Talking to your children about sexual abuse

NSPCC PANTS acromnym

PANTS rules for child safety
NSPCC PANTS rules for child safety

The horrific news about 7 year old Zainab, raped and murdered in Kasur, Pakistan, has created a public outcry across Pakistan and beyond.

I hope and pray the monster who did this gets what he deserves and Zainab and her family receive justice.

If there's one thing we can all do after this tragic incident is to talk to our children about sexual abuse and it's signs.

The idea of talking to your kid about sexual abuse probably seems worse than even talking to them about sex. But talking to them about sexual abuse is probably one of the most important discussions you will ever have with them.

While nothing can keep your child 100% safe, if you keep an open, casual dialogue with your child, keep an eye out for signs, and pay attention to how your child responds to people, you’ve significantly reduced the risk of someone sexually abusing your child.

Here are a few points you can mention when talking to children about sexual abuse:

1. PRIVATE PARTS- Explain to your child what private parts are and explain the only instances when their private parts can be seen and touched.

2. SAYING NO- Let your child know their body belongs to them, and no one else. No one has the right to make them do anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
It’s important to let children know they are allowed to say “no” to touches and physical contact that makes them uncomfortable or scared -no matter who it is; It may be a parent, relative, family friend, neighbour, teacher, or religious leader. It may be a man, woman or another child. It can be anyone. No one, unfortunately, is on the safe list.

In fact, children are most vulnerable from family members and acquaintances. So make sure your child knows that nobody can hurt their bodies, no matter who they’re with – and that he or she should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible.

3. SECRETS- Perpetrators will often use secret-keeping to manipulate children. Let children know they can always talk to you, especially if they’ve been told to keep a secret. Explain that a secret is still a secret when shared with the parents.
A very common symptom of many abuse victims is often that they feel they are themselves to blame somehow for attracting such unwanted attention, and so can be reluctant to disclose any abuse occurring due to feelings of shame and guilt, and fear that they may be blamed or stigmatised for having allowed it to happen!

4. MAKE TIME- When your child comes to you, make time for them. If your son or daughter comes to you with something they feel is important, take the time to listen. Give them your undivided attention, and let them know you take their concerns seriously. They may be more likely to come to you in the future if they know their voice will be heard.

5. WON'T BE IN TROUBLE- Tell your child that you will believe them if someone is hurting them and they won’t ever be in trouble.

For more details on how to talk to children about sexual abuse see:

Helplines for children and parents:
Childline - 0800 1111 - for children to access advice or talk to a counsellor

Stop it Now! - 0808 1000 900 - for parents to asks questions or raise concerns