Monday, January 21, 2013

10 tips to protect your children from being sexually abused


This year I am going to write every blog post I have always wanted to write but was too scared to share. Some of you are not going to like the type of blog posts I have planned. They will make you uncomfortable and they will make you think about yourself and your family. I make no apologies for that.  One of my personal blog goals is to use my blog to be a voice for children who have no voice. For the many, many children around Australia and the world who are sexually abused each and every day. 

I am a survivor and thriver of childhood sexual abuse. I have no problem sharing that. It does not define me but it sure has shaped me. As a mother and parent I am passionate about making sure childhood sexual abuse stops with my generation and is not passed on to the next generation: my children. With one in five children in Australia sexually abused in childhood and as the mother of seven children I know that the odds are seriously against me in preventing this from being passed on to my children. So I have worked really hard to make sure I keep my children as safe as I can. I know I can't protect them from everything but the things I can protect them from, I WILL.

With this in mind I want to share with you my tips for protecting your children from sexual abuse. Of course these tips are in no guarantee that your children will be safe but my hope is that after reading this you will take time to educate your children, talk to them about protecting their bodies and will pay more attention to how your children are feeling and behaving. You may feel that I am being a little over the top with my advice but as a survivor of this evil, I can't help but be passionate about protecting my children. Even if you only implement one of these suggestions, you are helping to stop prevent childhood sexual abuse around the world. Here we go:

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1. Have no family secrets: One of the ways that abusers manipulate a child is through secrecy and silence. They tell the child that the abuse is their private secret. A secret so special it is just shared between the two of them. By doing this they try to make the child feel special and they constantly remind them that it is just between the two of them only. When an adult tells a child to be quiet or to keep a secret, a child will generally obey. They see the adult as the authority figure and will do what they say. Children who are abused hear such statements such as: "Don’t you ever tell anyone. No one will believe you anyway. If you tell, I’ll hurt your family. If you tell, I’ll keep hurting you. It’ll always be our secret."

It is important to tell our children that if someone tells them to keep a secret, they should immediately come and tell you what it is. Teach your children the difference between a secret and a surprise. A secret is something that you are told not to tell anyone else. A surprise is something fun you are going to do for someone to help them feel happy, like giving them a birthday present. Children need to know that no matter what the secret is, it is always fine to tell Mum or Dad. This needs to be emphasised and repeated over and over again. Children need to be constantly reminded that they can come and tell you anything at any time and that we have no family secrets in our homes.

2. Don't force children to show affection: One thing that I worry about a lot personally, is when I see parents forcing their children to show affection to other people. I know most parents act innocently when doing this and they do it out of love but as a victim of childhood sexual abuse I panic when I see children acting scared and crying when being asked to kiss grandpa, aunty, uncle, cousin, family friend etc. Often these children are told off for behaving in such a way and the parents tell them off because they are embarrassed that their child won't show love towards that person. For me, I say who cares if they don't want to kiss or hug someone. What if they are scared for a reason? What if the way they are acting is their way of telling you they don't feel safe? What if that person you are making your child kiss goodbye is hurting them...what message are you sending your child by making them kiss them? To the child it shows that you encourage it. 

Next time your child clings to you and doesn't want to kiss grandpa or uncle ... let it go, make no fuss and simply leave. Find the time later on to talk to your child and ask them why they don't want to do it. Ask them how they feel about that person and really listen to what they say. It might be nothing at all but it also might be because they are scared and are being hurt. 

3. Talk to children about their bodies: From an early age, talk and educate your children about their bodies. Make your conversations age appropriate, simple and use real names of body parts, not fun made up names. As a parent, determine what you want your children to know and understand to protect themselves. Teach them that they have special or private or sacred parts of their bodies that no-one is allowed to touch, even family members. If you have young children that need help 'cleaning' certain parts of their body make sure they know that only Mum or Dad are allowed to help in that way and sometimes a Doctor may need to have a look or touch their bodies but that Mum or Dad will always be with them. These parts of our bodies are not to be used for games and are to be respected. For example: teach your children that any part of your body that is covered by a swimsuit is private.

Sadly, most cases of abuse happen by someone that a child already knows: a family member or a family friend. They need to know that even family members can hurt them. You do not need to go into a lengthy conversation about stranger danger or mean family members. More simply educate them about what is appropriate touching and what is not. Help them to see that there are boundaries with their bodies that they have every right to protect and guard from everyone around them.  

4. Role play situations: For a child, trying to imagine someone hurting them in a sexual way, is hard for them to grasp or imagine. The same applies to us as parents!!! It is also hard as a parent to work out how to realistically teach children to deal with abuse that may come their way. We really don't want our children to be thinking about sexual abuse yet we need to teach them how to deal with situations that they may be faced with. One of the best ways to do this is to role play situations they may be faced with. You can do this hopefully in a family setting, in the safety of your own home. 

Discuss what they could do and what they could say in situations that may involve someone trying to inappropriately touch them or hurt them sexually. Share with them how the touching may start out nicely and seem fun but can then end up hurting them and making them feel scared. Teach them that they can say NO, loudly and repeatedly if need be. There is nothing wrong with having to say NO over and over again! For example: Role play situations such as (make them age appropriate), If an adult asks you, "Can I touch your bottom... what are you going to say?"...(child) "NO!" or if a friend asks you, "Can I see your penis...what are you going to say?"...(child) "NO!".

My children all know that if anyone tries to touch them in anyway that they don't like or they feel uncomfortable with that they have my permission to yell as loud as they want the word NO and any other words they feel and to then run as fast as they can. It is one of the few times my children know they are allowed to scream and scream and scream for help and to not stop until they get it. 

