I'm an adult survivor of child sexual abuse and want to protect my daughter from being abused

Dear Stop It Now!,

I’m an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. My daughter is 9 yrs old – the same age I was when the abuse began.  I’m so scared of her going through what I went through.  I want to protect her but I don’t want to smother her.  How can I raise her to be safe and healthy?

Dear Concerned Parent,

It’s clear from your question that your sensitivity and insight into the abuse you suffered as a child has already helped you to become a loving, protective parenti. There is much that parents can do to help prevent children from being sexually harmed and still keep a balance between overwhelming children and doing what they can to see that their kids are safe.

Building safety into your family

You can Create a family safety plan that is clear to everyone and easy to follow. Safety planning is best when done as a preventative step and not in response to a crisis. Every family should plan for safety. Simple steps like making rules in your family regarding good boundaries and secrets help everyone know what is expected and what to do if a “rule” is broken. For example, you can explain the difference between a secret and a surprise to your daughter and other family members, and explain to the adults in your daughter’s life why secrets may make kids vulnerable. Surprises are secrets that are kept for a short period of time, and there’s nothing wrong with them.  (“Don’t tell Mary about the new bicycle. It’s going to be a surprise for her birthday.”). A child should not, however, be manipulated or forced into keeping a secret by an adult or older child. Children need to understand that if this happens to them they need to tell a safe adult.

Learn about healthy sexual development in children.

When you know what is normal developmental behavior, it can make it easier for you to spot problems. Also, the more you know, the more you can be available to teach your daughter about her own sexuality. If you and your daughter can talk about healthy sexual development issues, it will make it easier for your daughter to bring up any concerns she may have later. Children are safer when adults can teach them in age-appropriate ways about prevention and body safety. Here are some Books for healthy sex education from our resource list, You may also want to read Talking with children about sexuality and sexual abuse.

Kids are safer when adults take the time to get the facts about sexual abuse and the behaviors that might suggest a problem early on.  In addition, it is up to adults to speak up as soon as they have a concern. I encourage you to take a look at some other information from our web site about what adults can do to keep kids safe.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 24th, 2012