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Jill Starishevsky

Jill Starishevsky is a mother of three and a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City. During the course of her decade of public service, she has successfully prosecuted hundreds of offenders. In October 2006, Jill launched HowsMyNanny.com to support parents and their children. Sh...

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03/08/2011 09:49am
10 Tips to Keep Children Safe from Sexual Abuse

10 Tips to Keep Children Safe from Sexual Abuse

Keeping your children safe from child predators sounds like a scary proposition, but it doesn’t have to be. We used to teach children about “stranger danger”, but studies have shown that most sexual abuse occurs at the hands of someone known to the child. He might seem like the friendliest teacher, neighbor, uncle or coach. Unfortunately, this person, who is always showing an interest in your child and working to develop trust, can sometimes be a child predator. The way to prevent child sexual abuse is to educate children about their bodies and encourage them to inform a trusted adult if someone touches them inappropriately.

Just as we teach children about the dangers associated with crossing the street or going near a hot oven, we must talk to them about how to keep their bodies safe. As a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes in New York City, I am all too aware of the importance of having this discussion with children at a young age. To that end, I have written a children’s book called My Body Belongs to Me to help facilitate this dialogue.

I have a short list of "tips" that have helped me talk to my children about safety. Here are some suggestions:

1. No secrets. Period. Encourage your children to tell you about things that happen to them that make them feel scared, sad or uncomfortable. If children have an open line of communication, they will be more inclined to alert you to something suspicious before it becomes a problem. The way I effectuate this rule is as follows: If someone, even a grandparent, were to say something to my child such as "I'll get you an ice cream later, but it will be our secret", I firmly, but politely say "We don't do secrets in our family." Then I say to my child "Right? We don't do secrets. We can tell each other everything."

2. Don’t dress children in clothing or accessories with their name on it. Customized clothing breeds familiarity, which can create a false sense of trust. If a stranger comes up to your child and says “Jenny, your Mom told me to bring you home so you can have dinner”, your child may be more inclined to go along because this person knows their name.

3. Teach your child the correct terms for their body parts. This will make them more at ease if they need to tell you about a touch that made them feel uncomfortable.

4. Practice “what if” scenarios. Say to your child, "What would you do if someone offered you a treat, or a gift when I wasn't there?" Help your child arrive at the right answer, which is to say no, and ask you first. Many parents also encourage children to walk or run away in this situation.

5. Teach your child their name, address and phone number at an early age. Start teaching children at an early age their name, address and phone number. When young children are separated from their parents, even for a short time, they are potential targets for child predators. If a child has their parent’s cell phone number, the child can be reunited with the parent more expeditiously.

6. Prepare a child with what to do if they get lost: Teach your child to find a safe person if they become lost. A safe person is a police officer, someone in the store with a store uniform or wearing a nametag, or a mother with children. It is quite helpful toward a speedy reunion, if your child knows his name, address and your cell phone number. Children should also learn to stay in the general area where they last saw you so you can find them when you retrace your steps.

7. Internet Safety: Install a safety browser on your computer so that you can make the decisions about which websites are appropriate for your children to view. Teach your child never to give out their last name, address, or phone number to a person on the Internet and never to meet Internet friends in person without a parent’s supervision and consent. Parents should help children choose a screen name that does not disclose information about their location. Teach


abuse, children, sexual, molest, safe, prevent,
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