5. Teach about feelings: The younger children can learn about feeling safe and comfortable compared to unsafe and uncomfortable the better they are able to protect themselves. When children are young they are still developing and struggle to understand different emotions and feelings. They may describe how they feel about a person in a way you would never think of and will use simple childlike wording to attempt to share how they feel. 

For example: A child may say to you that Cousin Tom is gross or that Grandpa is dumb or that Aunty Sue is cool because she always give me presents when I help her do special jobs. Now, this is the difficult challenge as parents in relation to childhood sexual abuse: these statements can be a big challenge in trying to determine what they mean because they could mean that Cousin Tom simply had a day where he had snot hanging out of his nose in the pool one day or that Cousin Tom actually crossed the line and flashed his genitals at your child. The earlier that children learn to share how they are feeling, the easier it is as parents to protect them and to really understand what they are saying and mean by their emotions and feelings. 

One of the reasons children never speak up about abuse is because they are scared and they are ashamed. Older children can sometimes understand that what has happened or is happening is wrong. Therefore they keep quiet because they feel dirty, guilty, embarrassed, disgraced and total shame. We need to encourage children to recognise those feelings and be brave enough to speak out against them. The challenge is that we need them to know that these feelings are normal when you are abused and there is nothing wrong with feeling that way but to also recognise that what is happening is wrong so that they can speak up to protect themselves, heal themselves and to live a safe life. 

6. Have a family code word: As a family, pick a simple word that your child can say at anytime, anywhere to let you know that they are not feeling safe. For example: You could use the word dollhouse and your child could say, 'I want to play with my dollhouse' or you could use the word blanket and your child could say, 'I want my blanket'. This is so that if your child is visiting at someone's house, at a family gathering, at a birthday party or even at a park, they know they can walk right up to you, call you or message you and let you know how they are feeling. Be sure to let them know that if they say that word to you, you promise that you will act immediately and take them to safety. 

7. Use common sense: With most cases of sexual abuse happening by family members or family friends it is very important to use common sense in protecting your children. Think about situations where your children have their bodies on show so to speak. Be very protective of who changes nappies, who bathes your children, who dresses them and of where they sleep. Avoid situations where you may have an older cousin sharing a bath with a younger cousin naked, where children are left unattended to dress themselves, where adults constantly volunteer to help change and dress your children or where adults refuse to give your children any privacy. Use common sense in sleeping arrangements. Be very wary of adults or other youth age children who request and insist on special alone time in a sleeping arrangement with your child away from other adults and children.  Also chose carefully who you have as a babysitter. If your children seem afraid or don't want to be left alone with a babysitter, family member or friend, be wary and very cautious. 

8. Let them know you will always believe them: I can't stress how important this is. It is vitally important that your children know that no matter what they tell you, even if it shocks you and makes you feel sick, that you will believe what they have to say. One of the way abusers get away with abuse for so long is because they manage to convince children that nobody will believe them if they tell. Often children have no proof that the abuse is taking place and it is only their word against those who are harming them so they stay silent. This then allows the abuse to go on longer and can even span for generations.   

Make sure that your children know that if they share a 'secret' with you, that you will not get mad or upset at them. Children need to know that they have someone to talk to that they can trust and turn to when they are being hurt. They simply do not make these stories and events up! We need more children speaking up about childhood sexual abuse so that we can put an end to this evil in our country and we need more parents and caregivers who will believe them.

As a child who spoke up about sexual abuse, was not believed and was told off for saying such things, I can personally share that it is so, so damaging to not have a parent or family member to turn to for help. It is scary, lonely, it leads to the child believing it is their fault and it is soul destroying. Please, please, please from the bottom of my heart, have a relationship with your children where they can come to you with any situation or horrible story and have them know that you will believe them, love them and help them.

9. Trust your instincts: As a parent we know our children best. We can normally tell when they are acting out of character or if there has been a slight change in behaviour. If at anytime you feel uneasy or worried but can't seem to work out why, it might be because your child is being harmed in an abusive way. Please keep in mind that abusers typically do not look like bad people. They are often normal nice, helpful, kind, loving people who just happen to also be an expert at gaining trust, manipulating and harming children. As parents, we often parent our children by following our instincts. When it comes to the protection of our children, we need to be more cautious and follow all gut feelings we may have. 

10. Be repetitive: Once you have established as parents how you want to address teaching your children to protect themselves, make it a repetitive teaching. Children need to be reminded over and over again how to protect themselves and as they grow they face new challenges in this area. What you teach them also needs to change to become more age appropriate throughout the years. Do not assume that just because you told them once how to protect themselves that they now know how to do it.  There is no need to be over the top in teaching your children about sexual abuse. Even just bringing the topic up every 4-6 months will go a long way in helping to protect your children. 

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I have shared these tips not to cause panic. I have shared these tips to help you be more educated and more aware. To open your eyes to what might be happening around you. Of course we should not spend all of our time looking at every kind family members as if they are abusers but don't think for one second that this type of thing would never happen in your family. It is happening in family homes all around the world. In homes of nice people, in homes of successful people and in homes of people we often look up to the most. Also please don't think that this type of horrible behaviour happens only from adults, children perform these acts as well, to other children. 

I know this topic is sensitive and emotional. I know teaching your children about childhood sexual abuse is hard, believe me I know it! I also know that it is extremely important and in today's society we need to start talking about this topic more and more. I hope that you have found these tips helpful even though I am not a professional, I am simply a mum and survivor. I just ask that please can you keep your eyes open and use these tips to help you trust your instincts more and to be more mindful of your children. We want our wonderful cherubs to live safe happy lives. They deserve it. Every child deserves to feel safe. 

