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Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse: The Underwear Rule

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Protect your kids from sexual abuse – have the Underwear Rule chat now!

It’s not a nice thought mama, but don’t put off talking to kids about “the underwear rule” thinking your kids are too young or that you might scare them. Acting on this now could help protect your kids when they need it the most.

“Sexual abuse can happen to children of any gender, age, skin color, social class or religion. In most cases the perpetrator has been found to be someone the child knows and trusts. In other cases, the perpetrator can also be another child, either older or of the same age. Authorities have always struggled to get the exact figure of Sexual Abuse incidences, as they often go unreported. A study by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, shows that: 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse and children most vulnerable to sexual abuse are in the age group of 7-13 years.” says Vinti Mittal, Director of  SACAC Counselling.

The Underwear Rule

This is a simple rule to explain that what’s in your pants is your private parts, belongs to you and no one else can touch or see them. For girls especially, some people refer to the bathing suit area as being private. This upbeat video by the NSPCC may help little kids understand the concept and is at least a good conversation opener.

The Underwear Rule For Children
Privates should stay private: Kids should know that their underwear (or bathing suit) covers their private parts, and no one can touch it without their permission. Children should know that they’re in control of their body and should say ‘NO’ to unwanted touches.

It’s Their Body: Let them know that their body belongs ‘ONLY’ to them. If someone asks to see or tries to touch them underneath their underwear they should say ‘NO’ – and inform someone they feel safe with. The Underwear Rule helps kids to remember what is inappropriate touching by visualising the physical border of their underwear but kids should also know that their body is their own so they have the right to refuse a kiss or a touch on any part of their body, even from a person they love.

No Cutesy Names: Don’t be shy about using correct body language with even the smallest kid – vulvas, vaginas, bottoms, breasts, penises and testicles. Why? If a child accuses someone of touching their “little flower” it may not hold as much weight as saying outright that someone touched their vagina and may be discounted according to Body Safety Education. If your family uses anatomically correct names for privates, when kids come up with other names this can be a red flag for being groomed. Using proper body part names is also empowering.

Speak Up, Someone Can Help: Encourage children to talk about anything that they don’t feel is right or which makes them sad, anxious, frightened or upset. The Underwear Rule website says “Secrecy is the main tactic of sexual abusers. That’s why it’s important to teach the difference between good and bad secrets and to create a climate of confidence.” Reinforce that talking to parents, a family member, teachers or any trusted adult helps when in tricky situations. List the “safe adults” that your child knows so they have people to turn to if they have a problem – choosing adults who live in the house and importantly some who do not. Weaving in simple conversations about staying safe into the daily routine is a great way to stop children from feeling overwhelmed and making them aware of the risks. Parents should avoid creating taboos around sexuality, and make sure children know who to turn to if something is not right.

Sexual Abuse

Counsellor, Vinti Mittal says “The most common reaction of a victim after an abuse is the feeling of shame, guilt, and fear. Kids should know that it’s not their fault if something happens and that they won’t be in any trouble if they say ‘NO’ to an adult. One of the most important points in dealing with sexual abuse with children is that prevention and protection is the first and foremost responsibility of an adult. Younger children may feel that something is wrong but are unsure of what it is. If you have witnessed or are aware of any child who has gone through sexual abuse seek out support for the child and the family with a professional at the earliest.”

Vinti offers counselling for expatriate and Singaporean preschoolers, tweens, adolescents, individual adults, families, and couples on a broad range of issues. Vinti Mittal holds a Masters from Monash University, Australia and is a Certified Sand Therapy and Expressive Therapy Practioner.

Vinti Mittal’s Recommended Reading:

It’s MY Body: A Book to Teach Young Children How to Resist Uncomfortable Touch (Children’s safety series & abuse prevention) by Lory Britain
A simple book for toddlers to convey the messages that it’s their body and it belongs to them. Available in English and Spanish.

I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Kimberly King
This book is helpful for parents in approaching the topic of protecting children’s private parts. It covers situations for younger kids as well as for older ones on how to say NO. The book leaves some situations open for parents to discuss further with their kids if they wish to.

Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Maude Spelman
A very well written and illustrated book. Ideal for introducing the topic to kids in a safe way using the just right words.

How Long Does It Hurt? A Guide to Recovering from Incest and Sexual Abuse for Teenagers, their Friends and their Families by Cynthia Mather
This book is a guide for future survivors to help them deal with what’s happening to them and to understand their feelings after going through a sexual abuse. The book is written by a Sexual Abuse survivor.

Lead image sourced via Synergy Fostering

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