How to Talk to Children about Sex and the Risk of Sexual Abuse
Parents often have difficulty deciding when they should teach their children about the “birds and the bees.” While talking to children about sex can be very challenging, it is a parent’s responsibility to provide them with the knowledge and understanding that will help prevent sexual abuse.
By teaching children about sex, it gives them a better understanding of the biological and anatomical changes that occur in their bodies as they are growing and developing. These changes may be strange and uncomfortable to children when they do not understand what is going on.
Sex education also provides children with the tools that might prevent sexual abuse. For instance, it allows them to understand their personal boundaries in any relationship they might encounter, which could make the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.
Unfortunately, the society we live in is overly sexualized. This means that children will learn about sex whether or not their parents want them to. Usually, it is a friend or sibling who tells them even though they themselves do not fully understand the topic of sex. Therefore, would it not be better for them to hear it from their parents, a knowledgeable source they trust, rather than their friends or the media?
Without sex education, there are consequences to not only the victims, but society as well. When children do not understand these sexual advances and how to tell a perpetrator to stop, the perpetrator will take advantage of the child’s innocence.
Children need attention. When given it, they tend to not question the actions of those they know. They also will easily trust strangers. Children are inherently programmed with the desire to please adults, so even if they are confused by or fearful of the adult, they will often continue to demonstrate obedience.
More often than not, when sexual abuse occurs, the child will stay silent rather than inform a trusted adult. This could be for several reasons: some victims may be simply confused and scared, whereas in other instances it may have been that the perpetrator threatened to hurt a loved one if the victim would tell.
As a result of the abuse, many children begin to develop destructive behaviors that impact them not only as the abuse takes place, but throughout their adulthood as well.
Children who have been the victims of sexual assault are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.
Children who were sexually abused also have an increased chance of re-victimization in adulthood. One study found that sexual victimization that occurred in youth increases the chances of sexual victimization in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times.
The CDC similarly conducted a study to understand the short- and long-term affects of adults that had been through some traumatic stressor as a child. These stressors could include abuse, neglect, or some other sort of trauma. The more traumatic the stressors a child faced, the more their chances of long-term health problems increased. The CDC identified such health problems as liver disease, suicide attempts, unintended pregnancy, depression, and alcohol abuse, amongst many others.
Sexual abuse among children is much more common than one thinks:
- 44% of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 18.
- 7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.
- 3% of boys in grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.
- 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
- 34.2% of attackers were family members.
- 58.7% were acquaintances.
Educating children about sex can help prevent them from becoming one of these dire statistics. There are many ways to go about sex education. The interactive workbook, “Tough Talk to Tender Hearts,” is just one way to help parents cross the bridge that they might be afraid to.
“Tough Talk to Tender Hearts” is a great resource guide to help parents navigate “The Talk” with their children, starting as early as infancy. That’s right, this conversation begins early, layering age appropriate conversations throughout childhood in order to provide children with the tools to understand their bodies and boundaries during each stage of development. Sharing the information learned in this interactive workbook with your children will empower your child to feel confident about their own personal boundaries and personal power. Please visit VOICE Today to purchase your copy.
1. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders. 1997.
2. 1998 Commonwealth Fund Survey of the Health of Adolescent Girls. 1998.
3. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.
4. World Health Organization. 2002.
5. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Sex Offenses and Offenders. 1997.