Talking to your Child about Sexual Abuse
Conversations around sex, consent and relationships are really important conversations to have with children and should be normalised throughout their childhood and teenage years. It shouldn’t just be a one-off chat either – children should be encouraged to open up to you about sexuality at any time.
We understand that these conversations can feel difficult at times, especially when you’re talking about signs of sexual abuse and grooming – but that’s what makes them so important.
Our Abuse Solicitors offer their tips for talking to your child about sexual abuse. For more advice, get in touch with our team for a confidential chat today.
Put Yourself in their Shoes
Life as a child or teenager may feel like a lifetime ago and parents and children won’t always see eye-to-eye on things. But it’s important to remember that your children don’t have the life experience and knowledge that you do to pick up on inappropriate and abusive behaviour. Even if something makes them uncomfortable, they might not realise that it’s okay for them to feel that way.
In another situation, they might enjoy the attention and affection they’re getting and not understand that they’re being groomed. This can often happen to teenage girls who are starting to think about relationships with older men.
When talking to your child about sexual abuse and grooming, you’ve got to approach it carefully. Reassure them that they’ve not done anything wrong as they could get defensive if they have feelings towards someone who could be grooming them. Encourage them to talk openly with you about what’s going on in their life and patiently get them to expand on anything that sounds like a red flag.
Talk Openly About Sex and Sexuality
Children will all learn about sex at different ages and in various ways, and you should answer any questions they have about sex honestly. Children’s bodies are constantly changing and they will all experience these changes at different stages. Teenagers in particular can compare themselves to their friends and worry that they’re unusual if they’ve not developed in the same way.
It’s important to reassure your child that everyone’s body is different and that what they’re experiencing is completely normal.
Children are curious about their bodies from an early age and shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for exploring their bodies either.
Talk about Consent and Relationships
It’s just as important to talk about relationships with your child as it is sex, and consent shouldn’t just be spoken about in relation to sex. You can teach your child from an early age about consent by letting them make their own decisions over their body. For example, asking ‘Can I have a hug?’ before hugging them, and letting them decide what clothes they want to wear.
This shows them that they’ve got ownership over their body and gets them thinking about consent more generally from a young age.
As they get older, you should talk to them openly about non-consensual touching and sex, and let them know that they can tell you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
You should also talk about other aspects of a romantic relationship, such as controlling and abusive behaviour, and grooming. In a modern day world of social media and pornography, many children and teenagers are being exposed to unhealthy examples of sex and relationships which can make it difficult for them to recognise the signs of an abusive relationship. You should talk to your child about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Respect their Boundaries
We tell children to not talk to strangers but the harsh reality is abuse often happens close to home, with abusers usually being in a child’s close circle. This is why it’s important to always respect their boundaries, and not let your relationship with a friend or family member cloud your judgement.
For example, if your child tells you that a stranger’s behaviour made them feel uncomfortable, alarm bells will immediately start ringing. But if they say the same about a family member, you might take it less seriously. It’s crucial that you respect how your child is feeling and make them feel comfortable enough to come to you about anything.
Show them you’re there for them
Children can worry about being judged or blamed for the abuse they’ve suffered and might have feelings of guilt. Reassure them that it’s in no way their fault and no matter what happens, you still love and care for them.
Some abusers can threaten their victims with revenge porn (leaking intimate photos or videos without permission) or in extreme cases, harming their loved ones. While these threats must be taken seriously and reported to the police, remember that this can also stop your child from telling you the truth about what’s happened. Again, reassure them that you will protect them and get the help and support they need.
If you need further Support
It’s incredibly upsetting to think about your child being abused and you might be unsure how to approach the situation, especially if they’re being defensive. If you think they might be in immediate danger, you should report your concerns to the police.
Our specialist Abuse Team can also offer advice and support about your individual situation, and can refer you to helpful support networks and resources. Get in touch to see how we can help you.
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