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Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright

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Child Sexual Abuse: Start Tackling When They're Toddlers

Posted: 09/20/11 06:35 PM ET

How young is too young with it comes to educating children about sexual abuse? Such is a hotly contested issue, with some saying the earlier the better when it comes to prevention, while others argue that youngsters shouldn't be exposed to such sex issues.

Now, recent research out of Australia can help to finally settle this debate, providing parents and educators with a solid answer on an appropriate age at which to start tackling the issue. An analysis of over 500 clients, conducted by Bravehearts, found that educating children about sexual assault is one of the most effective ways of identifying such harm.

The anti-child sexual abuse organization found a direct link between its school education program and a sharp increase in the number of reports it gets concerning children being sexually assaulted. The organization's conclusion: going into schools and educating youth about sexual assault can make a huge difference in minimizing the damage done. The age range Bravehearts's education program targets using live musical performances: children 3- to 8-years-old.

Outreach efforts involve repeating a simple, age-appropriate message about one's private parts: 'no-one else to touch, no-one else to see, they belong to me'. To date, thousands of primary school kids across Australia have been exposed to the program, with many of those who have been violated willing to disclose the abuse, even when the offender is well known, trusted, and loved.

Such educational efforts, along with prevention efforts targeting adults, are seen as vital in reducing the incidence of child sexual assault. Such work ultimately also impacts youth overall well being, reducing the incidence rates of a number of issues, like alcoholism, suicide, depression, and drug abuse.

Talking to children, in a language they can understand, about medically accurate information that is appropriate for their developmental level can only do more good than harm when it comes to dealing with sexual abuse. And this goes for practically any sexuality-related topic -- no matter what the age group.

 

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