Sexual abuse of a child is the act of a perpetrator physically indulging a minor in any form of sexual activity. Perpetuators of this vile crime against children are known as child sex offenders and more often than not closely acquainted with their victims.
When this happens, it is common for children to be close mouthed about it. Many are not even sure what happened to them, so how can they tell anyone? Others are too scared of how their truth will be received. Whatever the reason might be, lot’s of children are dealing with this in Nigeria.
According to UNICEF, 6 out of every 10 children experience some form of violence in Nigeria. And out of this, 25% of girls and 10% of boys have been victims of sexual violence.
With statistics like this, it has become a must for every parent to be very mindful of their kids. This is the essence of building a trusting relationship with your children from a very early age. You should be the first person to find out about any and everything that concerns them. Here are some of the steps you can take to make sure that you keep your kids away from the grasping arms of sexual predators:
1. Teach them about sex and their bodies
In this part of the world, the sex talk between parent and child seldom happens. Many treat sex as a sacred, abominable, or untouchable topic in households.
Now, a lot of times parents do not have the opportunity of protecting their kids round the clock as the kids have to be at school or crèche. They play with their fellow mates or spend the holiday at the homes of members of their extended family. or stay home with nannies.
Equipping your children with adequate knowledge right from an early age (as early as a child can describe his/her body parts) cannot be overemphasized. Many parents adopt the style of nicknaming the sexual organs of children (tom-tom, pom-pom, bom-bom) because calling the vagina, penis, or anus by their actual names is too explicit.
If we cast our minds back to our early childhood years; say from ages five and above, a number of us would recall being already sexually aware. We knew not to enter the wrong restrooms in school to pee or poo, we knew to zip up our pants and sit properly to conceal our underwear because we were taught or to keep that body part private.
It makes sense to start teaching them about their bodies right from a young age. Let them know what their body parts are for, why they should not allow anyone (not even family members) to touch them inappropriately. Teach them about sex and consent.
And teach them to trust you, so that they can come to you at any time. You cannot be with your children round the clock. The information that you give to them might just be what saves them.
2. Teach them about collecting gifts from adults
Some of these sexual offenders bait the vulnerable kids with gifts (cookies, candies, video games) to get them to comply or keep a tight lip. Whenever a child says ‘no thank you, my parents told me not to receive gifts in their absence’ or ‘thank you, I will show my parents what you have bought me”, it sends a direct message that there exists a kiss and tell relationship between parent and child. This could potentially dissuade a would-be predator.
You are probably thinking, what if the gift is from someone they know? their uncle or aunt or family friend. Well, many acts of sexual abuse against children are perpetrated by someone they do know. So, it does not matter, uncle or not, teach them to be wary of gifts.
3. Do not be too comfortable leaving your child with others
Remember, the majority of sexually abused children point out a family member or a familiar person as the perpetrator. Do not be overly trusting of your child in the care of familiar people. And it doesn’t have to be about the opposite sex or gender; same-sex sexual abuse of children is just as common.
4. Listen to your children when they talk to you about sexual abuse
You hear instances of parents punishing their children for speaking up about sexual assault by a family member. That is unbelievable really, but things need to change.
When your child begins to mention strange advances by an adult or older child (whether coherently or not), do not be too quick to dissuade, no matter how young you view the child. Better to act on that than effecting damage control later on.
Protect your kids!
Children are innocent beings, they need to be protected from the evils of the world. Sexual abuse of children has far reaching effects that could stay with them for the rest of their lives. Do your part to shield your kids and keep them safe