You may see facts about child sexual abuse and think there is nothing you can do to help. However, the reality is you can always do something, even if you do not have children. By using your powers of observation, you can be alert to the warning behaviors of potential abusers, and have conversations accordingly. Also, by knowing the facts, you can spread that knowledge to other people.
You can also be an advocate against abuse by being alert to the language used in media articles you read or see, and contact them about it. There are many things you can do to advocate against child sexual abuse. Here are some additional steps that you can take to prevent child sexual abuse- before it can happen.
There are many steps that families can take to prevent child sexual abuse, but they may not seem like prevention. For example, using the specific names for private parts: Penis, vagina, anus, breasts, vulva, clitoris, testicles, and glans penis should be used rather than cutesy names like pee-pee, wiener, or boobs. Why? Well, if a child can use the specific words for these body parts (as well as the specific parts for other areas of their body, like their stomach, chest, shoulder, arm, elbow, thigh, etc.), they can better identify what body parts are okay and not okay to touch. It also makes sexual topics okay to discuss, rather than awkward. Using the proper terms breaks down some of that awkwardness.
This can also help them be more comfortable around talking about these areas of their body and ask questions, which are great conversation starters or tie-ins for mentioning when it is okay or not okay for people to touch these areas, and that it should always be with the child's permission. This can be demonstrated during bath time or doctor visits by asking the child if it is okay to clean/examine any area of the body, not just private areas. This sort of boundary can also be modeled during affectionate times by asking for permission to give hugs, pats on the back, and other forms of physical affection. All of that will not only help a child be more confident that their body is theirs, it will make the child somewhat less of a target for abuse for a variety of reasons.
It is also extremely helpful for families to know the facts about child sexual abuse. Without the correct knowledge about how abuse happens and why, families can sometimes focus on the wrong people to protect their children from. For example, 90-95% of sexual abusers are not strangers or those with a criminal background (of any kind), but by those trusted in the community with no criminal record. The facts indicate that the biggest risk is those we already trust, which means that being aware of sex offenders is a step that fails to truly inform us of potential dangers. Acknowledging this helps focus our attention on those who will sexually abuse children, rather on those who will not.
Other areas for families to be aware of are adult behaviors with children and age-appropriate sexual behaviors. Both areas can be vast in and of themselves, so it may be more beneficial to use Stop It Now! to explore practices and plans that are practical for your family. A big part of prevention is safety planning, and Stop It Now! does an excellent job at walking families through how to plan for safety around child sexual abuse.
Many of the principles that apply to families also apply to individuals: Knowing the warning signs, and the facts about these issues puts you in a place to spot potential abusers, and educate people in your day-to-day encounters about these topics. It is a community that is unaware of these things where sexual abuse occurs. Breaking that secrecy is a surefire way to stop sexual abuse before it can happen, and there are more ways to get involved now than ever before.