Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

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By Rebecca Barnes, Prince William Living Publisher

Headlines bombard us every day with tragic and sad news.

If you follow them, you know many involve some type of sexual abuse. As upsetting and at times overwhelming as this reality is, it is important to remember our role and responsibility in its prevention. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and we need to take a stand to combat child sexual abuse.

In Prince William, sexual abuse of children is on the rise. According to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Prince William, there were 96 reported cases of sexual abuse last year. More than 124 cases have been reported already in just the first eight months of this fiscal year.

When adults support age-appropriate behaviors and speak up to other adults, they are an ally to prevention. It’s our job to respect children, model healthy behaviors and boundaries and confront adults when they act in ways that are not appropriate.

Tips for talking with your children:

  • Find out what your kids already know. You might find they know more than you think, or have misconceptions you can correct.
  • Teach correct names of body parts. Create an environment where children are not embarrassed to talk (in an appropriate setting) about their bodies.
  • Use simple, accurate information to start, and build on the information you provide as your children get older.
  • Include sexual assault prevention as part of a safety talk, the same way you would about a fire drill, tornado warning or any other general safety discussion.
  • Keep an open dialogue with your children so they understand they can come to you at any time. Teach them the difference between surprises and secrets.
  • Don’t focus solely on “stranger danger.” Most victims are assaulted by someone they know.

By opening up communication, sharing information with children and educating one another, we are taking steps toward a safer community.

For more information, visit www.nsvrc.org/saam (the National Sexual Violence Resource Center), www.casacis.org (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children) and www.savasofpwc.org  (Sexual Assault Victims Advocacy Service of Prince William County).

Lifelong Prince William resident Rebecca Barnes, when not producing Prince William Living, is the Public Information Officer for the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer  Fire Department (OWL VFD). You can reach her at rbarnes@princewilliamliving.com

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