Most children are sexually abused by people they know. According to this news article published by the University of Bedfordshire, 66% of child sexual abuse happens within the family and its close circles. This number is quite startling. The question is, how do you keep your children safe from predators? Can The Underwear rule protect your child from abusers?
What is The Underwear Rule?
According to the Council of Europe, The Underwear Rule teaches parents how to explain sexual abuse to their children. This rule stipulates that the child is not to be touched in the areas covered by their underwear. The children are also advised not to touch other people in these areas.
This rule helps parents explain in simple terms where people shouldn’t touch the children, what to do if they are touched and these places, and where to report the incident. Parents can differentiate that there are acceptable and unacceptable touches.
How to have The Underwear Rule conversation with your children
Children need to learn body autonomy at an early age. You have to start from when they are very young to let them know that their body belongs to them and no one is allowed to touch them without permission. Body autonomy training will include teaching your children the correct names for their genitals.
Your child should know that they have the right to refuse hugs and kisses from anyone. And if someone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should say no and then report the matter to you.
What kind of touch is inappropriate?
Younger children may find it hard to differentiate an innocent touch from sexual abuse, and that’s why The Underwear Rule spells out which areas are safe and which ones are no-go areas.
Emphasize that any touch in the areas usually covered by their underwear is a bad touch. Additionally, let your children know that if they are confused about good and bad touches, they can always come to you for help.
Sometimes doctors and nurses may need to touch the child in the underwear areas, so you should explain this to them so that they won’t panic if that happens. However, the child still needs to know that they can say no to anyone at any time.
Another important thing is that you should never force your children to have any form of physical contact if they don’t feel like doing so. This means that they don’t have to hug aunties and uncles if they don’t want to. By doing this, you are teaching them that their ‘no’ matters.
The Underwear Rule – child molesters use secrecy as a weapon
Children are highly imaginative, and keeping secrets is a part of growing up with an overactive mind. However, having secret imaginary friends is different from keeping secrets about a possible abuse situation. Child molesters are often able to get hide because they swear their victims to secrecy.
And this is why you need to teach your children that some secrets are bad and some are good. Bad secrets are secrets they should always tell you about. Explain that bad secrets are those that make them sad, uncomfortable, guilty and scared.
A close relationship with your kids is important
Once you develop a close relationship with your kids, one that makes them comfortable enough to talk about any subject with you—even sexuality—you have established yourself as someone your child can talk to should there be any threat of abuse.
It is important to keep the lines of communication open. Make regular discussions a part of your relationship so that they can approach you as soon as they are frightened about something.
Remove the shame from talking about sex and sexuality
In many Nigerian cultures, sex education is not given precedence because it is a rather uncomfortable subject for many. However, sex education will remove the taboo associated with sex. Early, age-appropriate sex education will make your kids bold and comfortable enough to report any suspicious person and activity to you.
How should kids report any form of abuse?
The underwear rule will require naming some adults who the child can inform. Only one of these adults should live in the same household as the child.
How to identify and remove child molesters
As mentioned previously, 66% of child abusers are within or very close to the family. This proximity to the family gives them enough time to groom the child and gain their trust before any physical contact. Normally, child molesters will shower the child with gifts as part of the grooming process.
At this point, they’ll encourage the child to start keeping secrets. If you have already taught your kids the difference between good secrets and bad secrets, you may be able to catch things on time.
Establish rules for contact with strangers. They should learn early that it is not right to talk to strangers, get into cars with people they don’t know or accept presents them.
The underwear can keep your young ones safe. It is important to teach this rule to your kids while they are very young.
Resources: University of Bedfordshire
This article was first published on AfricaParent.com