For professional tips please check out:

142 comments:

  1. Such an important post for you to write, Naomi. I am so sorry for what have been through, and I am so thankful for your honesty and courage in sharing with us. There is nothing more I want than to protect my own children...
    Ronnie xo

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    1. Thank you. I agree, we want our children to be happy, safe and protected.

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  2. Informative post for parents written from personal experience and filled with practical but sensitive tips to protect families. Thanks!

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    1. Wow! Thanks Vanessa. That was exactly the type of blog post I was trying to write. So glad you feel it came across that way. N x

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  3. Naomi I think you are very brave and sensible to share your experience with parents. I really like your tips and think they are very reasonable and achievable. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Laney. I wanted my tips to be easy to understand and very practical :)

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  4. Thank you....
    xxx

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  5. An important post. Thank you. Hugs xx

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  6. Well done Naomi!! That was a brave but very intelligent step on your part. I have had fears for my children and have pretty much followed all of the above ever since I had my first child. I would rather be overprotective than slip up and have one of my boys exposed to abuse. Thank you for sharing. I really like the family code word, it at least gives your children a voice that might ring out some warning bells for you to take action. Again thank you Naomi for speaking out, this will surely help protect some children and help parents to know ways to protect their children a little more.

    Lishaxx

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    1. Love that you have already been doing these tips Lisha. My hope is that it does help families and makes a difference. N x

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  7. Thank you for these tips! I have started telling our 4 yo about private parts and no one is to touch him, as he starts kindy next week so all these tips are very useful. Thank you!!

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    1. Yes! Great time to really start talking about body parts to help prepare them for school. Hope your son enjoy's Kindy :)

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  8. Naomi thank you for sharing. I too am a survivor as well as a couple of my cousins who are the same age as me. All by different members of the family. As much as it hurt reading your post and bringing me to tears and reliving the pain. It also reminds me to teach my children to protect themselves and to help them understand their bodies.

    Thank you xx

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    1. So, so sorry for your pain. I hope that like me, you can make sure the abuse is not passed on to the next generation, your children. Hugs and love xx

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  9. Thank you for sharing this Naomi - there are so many things here that I have never thought of and will make me so much more mindful of in the future. I wish I didn't have to be mindful of these things as the thought of someone sexually abusing my child paralyses me :(

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    1. I wish we did not have to be mindful of these things as well Kelly. It truly is sickening to even think about. I agree.

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  10. Very brave of and selfless of you to share these tips with other parents. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks Melissa. I kind of feel selfish keeping this knowledge just for our family. I want to reach out and help as many families as I can.

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  11. Regular reader here who usually posts under my real name. For obvious reasons I just want to say, Thank you!!! This is a wonderful and helpful post. I am also making sure I break this curse that has been on our family line. There have been a fair few generations of abused youngsters from various family members on my side and my MIL was also abused when she was young and raped later in life (by a stranger) so it is something I am ever-so-aware of stopping (as is my husband).

    Thank you, Naomi, thank you xxx.

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    1. So sorry to hear of the line of family abuse. Sadly, it is very common. I love that you are aware and have the support of your husband to break this horrible evil. I hope you have success. N x

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  12. I am also survivor of child abuse. I do all of these things with my children. I also have a rule for my children. Never go into a room with an adult by yourself and close the door. Always have someone else in the room with you. There is never a reason an adult needs to be in a closed room with a child.

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    1. Excellent rule. All it takes is that one moment of being caught alone. Hugs and love xx

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  13. Thanks Naomi, I've shared a link to your post on facebook as well to hopefully help more children. I think you've written this really well & it's not over the top, although some of the ideas are hard to think about.

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    1. I really appreciate you sharing these tips and I agree, it is hard to think about and even put into practice!

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  14. Love your honesty and compassion Naomi. Your openness about this topic as difficult as it is will help others I know. Can I add to your great list the advice on this website. It takes such a great approach teaching parents to teach children that its not so much about "stranger danger" but learning about "tricky people" based on the sad reality that vast majority of time abuse occurs with a known person family member, friend, trusted person etc. Some really really good stuff on her site I would say a must read for anyone http://safelyeverafter.com/index.html

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    1. Thank you Michele. Appreciate the link as well.

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  15. Thankyou soooo much, I too am a survivor and when I had my daughter a few years ago this was a massive fear that it brought my anxiety back from years ago when it happen to me! I am so paranoid that this will happen to her so much that I think sometimes I'm to cautious but I would rather be to much then not enough, Thankyou again xx

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    1. I have had times where I almost felt paralysed by fear for my children as well. Once you have been abused I don't think you can really ever be too cautious. Sadly, that is just how we become.

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  16. Naomi, a topic that should be discussed more often to ensure the safety of our precious children. When I explain to friends that abuse can and does occur anywhere - with anyone, in any family, at any time - they always say "Oh, not in my family". After abuse occurred in my extended family and no-one knew for over 10 years and we all 'thought' the abuser was a nice guy it has made my hubby and I so much more aware with our own girls the importance of teaching them well to keep them safe, no matter who they are with and how friendly, nice and caring you think they are and that includes all family members and friends. I have my 'keep an eye out' radar on at all times, family functions, parties, public places. Thank you for being an advocate for the children with no voice. xx

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    1. Oh my goodness! Yes! People really believe that don't they. Love that you are parenting with your eyes wide open! N x

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  17. Thank you Naomi, we have talked a lot to our children about their private parts and who can and who can not touch or see them. But you have given some other great tips here. Going to have a family code word from now on as well and you reminded me to keep this an ongoing conversation with my kids. I have had many friends go through sexual abuse as a child, way to many friends. Thanks again.

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    1. Once you begin to talk about abuse with people it is amazing just how common it really is. Way too many people suffer from sexual abuse and I love that you are already addressing it in your home.

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  18. Thank you. Your words will help at least one parent realise what is happening to their child or prevent something bad happening. Well done on your article.

