The best prevention strategy is knowledge. Knowledge is important for both parents and children. Children need information about the correct names for their body parts, about healthy boundaries, about being able to say “No” to unhealthy requests, and most of all that they can take any questions and concerns to parents or other trusted adults. Parents need information about warning signs that a child might be experiencing abuse, adult behaviors that are of concern, how to talk with other adults about sexual behaviors, and how to ask questions of schools and programs their children attend to make sure safeguards are in place.
Names for Body Parts
Because many parents are uncomfortable talking with children about sex, it is not uncommon for children to learn nicknames for their private parts. Teaching children the correct anatomical names has several benefits. First, it promotes healthy sexuality. Children learn to be comfortable with all parts of their bodies. If they don’t feel ashamed, they are much more likely to ask questions when they have concerns. Children who know the correct names for body parts are also less likely to be targeted by sexual abusers, since this knowledge signals to a potential abuser that the child talks with his or her parents about all aspects of life. They are not seen as being likely to keep secrets or to be afraid to tell a parent about sexual matters. And, if a child should be abused, if he or she can tell an adult what happened using anatomical names, the adult can more easily understand what the child is saying. The adult can then intervene in the situation.