We have a right to feel safe and be safe.

- Youth Counseling Program client

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How to Help Your Children

Many parents want to know what they can teach their children to keep them safe. While stranger danger lessons are important, children are far more likely to be in danger from someone they know. It is important to talk with your children about personal safety, starting when they are young.

You can talk to your children about personal safety rules at the same time you talk about rules for crossing the street or safety in the kitchen. Many parents hesitate to talk about personal safety because they do not know what to say or what words to use. While teaching your children the proper names for body parts is helpful, the important thing is to talk with them about safety in whatever words are comfortable for you. You can refer to private parts of the body in whatever words you typically use, or you can refer to "the parts of your body that are covered by your bathing suit." The important thing is to make sure your children know that no one has a right to touch the private parts of their body or to touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

If someone does try to touch them in an uncomfortable way, they should follow these safety rules:

  • Say "No!"
  • Get away
  • Tell a grown-up

Talk with your children about whom they can talk to if they have a problem - you, your partner, grandparents, aunts or uncles, a teacher, a family friend or whoever you know will help your child. This will help them feel comfortable talking to someone if there is a problem when you are not around.

Reassure your children that if anyone does touch them in a bad way, it is never the child's fault, and you want them to tell you about it so that you can help them.

How do I know if a child may have experienced sexual abuse?

A child can experience any number of signs for other stressful times in his/her life, such as when having problems at school, the loss of a family member, friend or pet, or during a divorce. No one of these signs alone means that your child has experienced sexual abuse, but several of these signs mean that you should be investigating, and seeking support and assistance.

Physical Indicators:

  • symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases
  • complaints of pain, irritation or discharge in the genital area
  • painful urination or defecation
  • repeated complaints of stomach pains, headaches, leg pains, throat infections, etc.
  • change in cleanliness
  • change in clothing; dressing more sexually, more revealing
  • encopresis (fecal soiling)
  • excessive masturbation
  • sexualized behavior
  • sudden loss of appetite
  • mood swings
  • bed-wetting or thumb-sucking at an older age

Behavioral Indicators:

  • severe nightmares
  • social withdrawal
  • onset of depression
  • onset of truancy
  • chronic runaway behavior
  • onset of substance abuse
  • suicide attempts
  • hints from the child about the incident
  • any story from the child about a "friend" who is experiencing sexual abuse
  • sexual activities with toys or other children such as simulating sex with dolls or asking other children to behave sexually

Again, if your child exhibits several of these signs, or you have any concerns that he or she may be the victim of sexual abuse, please contact Vera House for support and assistance - 24 hours a day - seven days a week: 315-468-3260. Our TTY crisis line is available during regular business hours: TTY 315-484-7263.

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