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  19. Thank you Naomi, very well written & loads of excellent things to teach my Son. Thanks, Again!

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  20. Thank you for your honesty. This is a topic that needs to come to light. As a mother of a young child who has had this happen to her child, in a school setting, i am pleased you also addressed this, as coming from other children. This is very important. It was not something i thought about, from such young child(ren), but if its happening to them, they will and can pass it on, through inappropriate play.
    I feel strongly that this topic is only taboo, to the perpetrators, the rest of us should be discussing this topic openly and honestly, as you have done. thank you again.

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    1. How devastating for you to have your child abused in such a way. What a shock! Thank you for your comment to help make people more aware of children passing on abuse that has happened to them. Appreciate your honesty. N x

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  21. Thank you Naomi. Number 2 is a big one for me, my parents always forced us, my ex husband is polynesian and they kiss and hug everyone. My kids don't want to and I won't force them which has caused some issues, but I see no reason they should have to show affection when they feel uncomfortable about it and I know of friends who were forced to show affection to their abusers because the parents did know or didn't believe.

    I go the book :Everyone has a bottom" to teach my kids. A friend whose children were abused by their dad recommended it. My ex hated it at first, but when I explained why I was reading and teaching them and that I want to protect them, he understood.

    Big hugs to you too and thank you so much for sharing. xoxo

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    1. Love that you are already focused on helping to protect your cherubs Kylie. Keep it up! N x

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  22. Thankyou for sharing, very informative and an important cause!!

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  23. A neighbour of ours, he lived a few streets away, was always walking the same route to school as us, with his kids. We would chat as we walked.
    One day out of the blue he asked if my 2 youngest who were 5 & 8 at the time, were interested in a sleepover with his kids the same age.
    I said "oh thanks, but my family doesn't 'do' sleepovers.
    Something my husband & I were never comfortable with was sleepovers for the kids.
    Anyway that was the end of that & we saw each a few times on the walk after that.
    He is now in jail for child sex offences.
    Something that rocked our little community.
    I thank god every single day I said NO that day.
    And all the other times I have said NO to sleepovers for my kids.
    The older boys are nearly 17 & 14 & they say they have never felt like they missed out on anything.
    They were happy NOT having sleepovers.

    Anyway, just my little frightening experience. I am sure there are many out there.
    You go girl, I love waht you are doing & you are very brave. And even though I thought after 17 years of parenting, I had the whole protection thing covered, you have given me new food for thought & I will be implementing some of these in my family immediately.
    Thank you, Niki

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    1. Wow, your story gives me chills. Thank god you said no!

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    2. I've always been a bit relaxed about things like sleepovers since they were such a big part of my childhood experience but your story has made me do a 180, wow, thank you for sharing.

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    3. Oh my! Scary!!! Well done Niki in following your instincts and saying NO! Bravo!

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  24. Thank you.....

    I have similar "rules" for my son, with an extra one.
    We have a code word that only my husband, my son, my sister, my and my husbands parents know. If ANYONE tries to tell him that mum or dad said to come with them - he knows that there needs to be the code word in the sentence.

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    1. Yes! Great idea for those moments when you are stuck and need help picking up the kids from school or something. Thank you for sharing. N x

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  25. although this comes 12 years too late for us, i thank you for your straightforwardness and well written rules. i was naive to the signs from my child and this tool your have written would have helped greatly. I too am posting this on my fb wall as an informative warning to my friends and family.
    bless you <3

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    1. Thank you for sharing and so sorry for your pain. N x

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  26. Brilliant piece Naomi. This is just so important and I love that this year you will be posting pieces about these sorts of issues. I think because we live in a blessed country and feel safe that we can sometimes forget that sexual abuse is a very real issue and we can't be too causal when it comes to our most precious children and teens. I love what you are doing and writing about. I know your journey in this has been so painful but you are just amazing to me for using your story to help others and speak up for the innocent. Thank you, thank you. xx

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    1. Elizabeth thank you for your love and support. It is easy to be relaxed in this wonderful country but sadly in many homes children are suffering every day. Using my experience to be a voice for others is easy and I hope I can do it more in the future :)

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  27. You are a true warrior! Thank you for having the courage to share with us your experience and passing on the knowledge to help keep our kids safe.

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  28. Wow Naomi, this is an amazing post, thank you so very much for sharing, I read every word. NOTHING is more important than keeping our little ones safe. I think sometimes I am a bit over the top with how over-protective I am with my children, not letting them be babysat or be out of my sight... but reading your tips here just reinforces my stance and it makes me determined to continue being that way. You are a strong, incredible person and your cherubs are so lucky to have a mother like you xo

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    1. You go mumma on being protective! Do what you feel is right for your family and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. N x

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  29. Thank you so much, Naomi, for opening this conversation up on your blog. So, so important. x

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  30. Thank you Naomi for this informative and sensitive post filled with very practical advice to protect our families. It was our next door neighbour of many years (with 3 children of his own) - when I was 12 who tried to abuse me.

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    1. So sorry Trish that you had that experience. How horrible! Love that you have moved past that and are a wonderful mum and woman today. N x

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  31. Thanks naomi for all that wonderful advice. In the world of so called helicopter parenting maybe we dont hover enough. If something doesnt feel right it probably isnt and naomi you have made me realise we shouldnt be worried about the decisions we make where our kids are concerned. I have never been a fan of sleepovers because you dont know who else is sleeping over. Thanks naomi for making shedding light on a topic not talked about enough.

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    1. Thank you. This type of hovering is protecting and it is totally fine and I wish more parents would hover in this way! N x

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  32. Thank you for this Naomi - I cannot stress enough the idea of not forcing your kids to be affectionate with others - i have always told my kids they are in charge. if it offends someone too bad. i hated it as a kid when i was forced to kiss male (adult) family friends goodnight etc.

