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Knowing About Child Abuse is Not Enough! 6 Tips For Ensuring Your Child’s Safety

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It was a cool Saturday. It had rained a few hours earlier and the sand was wet and perfect for play. Four little girls were playing outside on the football field in the neighbourhood. Shola was a bubbly 5 year old who loved to cook gourmet sand recipes. She said she will be a great chef once her mummy lets her cook in the kitchen with real ingredients. Zainab just turned 6 and loves to build cars from anything she lays her hands on, sand, paper, balloons, toys, even her food. According to her, car games are fun and dolls are boring. Efe is 5 years old and the leader of the pack, she loves to draw in the sand and believes everyone needs to give her enough space to birth her artistic ideas. She is the executive play space distributor for the group and no one dares argue with her sharing formula.

Chioma is a bright eyed 4 year old who just loves to sit on the sand and watch her friends play. She’s a quiet girl whose smile pierces the soul with warmth. She’s the perfect customer for Shola’s restaurant, the only one willing to test run Zainab’s car models even though she has gained quite a few injuries doing that. She’s the art enthusiast willing to watch Efe draw and admire her art works. She’s what you will call the perfect team member. Seeing these girls play in the sand amidst laughter and chatter puts a smile on one’s face that can wipe any frustration out. But behind the happy faces of these little girls lie a dark secret. One of them has been sexually abused and we don’t know which one.

According to the Boston University School of Medicine, 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 14 and 1 in 6 boys before the age of 16. The US Department of Justice reported that more than 90% of all child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator. Almost 50% of the offenders are household members and 38% are already acquaintances of the victims. Africa has the highest prevalence of child sexual abuse of 34.4%.
Child sexual abuse is touching a child’s genitals or private parts for sexual pleasure. It is also making a child touch someone else’s genitals, play sexual games and putting objects/body parts (fingers, tongue or penis) inside the vagina, mouth or anus of a child for sexual pleasure. Child sexual abuse includes showing pornography to a child, deliberately exposing an adult’s genitals to a child, encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts, inappropriately watching child undress or use the toilet/bathroom. It even includes photographing a child in sexual poses. Sexual abuse by a family member e.g. father/mother, brother/sister, uncle/aunty, nephew/niece, grandparents and other relations is INCEST.

Knowing about child sexual abuse is not enough. Knowing how to prevent it is the most important thing. Here are a few tips:

Open Communication with your Children: Create an atmosphere that enables your children talk to you about anything and do so very early in their lives. If you have older children, ask them how their day was and encourage them to talk about their day in details. Ask questions like, “where did you go today?” “Who were you with today?” “What are their names?” and “What did you do together?” and watch for their reactions. Know the people in your children’s lives from their friends to their teachers to their coaches at school to their friend’s parents. If your child suddenly dislikes a person or an activity with an adult he/she used to like. Pay close attention and find out the reason.

Early and Continuous Sex Education: This is a discussion most parents avoid. It used to be okay not to teach your children about their body and sex some years back but today, if you don’t they will learn it from friends, movies, the internet and from adults who will become their abuser. Sex education is not a one off talk, it is a talk that you will have with your children at every stage of their lives and as their curiosity grows. Teach your children about their body parts. Don’t use slangs like “pee pee” for penis. Tell your children the correct names for their body parts and parts of their body that is private to them and must not be touched by anyone.

Avoid One on One with an Adult: Ensure your children are never left alone in private with an adult not even a lesson teacher or a relative. If your child is interested in sports or any activity that requires a personal coach, make sure such coaching sessions are done in the open spaces where people or someone can see them. Talk to your child when he/she returns, observe the child’s mood and see if he/she can confidently talk about their activity with the adult. Drop in unexpectedly when a child is alone with an adult even; trusted family members. If you eliminate or reduce one adult/one child situations, you will dramatically lower the risk of sexual abuse for your children.

Talk to your children about Sexual Abuse: Mention that the abuser might be a close family member, an adult friend or an older youth. Let children know that no adult should ask them to keep a secret from their parents or anyone else.

Be Proactive: If you suspect any sign of abuse on your children, take them for medical examination and confirm. Trust and act on your intuitiveness or sixth sense. If you notice your child acting strangely around a particular adult like a little girl who always pulled up her clothes anytime her mother’s younger brother came around, ask the child and act fast. If your child seems uncomfortable or resistant to being with a particular adult, find out the reason and do something about it. Many child abuse survivors say that they wished their parents did something when they told them about the abuse. May we at this point ask for your cooperation to reports abusers to the police whether it is your relation or your house help. Sending them out of your house protects your children but puts more children at a risk of being abused by that same person.

