Childline advice on talking about sexual abuse with your children

by My Kent Family reporter

Sexual abuse. It’s not something you want to think about, never mind talk about with your children. But by talking about it, we have the opportunity to actually keep children safe.

In her latest column for My Kent Family Wendy Robinson from Childline shares some advice:

It’s estimated that one in 20 children have experienced sexual abuse.

In 2016/17 Childline counsellors handled 9,452 counselling sessions from children and young people who were forced to take part in sexual activities through physical contact or online.

One teenage girl who contacted Childline said: "I feel completely confused about what has happened with my boyfriend. We were hanging out at his the other night when he suddenly changed towards me. He pinned me down and forced me to have sex. I feel numb and so ashamed but he said he doesn’t know why I’m making such a fuss. I want to tell my family but can’t face saying the words. I thought people only got raped by strangers.”

In 2016/17 Childline counsellors handled 9,452 counselling sessions from children and young people who were forced to take part in sexual activities
In 2016/17 Childline counsellors handled 9,452 counselling sessions from children and young people who were forced to take part in sexual activities

There are two different types of sexual abuse – contact and non-contact abuse.

Contact abuse involves an abuser making physical contact. Non-contact abuse involves non-touch activities such as grooming or exploitation, or persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet.

Sexual abuse can happen online
Sexual abuse can happen online

Children may find it hard to talk about what’s happened but there are some signs to look out for.

Children who are sexually abused may become:

* withdrawn or anxious

* depressed or aggressive

* experience problems sleeping or have nightmares

* miss school

* self-harm or have thoughts about suicide.

By talking about abuse from an early age, at an age appropriate way, we can hopefully stop abuse in its tracks.

We talk to our children about things like crossing the road safely and sexual abuse should be no different. And thanks to the NSPCC’s Underwear Rule it couldn’t be simpler. All you have to do is talk PANTS:

P – Privates are private.

A – Always remember your body belongs to you.

N – No means no.

T – Talk about secrets that upset you.

S – Speak up, someone can help.

There’s even a cartoon to help you introduce PANTS to children gently – they can sing along with Pantosaurus and it’ll help them learn the key PANTS messages.

The effects of sexual abuse can last a lifetime without the right help and support, which is why talking about it, potentially before it even starts, is key.

If children have any concerns or worries, they can call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit www.childine.org.uk.

If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call the police on 999 or call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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