    I have heard about having a family code word or similar but always worried about stressing my kids out with fear. I like the way you explained it and will be doing this immediately - it could apply in so many situations like if they have gone for a sleepover and need to let me know they want to come home...or are uncomfortable with someone.

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    1. I hope you find the code word works well in your home. Give it a try and see how it goes. We can only try sometimes!

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  33. its nice to see that someone else feels the same way i do instead of sweeping it under the carpet , unfortunatly many families feel embarassed to talk about these things . as a victim of sexually abuse i wished my own mother protected me instead of allowing me to years of sexuall abuse by her father and her boyfriend .
    as a mother of 4 beautiful kids i have taught my kids to be open about any situation that life dishes out
    thankyou for making other parents aware of the dangers of preditors

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    1. So sorry to hear about your own experience with abuse. Love that you are a protective mum of 4 beautiful kids and have an open home to talk about such issues. Abuse is not embarrassing. It is real!

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  34. Thank you for this post Naomi. These are great tips and every parent should read this. Will share it. Thank YOU for sharing your knowledge with us. I am so grateful.
    x bianca

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  35. Naomi I know this must have been hard to write and share but wow. So many new things for me to think about. I really need to do a few more things. I am very overprotective by nature but there are still things I could be doing like the safe word.
    And it could happen so easily. I'll share something with you. I never let my little ones go off with strangers or people we've just met. I went somewhere for a class and had to take one of the kids with me as she'd been sick. The man working there was so friendly and over the top friendly with my little one and put on a dvd and was chatting and standing so close to me. He then asked could he take the pram and walk my little one around the block to get her to sleep so I could focus on the class. I just about had a heart attack and said no thank you she's fine. He asked again. Later the lady I was with just about died that he'd asked that because she'd been watching how close he was standing to me and she wanted to come and say something. Maybe he was harmless and maybe he wasn't but it was very uncomfortable. It really reinforced how I am with strangers and people outside our own little family. But what happens when we are not there and that's just the biggest issue.
    this is an amazing resource for us, however hard the subject matter is.

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    1. How horrible Corrie. So glad you stood your ground and protected your cherubs. It is really hard to judge sometimes if people are being kind or cruel. Better to be safe than sorry I always think!

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  36. as this may be a moral story. much is common sense. I do applaud you on your statements and story. takes strength.

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  37. I just want to thank you. This is such an important post for so very many reasons xxx

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  38. Thank you Naomi, it is wonderful to have such tips all in one place and so very well articulated. Mandatory reading for all parents xo

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  39. Thank you, you're an amazingly special person with great power to make change for others

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  40. Naomi don't stop x

    Last April our 8 year old son who has Autism came to my room, I was reading (I am his Mum). I lifted the blanket and asked if he wanted to come read with me....he said 'Do you want to rub my wee wee like %@##^$ does?"

    This person is a family member and to say we have been through hell is an understatement. The issue becomes complex when dealing with a child with special needs who isn't able to express clearly what happened and how often.

    I contacted numerous places to get help and found it impossible to find someone to talk with who could understand and give me advice. I really mean IMPOSSIBLE, if you think the system works think again. The only place that was helpful and confidential was http://www.childwise.net/

    I am an articulate, well educated, determined mother and I could get NO HELP. I found it almost impossible to believe in this day and age how difficult it was and how the system then proceeded to let down my son. As he would not make a reliable witness no further action was taken, I spoke with his school and they rightly had to report. Our son was then interviewed without our knowledge at the school by the police, the only way I found out was by him mentioning it in the car on the way home. I am so glad that I involved the school who were able to understand our stress levels and the turmoil going on at home for my sons sibling who is 10.

    I believe my son so I must act!!

    We still see this person, and nobody has an idea of how devastating this is until it has touched you and your family. It is true that evil comes in many forms and this was one we had no way of seeing, none of those hints were applicable, these people thrive on families keeping the secret, but not this Mum!!!

    Be vigilant and love your kids and always believe them x

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    1. Oh lovely. So much pain and so much hurt. I love that you are fighting to help your child and it really is so sad that it is often left to us as parents to take on the counselling role and to fix the hurt that has taken place. You keep on fighting and do not stop speaking out about this and searching for what is best for your family and child. In your case I can see that none of these tips would have been much help. My heart aches for you. Much love xx

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    2. Hi

      I too had a similar experience, I found out that my kids were being abused by a close family member. To say it didn't devastate my family would be telling a big fat lie! Like this person I sought help and I sought and sought and sought. Unfortunately my experience was similar. As much as I tried to get help from the 'system' I seemed to be pushed back two steps. Gratefully the Child Abuse Unit were as diligent as they were.

      Without their assistance we would not have been put into contact with different agencies, sadly though these agencies have limited capacities, and resources. It's even worse when trying to seek help for the 'Perpetrator' (who mostly always is a victim themselves).

      This is definitely an area that needs more funding and awareness to protect our little ones. My kids now (and this is realistic) have the potential to also become perpetrators themselves. It is a vicious cycle and sadly when the abuse is so extensive it's not a ride that one can just jump off when they've had enough. It's a life sentence. I'm grateful for this blog because even though we've moved right away from the offenders and I have admittedly relaxed abit about who I allow around my children I can now refocus my attention.

      Grateful for all the honesty!!

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  41. Feeling very blessed just at this minute that both of my teen girls have made it this far without having to face any such threat. Regardless, some of the points above have sparked a few idea's for discussion after dinner, knowledge is power I always say. Thank You!