Trust your Child’s Perceptions: Children are naturally intuitive and often sense an adult’s ulterior motives, although you may not suspect anything. Many victims say they knew what the adult was doing to them was wrong but didn’t know how to stop it. Parents need to recognize that even people who are in positions of authority and respected by their communities can be abusers.

Child sexual abuse happens all year long, it never takes a holiday or a day off and we can’t either. Over to you guys, share your comments, suggestions, advice or questions with us below.

Photo Credit: newsone.com
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Project Alert is a non-governmental human rights organization established in 1999 to protect and promote the rights of women and young girls in the society, especially their rights to live free from all forms of violence against them. Our areas of intervention are Research and Documentation (R&D), Human Rights Education (HRE) and Support Services Program (SSP) which includes legal aid, temporary shelter services for abused women, counselling, and skills acquisition training. Follow us on twitter @Projectalertvaw and connect with us on Facebook: Project Alert on violence against women | Our website

Project Alert is a non-governmental human rights organization established in 1999 to protect and promote the rights of women and young girls in the society, especially their rights to live free from all forms of violence against them. Our areas of intervention are Research and Documentation (R&D), Human Rights Education (HRE) and Support Services Program (SSP) which includes legal aid, temporary shelter services for abused women, counselling, and skills acquisition training. www.projectalertnig.org follow us on twitter @Projectalertvaw and Be our friend on Facebook: Project Alert on violence against women.

28 Comments

  1. Tola

    May 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Excellent tips!!!! So on point!!!

  2. werry

    May 30, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    well done!

  3. Deee

    May 30, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    very useful tips and don’t forget to also watch your kids around their peers and older kids because some kids who have been molested in turn molest their peers and younger kids. My nephew told his mum how one of the boys in his class tried to touch his pee pee! She then called the boy’s mum and told him, not in anger but in concern because a 7year old must have learnt that unhealthy behavior from someone around him and she had to tell the mother not to beat the boy as most mothers in these parts would but rather talk to him and find out who had been touching him.

    • temmy

      May 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      @ deee you are so right was thinking about same thing too, not all abusers are adult

  4. HRS

    May 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    Very effective tips, be very open & friendly with your child, to enable him/her tell u if he/she has been sexually abused. Watch out for household employees and family members too!

  5. ALEXA

    May 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Thank you for these very helpful tips

  6. Project Alert

    May 30, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    @Deee, it is really important that we embrace a culture of counselling for children. There are a few child counselors that can help children that have been abused heal and grow up well.

  7. hot mama

    May 30, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    I’m really glad this issue is receiving more public attention these days…i was molested before d age of 10 which led to loss of my hymen…i still rmember it like it happened yesterday..if only my parents were more enlightened back then…d writer missed out blaming the child for the abuse…cos that’s what happened to me,I was blamed for the abuse at that young age of mine….i soooo resented my parents and was rebellious and angry growing up and even in adulthood, only just came to terms with it…now i have a baby girl and i get paranoid most times just thinking about the abuse…this brings joy to my heart reading it here.

    • Teddy Bear

      May 30, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      I’m so sorry that you had to go through that, hot mama. I pray that you have healed from that experience and also that your child is shielded from anything of the sort. Amin.

    • Me

      May 31, 2013 at 6:31 am

      This article is right on time, I too was a victim of sexual abuse as a child up until I was 13. Its made me extra paranoid about any men, women or children and their contact with my daughter. Parents have a duty to protect their child/children. Open communication is very important. As an adult I was finally able to talk to my Mom about the abuse I went through as a child. Some of these pedophiles may make it seem like its the child’s fault they’re being molested. If a person starts calling your child their “little wife or husband” pay attention. Do not let anyone take your child anywhere you can’t easily see what they’re up. And please don’t let a grown ass man lay on a bed with your young daughter in a room with the door closed.
      Sexual predators/pedophiles can be anywhere, they are family, friends, strangers, they are male, female, young, old, supposedly religious, etc unfortunately a lot of folks in Nigeria have a tendency to sweep incidents of child abuse under the rug. The abused child never forgets, it shapes many of their future decisions. Parents should pay attention like the write up says, if your child suddenly dislikes someone, please find out why.

