Valentine’s Day Tips for Healing From and Preventing Sexual Abuse

This is the week of hearts and flowers, candy and declarations of love. For many people, it’s a happy time of celebrating wonderful relationships. For others, however, talk of love and sex rekindles painful memories. At Safer Society, we’re working to provide resources so everyone can experience the joy of healthy relationships on Valentine’s Day and every day.

For those who are on a healing journey, here are three thoughts to keep in mind. First the abuse was NOT your fault. Abuse is never the victim’s fault. The responsibility always belongs to the person who offended. This is true no matter how old you were or what you were doing at the time the abuse occurred. Second, there’s no one correct way to feel, react, or heal. You are a unique individual, and your experience, while probably similar to that of other people, is also unique. So your healing journey will reflect your individuality, your needs, and your pace. Banish “I should” from your thoughts. Third, help is available. It’s easy to feel alone, different, and isolated, but if you reach out, many people and resources can help you. You might start by checking out a few of the resources Safer Society Press has.

Preventing sexual abuse is Safer Society’s ultimate goal. In honor of St. Valentine, here are three prevention tips, all taken from Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse. First, establish a “no secrets” rule in your home. Let children and others know that family members don’t keep secrets. Surprises are okay – these are things that are kept secret for a short time and then shared. A birthday gift might be an example of a surprise. Second, allow children to choose how they greet adults and demonstrate affection. Requiring children to kiss Aunt Sally or hug Uncle Danny when they visit sends the message that children must do as adults say. Children need to know they can say NO to adults if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe about a request. Third, actively listen to children. Sometimes children talk about worrying or uncomfortable topics in a round about way to see what the reaction will be. Don’t dismiss statements about a child not wanting to spend time with a certain person. Ask questions. You may find you need to intervene or you may find that you can clear up a misunderstanding. In any case your child will learn that he or she can talk to you about anything that is on his or her mind, and this is a very important prevention tool. Find out more about Off Limits and other prevention resources here.

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