The sexual abuse of children is shockingly common. One in four girls and one in 13 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before they reach adulthood, yet many parents avoid talking to their children about what is and is not appropriate touch.
A national survey conducted by C.S. Motts Children’s Hospital found that fewer than half of the parents of preschool-aged children have discussed the topic of appropriate touching, many citing the child’s age as a factor. This is the case for 25 percent of elementary-aged kids as well, though other reasons, including not having gotten around to it, were cited by the parents of older children.
This conversation can be uncomfortable. However, delaying it can place your child in a terrible situation. Knowing how to approach the topic is essential for having an open, age-appropriate discussion about touching.
Good Touch vs. Bad Touch
Good touch feels safe. It is caring and nurturing. It is supportive and gentle. Talk to your children about wanted hugs, encouraging pats on the back, and similarly positive expressions. Good touch is wanted and welcome.
Bad touch feels unsafe. It can also feel shameful or cause physical pain. It includes any unwanted touching, including things that may seem innocent to an outsider, like a hand on the shoulder or a hug. Without exception, any touching of private parts is bad touch.
When discussing body parts with your children, use their anatomical names. This helps encourage a child’s comfort with their body and can make conversations about touch more open. Be sure to keep a positive tone and never suggest that a body part is “bad” or “dirty.” These things only serve to exacerbate feelings of shame.
Give your child simple rules, such as the “swimsuit” rule, so they know how to identify good vs. bad touch. The swimsuit rule holds that any body part that a swimsuit covers is private. However, many groomers and abusers will use non-sexual touch, such as placing a hand on the arm, to begin with. It is vital to keep the conversation about appropriate touch ongoing and to provide more details as your child ages.
Talking to your child about good vs. bad touch is essential, but alone cannot prevent abuse. This is where we come in. If your child has suffered sexual abuse, we can help your family get justice. Call our Los Angeles area office at 949-502-8600 to schedule a private and free case review today.
Located in Irvine, the child sexual abuse attorneys at the Cifarelli Law Firm serve families throughout California.