For years parents have been told to teach their kids about "good touches versus "bad touches."
They have been told to tell their kids to talk to them if anyone is behaving "inappropriately" toward them.
And yes, in some schools, kids are given these same tips in health education classes.
Nonetheless, children and teens continue to get abused despite having been drilled in these lessons.
Simply telling your kids about good versus bad touches and then expecting them to come to you if they have been touched in the wrong places is not enough.
We are putting the burden on the children. How on earth can we expect a child who is being abused and threatened by a family member or someone that they love and trust to quickly come to us and confide? This is, at the very least, a confusing situation for kids. A parent tells a child one thing and another trusted person tells a child something else. The child is probably struggling with what to do and in the face of confusion, ambiguity, and ambivalence does nothing.
Perhaps, it is time to consider another model. In this model of preventing sex abuse the burden is placed on the parents. Parents are taught to watch their kids carefully for any signs of behavioral and mood change and to sort through every aspect of the child's life to determine the source of difficulties. And how about encouraging parents to be extremely vigilant about who is minding the kids and NOT making the assumption that simply because someone appears to be an upstanding citizen that they will spare your child.
I say let's put the burden on parents. We should neither expect kids to confide in us immediately nor should we expect them to be clear about good versus bad touches. There are, after all, shades of gray.
Also, keep in mind that sexually abused kids and teens tell, on the average, 7 adults about their abuse before any one person believes them.
Follow Barbara Greenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Parentteendr