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    1. How wonderful Nikki! Love that you want to still talk about it with your family. N x

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  42. I appreciate this post. Especially the bit about forcing affection. My daughter is not affectionate, a bit of a germ phob, and that reminder that that is ok is timely. We are all different.
    Scary topic but one that needs to be addressed all the same.

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    1. We are all different and I appreciate that you let your daughter express herself how she wants. Thanks for your comment Mandy x

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  43. Thank you for sharing this important information every parent needs to know.

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  44. Amazing Naomi, thanks so much for sharing. I pray your story opens many people's eyes and that they listen to the words of their children and don't brush them aside like you experienced. It must of been so painful not being listened to when you spoke up about your abuse.

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    1. Bec, I hope my experience helps others as well. We need to talk about this in our homes more and more.

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  45. Excellent, clear & well thought out advice Naomi. I appreciate it. I have discussed this with my children many times but you've given some extra advice that I'll take on board for the next chat. Thank you xoxo

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    1. Thank you Kate. Glad you have found it helpful.

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  46. Great Post Naomi!! Thank You for such great advice. We have spoken to our children but definately a few points to still discuss and we need to keep this topic always 'current' not just spoken of once. I like the code word phrase - will be talking to my children to enforce this. Thank You Again, great post.

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    1. Yes, keeping the topic current is the best way to address it. To keep adding to it and to keep your relationship close with your children will go a long way in preventing abuse.

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  47. Love this post. I do talk to my daughters about this but will revisit it again with them. I will bookmark this and use it as a checklist that I can refer too. Thank you for reminding us and informing us.

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  48. Naomi, thank you so very, very much. I have shared this on FB and will also email to friends. We have spoken to our children but some excellent ideas and a reminder to keep this talk going throughout their young lives. Also, I'm envious that you are going to write every blog post you've been scared to write - I so wish I cold be this brave.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing Blythe. Well, it is easy to hide behind the computer some days :)

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  49. I particularly like your idea of using a family code word. A child in my family was sexually abused as an infant by a family member. A code word is a brilliant way of him letting us know he needs out when triggers stir up his emotions.

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    1. So sorry to hear that Jennifer. I hope the code word works in allowing him to let you know when he is feeling upset or scared. Hugs and love xx

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  50. You are an inspiration Naomi - your work is simply brilliant. Thank you. Together we will make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child. It is passion and committment like yours that will make it happen.

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    1. Wow! Thank you so much Hetty. I so admire the great work you do in promoting this topic and in trying to put a stop to childhood sexual abuse. Really appreciate you taking the time to comment and hope to help out with Bravehearts some time this year. N x

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  51. Thank you for your courage in sharing these tips. As a mum of two little girls, this is something that floats around in the back of my mind. I would never want it to happen to them. I will keep your tips in mind and figure out how to introduce them at the right time.

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    1. Good luck Veronica. You will know when the best time is to introduce it. N x

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  52. What a timely post Naomi. I have been wondering how to approach this with my daughter who is just about to start school. Thank you for sharing your story and for taking the time to give us the tools to help try and keep our little ones safe.

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    1. Great time to start talking about it and even to introduce it when your child starts going to school. Best of luck for your cherubs for the school year!

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  53. Thanks for this timely post. I have been thinking about how I was going to bring up this topic with my girls. I'm sorry you had to go through this, through your experience you have come up with some very practical tips. And it will give us all something to think about and ways to help protect every child.

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    1. Thanks Lisa. I hope you found the tips helpful and have found some ways to start talking about this in your home. It really is a difficult topic to just start talking about but so important to address for our sweet children.

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  54. First of all, I am so sorry that this kind of pain has touhed you so personally. Thank you for this post. I've taught/done most of the things that you mention here but I neglected to really stress that this person could be someone that they really love and that loves them.

    My brother in law was staying with us for a week and half over part of the holidays. He is a much loved uncle and one we trusted completely. He claimed to be a christian. He prayed with me every day and discussed God's word with me. He joined our family devotions every evening. He is a little slow so tends to be more childlike and would rather play games then sit and do adult things. This made him the fun uncle by all my little's.

    Two weeks ago today I found out that he had been molesting the boys. We called the police right away and he is in jail. But now we are in a world of pain as we try to help the boys heal. They are fearful of going into certain areas of the house. My 7 year old won't sleep in his bed or bedroom so we are getting him a new bed and redoing his room to make it a new safe place. They are both having nightmares at night. We are devastated and in shock as he is the last person we would have suspected doing something like this.

    The boys know we believe them completely and don't doubt what happened. They have started counceling. We listen when they need to talk and giving them lots of assurance and love. I feel horribly guilty that I didn't know that this was happening under my nose. I am wondering if there is anything else we can be doing? Since you have been through this please tell me what else we can do. He gave them such mixed messages about God and being a good uncle and doing and saying inappropriate sexual things to them. It makes me sick just writing this. I appreciate any wisdom you have to offer me. Thank you!

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    1. Lori, you are doing all the right things. The most important thing you have done is to call the police and have him jailed. This sends the clearest possible message to your boys that what he did was wrong. My grand father abused my sister and I as children, and was a very religious man. When my mum found out she confronted him and removed us from his house, but she never told my nana knowing it would probably kill her. So he was never held accountable for his actions and we still had contact with him in the coming years, although obviously never alone. Unfortunately this lead me to feel greater shame, as if it had to be kept secret, then if must be shameful. The main reason I am responding to you, is regarding the religious side of things. It completely turned me against religion, as I believe he used his religion to exonerate himself in some way. 'I can do what I want as long as I confess my sins and ask for forgiveness, I will be forgiven.' Unfortunately your boys may feel the same way, given that they will now relate what happened to them, to your brother in law and his sick idea of religion. My advice there would be to tread softly regarding that side of things for a while. If they ask, perhaps let them know that no God would condone what he has done. With your love, strength and support they will get through this.

