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According to a 2012 maltreatment report in the US, 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before they turn 18. Most of these abuses start from inappropriate touching. We live in a world where it is impossible not to touch. Our bodies touch in the lift, bus, airplanes, at home, school or church. We also touch to convey appreciation, love and encouragement.
But did you know that there is a big difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching? Read on and learn how to protect your child from inappropriate touching.
As a parent you need to empower your child to differentiate what good and bad touch is. This will enable them to know what danger signals to look out for and avoid being abused. However, this is a subject that is sensitive and confusing at the same time.
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How to protect your child from inappropriate touching
Point out to your child that touching is a good way of showing love, appreciation and care. They should use the gift of touch to affirm, cheer and encourage others. Inform your child that their body is off limits and should not be touched inappropriately by anyone and themselves too.
Help your child to draw a list of trusted adults. This list may include your child’s class teacher, relative or pastor. The list should also include a list of appropriate and acceptable touches. Your child should be able to identify the red flags to look out for and know the right action to take.
Your child should be aware that knowing someone well may affect their judgment. Statistics reveal that children suffer abuse in the hands of people they know and trust. In fact, the abuse begins from supposedly appropriate touching that gradually graduates into inappropriate touching.
Teach your child that an appropriate touch from you may be inappropriate from a stranger. Your child should not accept hugs from strangers. They should also be able to tell when someone in the trusted list is getting out of hand.
Explain that an abuser is like a patient vulture waiting to devout its victim. Appropriate touching from an abuser may gradually, pave way for inappropriate touching. It may take days, weeks, months or even years before good touches turn into touches of abuse. Therefore, your child should know how to critically and clearly interpret touches without getting their minds getting clouded.
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Touching is a two-way traffic
Teaching your child how to interpret touches directed to them is not enough. Your child should know touching is a two-way traffic. Let them be aware that an adult may ask to be touched, or in some cases, their age mates may do the same thing. They should know that this might happen from the very people you have categorized as trusted.
Empower your child to identify when touching boundaries are crossed. These may be words and actions such as “Do not tell your mom I about this touch, it should remain our secret, deal?” Your child should know that abusive adults (or their age mates) will use threats or warn them to keep the touch a secret. Adults may also use money, sweets, ice cream or toys to bribe the child from sharing information about inappropriate touching.
Drawing the line
Determining the intention behind a touch is not an easy thing to do. This can been made more difficult, and confusing, by the fact that we use touch to convey
Therefore, you should teach your child to analyze and determine intentions behind every touch. Your child should learn safe touching that conveys love, encouragement and appreciation. They should also know that an abuser will trick them into inappropriate touch under the guise of showing love.
If your child feels nervous, awkward, scared or guilty during or after being touched, it is definitely an inappropriate touch. An inappropriate touch will make your child feel apprehensive, ashamed or hurt.
Another form of inappropriate touching may happen when a doctor touches your child’s private parts while examining a stomach ache. Because there is no telling when and where inappropriate touching may happen, your child should remain vigilant.
Examples of appropriate touching
- mom’s hug and kisses in the morning
- dad’s hug and kisses before bedtime
- hugs and kisses from grandparents
- a congratulatory pat on the shoulder from a teacher or pastor
- high five
Examples of inappropriate touching
- touching private parts
- hitting someone
- touching lips or kissing
- touching breasts or buttocks
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Your mandate as a parent
Though your list of trusted adults can hug, kiss and hold hands with your child, you should take caution. Most people who abuse children are those we cannot suspect. However, it does not mean that you turn into a paranoid parent. Use and trust your intuition and instincts and do the following: –
- Teach your child what is appropriate and not. Let them know that their body is a private domain that needs protection. Teach them how to convey their appreciation and care to family members, classmates and adults.
- Ask your child to report any form of inappropriate touching in school, church, shopping mall or at home. Act immediately without showing favor even if the reported person is a teacher, pastor, shop attendant or their step parent. Taking sides with your child’s abuser is detrimental. It may fuel the abusers need to continue abusing and further harming your child. It will definitely erode your child’s trust and you may end up losing them forever.
- Do not starve your child of appreciation, love, encouragement and affirmation. When you touch, hug, kiss and hold hands with your child, they may end up seeking it from people who may abuse them. A starved child tends to find it difficult to differentiate between good or bad touches.
- Start imparting the skill of determining touches from an early age. Try as much as you can not to delegate the role of cleaning, changing diapers or bathing your child to another adult. You never know when or where an abuser may pop up from!
James Ouma is a CTI Clarity Coach, Cyclist and Writer. He is passionate about positive masculinity and helping incarcerated male teens to reconcile with their families and their communities. He loves staring at his bicycle, flipping through movies without watching them, and playing ‘tap out’ with his wife.