It's a tough subject -- but it's a subject parents must talk with their children about. Education and awareness are the main factors in preventing child sexual abuse.
Most parents teach their children about strangers -- don't talk to a stranger, don't get in a car with a stranger, and don't go anywhere with a stranger. Teaching a child what to do if a stranger tries to harm them -- scream, yell, run to safety -- are things children absolutely have to know.
Stranger danger accounts for about 20 percent of child sexual abuse. Most of the time however, (80 percent) a child is abused by someone they know -- a parent or other relative, a baby-sitter, a teacher, a neighbor or a friend.
According to the Megan Nicole Kanka Foundation Web site at www.megannicolekankafoundation.org, there are two statements of fact that children should know: Nice people can do bad things; and Just because someone is nice, it doesn't mean that they are safe. Other information to help parents teach their children about "familiar danger" can also be found on this Web site.
Other things suggested to help teach children about safety include:
* Teach your children how to dial and use 9-1-1.
* Children should not be left alone at anytime.
* Teach your children their name, address and telephone number.
* Children should team up for safety.
* Children should be seen AND heard.
* Become familiar with who is watching your child during school and during after school programs.
* The name of your child should never be visible to the public on clothing, backpacks, lunchboxes, etc.
* Research the background of your baby sitter.
* Contact your local police about any suspicious person or activity.
* Provide your children with instructions and procedures to use if lost or separated.
* A child should never enter any house or vehicle without his or her parent present.
* When home alone, instruct your children to never open the door to anyone except parents or family members.
* Teach your children never to give out any personal information on the Internet or telephone.
* Teach your children that it is OK to say NO and run.
* Instruct your children never to speak to strangers.
* Never leave your child unattended in a shopping cart at any business.
* Always keep children in line of sight while shopping in a store.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com) offers these tips for your child's safety.
Tell your child to: Always check first with a parent, guardian or trusted adult before going anywhere, accepting anything, or getting into a car with anyone; Do not go out alone. Always take a friend with you when going places or playing outside; Say NO if someone tries to touch you or treats you in a way that makes you feel scared, uncomfortable or confused. Get out of the situation as quickly as possible; Tell a parent, guardian or trusted adult if you feel scared, uncomfortable or confused; There will always be someone to help you and you have the right to be safe.
Safety for your child starts at home; educate your child about the things they must know to stay safe.