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    2. Oh Lori. How horrible for you and your family. After reading a little of your blog I can see you have already had has such a challenge with these children and for this to happen is simply tragic. What you have done is absolutely outstanding in helping them. You are listening to them, you are loving them, you are prepared to make changes to help them feel happier and at ease and you have them receiving counselling. Brilliant! Healing from abuse takes time. It is different for everyone and for every child. What they need now is the opportunity to talk about it as often as they like, to be reminded they are wonderful and loved and to be given time to move forward and heal. As far as the religion side of things goes, I really love the comment above. People who use religion in relation to abuse are sick and have no real concept of God. God does not support this type of behaviour in any way! You will know what steps to take and what to do for your children. You have already acted out of instinct and that will keep leading and guiding you as they grow older and heal. Hugs and much love xx

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  55. I too have suffered and survived child sexual abuse and after many years of honesty, therapy and healing, am an advocate for educating, sharing and speaking out about child abuse. Thank you Naomi for your wonderful, brave, wise and needed words of wisdom and insight. We must have open, honest and clear two way communication with children, this helps to empower them to protect themselves and talk about whats happening to and around them. Giving them clear information, who to trust, who to trust if that person lets them down...so that they may have access to help when needed. Nobody told me what to do, who to turn to and what to do if it was a member of my own family, sadly all too often the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are well known to children and their families. We must empower our children with the honesty & communication skills they need to protect themselves and speak up and speak out...Thank you for you wise words Naomi, may your post reach many people.

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    1. I agree 100%. Love that you are an advocate for child abuse. We need more wonderful people like you in the world! Thank you for your inspiring comment. N x

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  56. Hi Naomi, I just wanted to let you know how great think this piece is. I came across it via the Protective Behaviours facebook page. The tips are spot on and written in a way that is applicable to everyday parenting. I came across the huge rate of childhood sexual abuse through my work as a clinical psychologist and have heard many heartbreaking stories from my clients about not being believed and saw the devestating impact that had had on them both in relation to their belief about whether others can and will help and also suffering through ongoing abuse. Since having my own children I have started very young in putting into practice many of the principles you talk of but this article was a reminder of the need for repition and also to remind them about secrets - they are at an age where secrets are fun and exciting - so they were not thrilled when I discussed it with them today but we have negotiated that birthday presents and mothers day activities at school are "secret surprises" they can keep. thanks for this well written article.

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  57. Thank you for sharing, Naomi! What stuns me is your bravery for admitting and disclosing publicly that you too have been sexually harassed, and is strong about it!

    xOxO!

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  58. Wonderful article and so important!
    My daughter was abused at school by a much older child. Unfortunately, it wasn't "illegal" but very damaging and heartbreaking. It took her innocence.
    I am SO so glad that we had some chats before this happened though and she had the words to tell me. We had counselling and are getting through.
    Bravehearts is an AMAZING resource too!

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  59. Thanks so much for sharing your blog with us. We are just going through the court system after charging my ex partner (not the childrens father) for abuse of my son and daughter. She has not let it ruin her life and it has molded her into an amazing adult. My son has come through it fine too. I always was so vigilante of them when they were little but obviously not enough. The man and I got together when my daughter was four and he and I had known each other since childhood hence I trusted him more than normal. After we broke up I found out about my daughter who he had molested from 4 to 13 and when I asked her why she didnt tell me as I had alway drummed it into them these things she said that she thought it was normal and that it happened to every little girl. This, I can tell you broke my heart. He used to bribe her constantly and not with big things but things like letting her drink coffee when ever they were alone or give her money and spoil her..... Thanks so much for your blog I will definitely pass it along and will follow your next installments

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  60. Wow! This is the best blog post i have ever read. I too am a survivor of child sex abuse. It went on for years, in our family home, i told two people and neither believed me. It wasnt until i was 17 and suffering a mental break down that i told people and was believed.
    I am now the proud mummy to an amazing 14 month old girl and will be using all ten tips! My heart goes out to you and all those children who have or do go through this. I cant imagine the strength it took to write this post but you made me feel better knowing that other wonderful people are survivors too and are making sure the abuse stops with us. So much love and respect xx

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  61. Naomi this is a wonderful blog. I have shared it with my networks as it is everything I teach children, teachers and parents. I would love to send you some of my resources if you would like to see them. Kind regards Holly-ann

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  62. Thank you for this fantastic blog and your openness and honesty. You and other parents/teachers might also like to check out the children's book Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept, see : www.somesecrets.info Beside the book and its message about protecting our kids, there are 9 Body Safety Tips in the Parents section.

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  63. As a survivor myself, your tips are also how I chose to raise my son! Excellent post.

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  64. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart! I have shared this on my Pinterest page, as well as my Facebook page. I pray these words reach exactly who they're meant to reach. Blessings to you!

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  65. Thank you so much for this post... I can't believe a lot of this never occurred to me. I have been forcing my son to hug our family members, and even though I know it's just because he's stubborn that he doesn't want to all the time. I need to let him decide what he's comfortable with. He uses his words to tell people he loves them, he doesn't have to hug them. And if I keep forcing him to do it, he'll start resenting me and not trusting me. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    -Amy (USA)

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  66. This post is a very informative one to be more aware to protect children for sexual abuse.

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  67. Rach WittonMarch 25, 2013

    Such a brave and honest post, I know from personal experience how harmful such abuse can be and how it follows you every day in your life, as my dear friend says, sexual abuse is part of you, like the nose on your face - it doesn't go away and you learn to live with it. I'm very clear on how I need to protect my own 3 children, especially difficult considering they are only with me 50% of the time, I'm not certain though if sharing the story of my own sexual abuse would help them understand how real it is? Any thoughts would be much appreciated.

