Helping Parents Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Helping Parents Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

Jetta Bernier's Guest Post to "Safe To Compete", a program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 

Efforts to prevent child sexual abuse over the past decade are showing results and confirmed cases are down. Yet still too many children - an estimated 1 in 10 - are at risk of being sexually abused or exploited. As a parent, you can be your child’s best protection. Here’s how.

What’s a Parent to Do?

  1. Begin talking to your child about body boundaries and privacy by age 3. Remember, it’s easy, if you begin early and reinforce messages over time.
  2. Only allow those you trust to provide genital, perianal and bathing care for your child.
  3. Encourage children’s independence in personal self-care.
  4. Discourage co-bathing with siblings and adults.
  5. Introduce concepts of “OK” and “Not OK” touch. Avoid using the terms “good or bad touch.”  Children get confused by the notions that a good person could touch then in a bad way; that touching in private parts can feel good yet be bad; and that being touched in a bad way might mean they are bad.  
  6. Increase supervision. By reducing “one child/one adult” situations, you can reduce your child’s risk of abuse by an estimated 8o%.
  7. Teach children and teens to respect adults’ and siblings’ privacy by modeling this behavior yourself.
  8. Teach teens to practice equality and respect in their relationships and to demand the same.
  9. Develop a safety plan with your teen in case he/she needs to get out of risky situations.
  10. Encourage your teen to stay sober to reduce the risks of sexual abuse.


Jetta Bernier is Executive Director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children. She directs the Enough Abuse Campaign, a community mobilization and citizen education effort established in 2002 under a 5-year grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and supported in part by the Ms. Foundation for Women. The Campaign’s comprehensive model has now been adopted in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and regions of California. For more information about how to prevent child sexual abuse, visit

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