    • hot mama

      May 31, 2013 at 10:34 am

      @ teddy, thanks lav @Me, how did ur mum react when u talked to her about it…when i tried to talk to my mum about it, she shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal.. after all I turned out great…what she doesn’t know is I’ve had to work hard most of my life to battle my demons and it just feels unfair to carry the cross for a crime that was done to me and at that innocent age…it took all d strength in me not to pass this write up by cos of my daughter… talking about it here seems to have brought some kind of relief for me since I’ve got no one to talk to #trying not to breakdown# I wish i could bare it all for people to know just how serious this issue is…

    • Miss Anonymous

      May 31, 2013 at 11:46 am

      “lay on a bed with your young daughter” OR SON behind closed doors.

    • she

      May 31, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      your case is exactly like mine…………. and i have never talked about it to anyone under heaven until today!! just the mere fact of typing this reply replays the whole scenarios and it happened till i was about 13 too cant even go into details but they were horrible. thank God i turned out to be a better person and i had to forgive for my own sake. i know i’m going to be over protective on my kids because no child should ever go through that.

  8. vivian

    May 30, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    very helpful tips. i have a 4 years old twins boy and a girl. this tip will be utilised accordingly because we cant afford to go wrong esp with dis kids

  9. atinuke

    May 30, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    @Hot mama,u indeed right,most kids are being blamed or what “they were taught”…very englightening article…THANK YOU,BELLANAIJA!

  10. ghgal

    May 30, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    I started the sex talk with my eight year old daughter when she was only four. Now she understands no one is supposed to touch her ‘girlfriend’ or her’girls’ apart from me and her grandma. Not even by her small Uncle when he gives her a bath (She can wash her ‘girlfriend’ all by herself). She scratched a boy’s face in kindergarten when he tried to look at her ‘girlfriend’ (Atta Girl…..lol). I also frown on adults who refer to little girls as ‘my wife’ or ‘future wife’ no matter how innocent they may seem. Next thing you know they are out molesting the innocent ones. Animals!

    I pray no such animal cross my path o….cos God Help me….i’m capable of murdering any such Bastard! #slowingmyheartrate

  11. Evagreen

    May 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for these tips. Very timely

  12. Tess

    May 30, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks Project Alert for these tips…kudos for being the voice of the voiceless.
    May God bless your efforts!!!

  13. opuingo

    May 30, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Thank u bella, very helpful

  14. ehhh im confused here

    May 30, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    child abuse is also when you hurt your child in the name of discipline! remember the sex offender buys sweets and toys for the prey.. you loving them afterwards has nothing to do with the fact that you abuse your own child……………

    • Specs

      May 30, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      hahahaha….the traumatized kid is back!

  15. Bukola Adeyemi

    May 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    This is really touching, I appreciate

  16. Mariaah

    May 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Thank you Project Alert for this article. There is so much going on out there that in the heat of the moment WE FORGET!

    I have a 9yr old brother and I have always tried my best to be alert; I am still trying. We should be alert and wide-eyed teach them what is aceptable and what is not. May God protect our young ones (Amen)

  17. FAR

    May 31, 2013 at 12:37 am

    Excellent and much appreciated. I live in fear of what might happen to my son. It’s a scary world with useless adults! Thank you for this.

  18. watchandpray

    May 31, 2013 at 1:39 am

    watch out for people who are being “too nice” and buy you/your kids lots of gifts and keep asking your child over to their place especially for sleepovers. Grooming can go on for years before these evil monsters strike. God bless our children.

  19. carolineredbrook

    May 31, 2013 at 11:56 am

    These tips may be useful, but I question shifting the blame back to the small innocent victims. The answer is for accused pedophiles like Sylvain Kustyan, Ariel Castro, Jerry Sandusky, etc. to be stopped BEFORE they have year to prey upon our innocent children. If the case of Kustyan, he was the foreign exchange student in the home of his first known victim’s relative. Kustyan has been formally charged with two counts each of 1st Degree Sodomy and Sexual Abuse, but fled the US when an arrest became imminent. Kustyan is currently a fugitive from the law and is thought to be back in Europe. Sadly, in today’s world, parents must be taught that their child is safe from no one and should never be allowed unchaperoned in the company of any male, as the perpetrator can be an uncle, a neighbor, a doctor, a Sunday School teacher, a boy scout leader, a teacher, administrator, priest etc. Nearly anyone that we used to be taught to trust. It is because potential pedophiles seeks out these position precisely because they provide them with accessibility to children

  20. Project Alert

    June 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    @hot mama, it would be a pleasure to work with you and give a voice to the voiceless.

    • hot mama

      June 4, 2013 at 11:50 am

      would love to….been looking for the opportunity to deal with the pain its caused me personally and would like to help others going thru same too as well as prevent it from happening to innocent kids..thanks

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