Sexual abuse of children can happen in different ways. It can include having sex with a child, exposing or touching a child’s private areas for pleasure, making a child touch his or her private parts or an adult’s private parts, or making the child watch pornography.
How do you know if a child has been sexually abused?
It is important to watch out for signs that abuse may have happened. These signs can include having nightmares or trouble sleeping, wetting the bed, being angry or scared, eating problems or behaving in a sexual way.
What should you do if you find out a child has been sexually abused?
- Help the child to talk about the abuse, either to you or to a child line service (for [insert name of country], the number to call is [insert number]. This will enable you to report the issue to a social worker, village leader, hospital staff or the police.
- Look for medical help as it might be appropriate to give Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to avoid Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI), HIV infection or pregnancy. This needs to be done within 72 hours to be effective.
- Make sure you give the police the clothes that the child was wearing as evidence. Wrap the clothes in newspaper and do not use plastic bags.
- Support the family to follow-up with the court should the perpetrator be charged.
How can you protect your child from sexual abuse?
Talk to your child about their body and what is unacceptable:
- Teach them the names of their body parts.
- Explain that it is wrong if somebody touches their body parts in way that feels uncomfortable.
- Be clear how important it is to speak up if somebody touches them inappropriately.
Around the time they become teenagers, talk to them about sex and contraceptives such as condoms. It is much better to discuss these topics, even if it feels awkward or embarrassing. Teenagers who talk to their parents about protection and sexually transmitted diseases are more likely to practice safe sex than teenagers who do not.
If children know and understand their bodies, it will help them to know if someone is trying to abuse them and report it. Later in life, it can also help them make more informed decisions about safer sex.