We teach children about fire safety, water safety, and how to cross the street. We can and should take advantage of these natural teaching moments to introduce personal safety tips in these general discussions.

Teach your children early, as early as age two, as even young children can understand the concepts related to sexual abuse. Children provided with accurate information at an early age can learn to avoid or stop sexual abuse. An unprepared child may be too confused or ashamed even to admit an assault has taken place.

What Do I Say or Do Now?

Establish a safe environment. Know who is with your child and check references for child care providers and/or babysitters.

  • Take time to notice the behavior of other adults around your children, and be aware of adults who are too focused on child relationships or adults who single out certain children for attention.
  • Be approachable. Tell your child,
    • If you ever have any questions, just ask me.
    • It’s never too late to tell.
  • Teach your children what touches are safe and what touches are unsafe. Discuss the fact that touches may be confusing at times, and they may not be sure if the touches are safe or unsafe.
  • Teach children a basic working vocabulary for their body parts, and that another person should not touch their private parts unless it is to keep them clean and safe. Begin discussions slowly and clarify the child's understanding of words. Children's concepts can be very different from adults. Answer questions fully for the age level of the child.
  • Agree upon family touching rules to use with other children and adults.
  • Help your children identify trusted adults, grown-ups who are safe and helpful to them.
  • Decide how you will teach these rules based on your child’s age, developmental level, and your own family values. For example, you could say to your child:
    • If someone is touching you, and you want them to stop, say “NO.” Then he or she needs to stop. If you are touching someone and he or she says, “NO”, you need to stop.
    • Do not keep secrets about touching. Remember to tell a trusted adult.
    • A person should not touch your private body parts except to keep you clean and healthy. A doctor may touch a body part to keep you healthy and your mom or dad may touch a body part when you take a bath to help keep you clean.
  • Teach Children Personal Safety Rules. Introduce touching rules along with other safety rules. Talk about these rules often and use role-play, problem-solving games, and story telling as ways to talk with children. At a minimum, children should be taught basic personal safety rules if someone is touching them or asking them to do something that makes them uncomfortable, that “ugh oh feeling.” The Personal Safety Rules are:
    • To say “NO”
    • To get away
    • To tell a trusted grown-up, and to keep telling until someone helps them
    • And, to sometimes YELL

Review the touching rules often. Start a conversation with your child, “Let’s review the touching rules today.” Or, “Before you go outside to play, let’s practice what you would do if someone tried to break the touching rules.”

Responding to Disclosure

If your child tells you that someone has touched him or her in a way that is hurtful or in a way that made him or her feel uncomfortable:

  • Remain calm.
  • Reassure your child by saying,
    • I’m glad you told me. You did the right thing. You are very brave, and I’m so proud of your courage.
    • It’s not your fault. I’m very sorry this happened to you.
    • I’m always here for you. You are safe now.
  • Immediately seek help for your child and yourself. Possible resources include:
    • Law enforcement personnel
    • Child Protective Services
    • Supportive friends and relatives
    • Professional counselors
    • Women’s Center–YFS Children’s Counseling Services

Additional Resources

You may find the following Women's Center–YFS pages useful:

  • Women’s Center–YFS Children’s Counseling Services
  • Helplines
  • Child Assault Prevention Workshops

You may also find the following websites from other organizations useful:

  • Local Police Departments:
    • Lodi
    • Stockton
    • Tracy
  • Sheriff’s Office
  • Child Protective Services