right away." You may also add, "When you make a promise because you are scared or someone asks you to keep a secret that makes you feel icky, tell someone you trust, right away." 

11. "Tickling, wrestling, affectionate kissing, are generally okay, but sometime, with someone, you may not like it, and you may really want it to stop. Go ahead and say 'No.' If the other person doesn't stop the touch you don't like, tell someone else and go on telling until it stops."

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor