Pay attention to your children - it may save them

With all the research and statistics out on how to best prevent your children from being harmed, still the best advice is: Know your children.

Know where they are, who they are with, what they are doing and what they are looking at on the Internet.

Know them. So if their behavior or personality starts to change, you'll notice.

Talk to them. Child sex abuse thrives on secrecy.

Experts estimate that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. Fewer than one in 10 will tell anyone.

God forbid your child should ever be abused, but create an environment at home with open communication, so in case it does happen, it won't remain hidden. Go through hypothetical situations with them and reassure them that they can always tell you anything.

Teach them to trust their instincts.

The old adage, "Don't talk to strangers," doesn't really apply. It's usually not the dirty old men lurking in the bushes you have to worry about. Research indicates that 34 percent of those who sexually abuse children are family members. A further 59 percent are friends and acquaintances of the child.

If, at any time they feel uncomfortable with anyone, it's OK to leave - even if it seems rude.

Start young. Don't hold off until you think they'll understand better. Sixty-seven percent of the victims of all sexual assaults are children - the median age is 9.

Be responsible. Monitor your children and do your best to protect them. If something does happen, get help.

Child sexual abuse is not just a bad experience. It can wreck lives. Victims are reported to have far greater risk for all sorts of psychological disorders including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, substance abuse and relationship problems.

Experts say it's a parent's job to believe their children when faced with such a revelation. That belief comes with trust. Trust comes from knowing your children.

And don't forget: Loving your children is the best means of protecting them and the best way to help them through any trauma.


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