STUDIO CITY (CBS) — Child abuse is unfortunately not a rare occurrence. Public health authorities estimate that about 81,000 children are victims of sexual abuse and 160,000 are victims of physical abuse every year.
Pattie Fitzgerald stopped by KCAL9 Sunday to talk about child safety and how to talk to your kids about possible abuse.
– I’m the Boss of my Body! This lets kids know they have the right to say NO to any kind of touch that feels weird or gives them an “Uh-Oh” feeling. The BOSS can say STOP to anyone… even a grown up or a bigger kid!
– No secrets! Let your child know that they should never keep a secret from Mom and Dad, especially if it’s about their body or if it makes them feel yucky, scared or sad. And…if someone wants to give them a “secret treat or present”, they should always tell their parents. Asking kids to keep a secret is often a grooming technique used by a child predator. Be sure to tell the child you won’t be mad and they won’t get in trouble for telling you.
PS – Even if grandma wants to give them extra candy and says “Shhhh, it’s a secret”, your child can say “Grandma, we don’t do secrets.”, and tell you. Then let your child have that extra candy – they did the right thing by telling you!
– No “private parts” games allowed – not with other kids or grownups! Teach children the anatomically correct words for their body parts and let them know that no one should try to play a game with their private parts. If anyone tries, it’s OK to tell Mom or Dad and they won’t get in trouble for telling. Using the anatomically correct words also makes it very clear and simple if a child needs to tell you about an uncomfortable or unsafe touch.
– Check First! Before going anywhere or taking something, kids should always check first with the adult in charge (usually that’s mom or dad) if they haven’t already gotten permission.
· Before going into their neighbor’s home to play with a new puppy, check first.
· Before getting into someone’s car (even someone they know), check first.
· Before taking a treat from someone at the park, check first!
This gives parents the ability to assess the situation and determine if it’s “thumbs up or thumbs down!” If you can’t check first, then the answer is “No.”
– Safe Grownups Don’t Ask Kids For Help…when you’re by yourself or just with another kid! Safe adults should ask other adults for assistance not children. While 90% of childhood sexual abuse happens to kids by someone they know, it’s important to teach them what to do if they’re out in public and someone approaches them asking for help. If someone on the street or at the park asks them for help finding a lost pet, needing directions or other assistance, it’s important to say NO to that person and get away quickly. Kids can assist others if they’re with their parents or other caretakers.
For more information about Pattie Fitzgerald and her program “Safely Ever After,” click here.