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There are a number of ways that everyone in the community can become involved in sexual abuse prevention. This can include educating people about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, programs for parents on educating their children about healthy sexuality including sexual abuse prevention, and making sure that staff, lay leaders, and volunteers know how to handle a suspected case of child abuse or child sexual abuse. The congregation's policies on these issues should be included in new member packets and reviewed periodically with the congregation.
Primary prevention is key. Possibilities include:
Programs for parents on talking with their children about sexuality, including how to keep their children safe from abuse, can be offered by the congregation, and are especially important if they are not offered elsewhere in the general community. Parents need support in providing their children with healthy messages about sexuality that are age appropriate. They also need to be able to recognize the signs of possible child sexual abuse. Parents need to know that (1) while sex play between children of similar ages is often healthy curiosity, sex play between children more than three years apart in age is most often problematic, (2) it is expected for children to play doctor or “you show me yours, I'll show you mine”, but that any type of penetration, whether with fingers, objects, or penises, is not typical but a sign to be concerned, and (3) it is important to screen childcare workers and babysitters for histories of sex offenses and to ask that day care and nursery school caregivers, coaches, scout leaders, after school workers, etc. be screened by the sponsoring agency.
(Adapted from Debra W. Haffner, From Diapers to Dating: A Parent's Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children, Newmarket Press, 2004, used with permission.)
All of these behaviors could also arise from other causes. If you see these behaviors, stay calm but do make an appointment as soon as possible with your child's pediatrician or a mental health professional that specializes in child sexual abuse and assessment.
For more information contact safecongregations @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
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Last updated on Friday, April 22, 2011.
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