Safety Planning With Children

Safety Planning with Children

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse. These statistics prove what a necessity it is to start having conversations about safety while children are young. These conversations can be initiated by daycare providers, teachers, parents, or anyone who works with children.

It has been shown that a majority (93%) of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attackers.  This information tells us that there are conversations aside from “stranger danger” to have with children. Having these other conversations can create a safe space for disclosure or help to recognize vulnerabilities.  Below are some tips on teaching children personal safety:

  • Teach children the correct names for body parts.  It can be harder to disclose if children don’t have the correct words.  Talk about setting boundaries.
  • Children need to know that their bodies are their own, and they have the right to say “NO” when it comes to who touches them and who they touch.  Simple things such as hugging family members shouldn’t be required if the child prefers not to.
  • Let children know its okay to challenge adults. Assure them that adults are not always right. Teach them there are things adults should never do.
  • Teach them these 3 steps: say NO, get away, tell a helper.

It can be good to teach children through repetition and rehearsal. Children can practice the steps above: saying no, getting away, and telling a helper. Understand, though, that children may not always be able to get away if they find themselves in an abusive situation.  It’s also important to understand that abusers use different tactics to manipulate children, sometimes causing children to stay quiet about the abuse. 

These conversations may be difficult and uncomfortable to have but it can help create a safe space for disclosure.  It is important to let your child know they can talk to you about anything. Listen to what your children tell you and try not to question or minimize what they say.  Having conversations may help make warning signs more obvious and help your child feel more comfortable talking about things that don’t feel right.

Other effective personal safety skills:                            

  • Have a written list of people that the child can leave with. Share the list with the child’s school and daycare.
  • Show children safe places to go if they ever get lost (library, police station, family/friend’s house, etc.)
  • Have a family safe word. Something like a favorite food or item. If a person other than a parent is supposed to pick the child up from school, the child can only go with them if they know this “safe word.”
  • Practice “what if” scenarios on a regular basis. Practice how to be as safe as possible as often as possible.
  • When someone is afraid or hurt, tell children they can call 911. Role play how the conversation would go. Have them describe what is happening, telling them the address, phone number, and staying on the phone to answer questions.
  • If your children have access to the internet, teach them internet safety. Teach kids to never reveal personal information and to immediately tell you when someone makes them feel uncomfortable or starts communicating in a sexually explicit manner.

Child sexual abuse can happen to any child.  It’s important to remember that it is NEVER the child’s fault.    If you have concerns about a situation or want to talk about past abuse, please call us.  Our advocates are available every day with free, confidential support.  Call 1.800.770.1650 or text iowahelp to 20121.