When is the Right Time to Talk to Children About Sexual Abuse?
By Emma Motherwell
NSPCC Local Campaigns Manager
Simple conversations, like crossing the road safely, bullying and dealing with strangers are subjects that you and your child might talk about.
Rightly so. But what about staying safe from sexual abuse?
When you consider that one child in every 20 suffers some form of sexual abuse the importance of having this conversation as early as possible becomes so vital.
It is also important to recognise that ‘stranger danger’ now only applies in a small percentage of cases, with a third of all child sexual offences committed by other children and 90% of perpetrators being known to their victims.
The good news is that there is an easy way to talk to your child about how to stay safe without using scary words or even mentioning sex. At the NSPCC we simply call this Talking PANTS. From P through to S, each letter stands for an important rule for kids to remember - Privates are private, Always remember your body belongs to you, No means no, Talk about secrets that upset you and Speak up – someone can help.
Helping us to spread this message is Pantosauraus the cartoon dinosaur, who was recently introduced to the world with a catchy song and activity pack and now has his own game which is free to download from the App Store and Google Play.
The game features four mini challenges where children test their skills against Pantosaurus and his friends whilst learning the PANTS rule. The game enables children to have fun while learning about staying safe and what to do should anything happen that they feel uncomfortable about.
Parents know their children better than anyone, so they’ll know when they’re ready to have a conversation about PANTS and how much detail to go into. But downloading the new game is a great place to start.
The more you talk about it the less awkward and uncomfortable you will feel and you will also have the peace of mind that you are equipping your child with vital knowledge to help keep them safe now and in the future, both online and out in the real world.
If your child says something that concerns you in anyway, get some advice. Talk to a teacher at school or call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. Experts are to hand 24/7 to give advice and support. If there’s nothing to worry about, you can feel assured that you’ve checked it out. And remember it’s probably a huge relief for your child to be able to talk to someone.
You can find more information and support about talking PANTS, as well as talking and listening techniques, at nspcc.org.uk/pants or send an NSPCC counsellor a message at email@example.com.