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  68. Great tips to protect your children.

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  69. Just read this from a pinterest pin. Thanks for writing this. It is very prevalent where I come from as well and I too am a survivor. Good tips. We need to be informed about this stuff and I'm so glad you wrote this. Just reading it, caused me to have anxiety but I love my children more than my own comfort. I wish this could be splashed on bill boards and passed out at school meetings and churchs. If we could bring it to light then maybe it wouldn't be so scary to talk about. Thanks again.

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  70. My 6 yr old has recently come out and told me that his best friend has been 'touching him' while at school after I found him acting out onto his younger brother. Has been a harrowing few weeks now as he has completely shut down. Keeps crying and has accidents. My beautiful little boy. I cut off all contact with the boy before my son told me as I thought that something was off with this boy deep within my heart. My son has now told his teacher that this boy was doing 'bad things' to him while he was at my house one school holiday. It is now a case of building of his confidence to talk to everyone about it. We have a appointment with Bravehearts in 2 wks which hopefully will help.
    Definately agree with going with your instinct and I thank god that I looked like an overprotective mother when I said NO to sleepovers with this boy- especially when he at 5 spoke in accurate detail about penis's going into other boys after they kiss..... What the!!!

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  71. Thank you for sharing this Naomi.
    We have talked about many of your tips with our kids, but I will be revisiting them again now I have read this and adding in the code word for our family.
    I am so glad we have never made an issue out of our kids being affectionate with family if they didn't want to.
    Also my four year old was terrified of the male swim teacher last year and I made sure she didn't have that teacher, as I think it is important to teach them to trust their instincts.

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  72. I like your blog very much. Because that is very useful and helpful for me.
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  73. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  74. Hi Naomi,
    Thank you for your courage. I am so sorry you endured this evil. I have also experienced the same and now that I have 3 children all under the age of 3 this is in the forefront of my mind because I to want to protect my children from enduring this. It's my worse fear. How would you communicate this to a 2 year old and 3 year old? I love your tips but I guess I wonder how to explain it to my 2 year old and 3 year old because they are just beginning to

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  75. Hi Naomi,
    Excellent, excellent post! I think the statistics are greater than what we are told. I was sexually abused as was my husband (we are in the USA). We are both vigilant yet sensible about our 3 boys and their safety. The more this subject is discussed and talked about the sooner the abuse can be eradicated. People don't want to think about it but it is not with strangers or the boogey-man that children are molested - it is with family members and close family friends!!!!!!!! That is the way the pedophile gets in the situation through familiarity. Wake up, people, if you don't realize this very important fact!!!

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  76. AnonymousMay 01, 2013

    Hi Naomi,
    I love this and I have drilled this into my 3 children (12, 4 and 3). I was abused by a family member when I was 13 and it continued until I was 15. I told my mum and while she did believe me and confronted this person, that was it. No further action was taken. I feel cheated and I won't have my kids feel that was if I can stop it. I have especially taken more time to impress the importance with my 3 year old daughter (my 12 and 4 year old sons, have got the message no problem) and I will be putting them through self defence when they are old enough so that no matter who is threatening them, they will be able to also defend themselves before help arrives. I hope that more people read this and take the time to teach their children.

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  77. Sovery true. I am a sole paren & was befriended by a lovely, helpful, generous man. A few things he said & did raised my suspicions, so I confided in a neighbour & friend. She had been told that he was a predator & a friend with access to information confirmed it. Thank God for my instincts!! Family Planning Qld has a great book called "Everyones got a bottom" that teaches about privacy & safety & opens the door to conversation. My kids love it!!

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  78. AnonymousMay 01, 2013

    I have goosebumps (and tears welling). I am also a survivor of child sexual abuse and absolutely agree it has not defined me but sure has shaped me, I couldn't explain that better. I find it so difficult to teach my children all of the above but do so with gritted teeth knowing it happens all too often. My fear is that I teach my children reluctantly (because I still have this pathetic belief that I will just know when a predator is around them : Totally Un True!!) then are all children being educated about this at all. The silence about sexual abuse is deafening, my own loving caring partner refuses to discuss it with me, imagine all the family secrets lying dormant!! Thanks for a great blog, we should see more of it xo

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  79. Sovery true. I am a sole paren & was befriended by a lovely, helpful, generous man. A few things he said & did raised my suspicions, so I confided in a neighbour & friend. She had been told that he was a predator & a friend with access to information confirmed it. Thank God for my instincts!! Family Planning Qld has a great book called "Everyones got a bottom" that teaches about privacy & safety & opens the door to conversation. My kids love it!!

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  80. Sovery true. I am a sole paren & was befriended by a lovely, helpful, generous man. A few things he said & did raised my suspicions, so I confided in a neighbour & friend. She had been told that he was a predator & a friend with access to information confirmed it. Thank God for my instincts!! Family Planning Qld has a great book called "Everyones got a bottom" that teaches about privacy & safety & opens the door to conversation. My kids love it!!

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  81. AnonymousMay 01, 2013

    As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a new mum I am terrified this could happen to my little one i am A single mother and I am even a little worried about getting into a relationship with someone because I am paranoid that they might hurt her.
    I get anxious about her even sleeping in a separate room from me I know I have to teach her to be aware of these things but I also don't want to scare her your tips have given me a good guide line on how to go about teaching her without making her a paranoid child.
    Let's hope our generation can be more aware that these preditors are amongst us unfortunately the awareness wasn't really there when I was a child my mother didn't believe me and I had to endure my mother still maintaining a friendship with my abuser my trust was broken I was ashamed of myself and I think these feelings contributed to years of depression which after 10 years I am finally feeling more in control of. The emotional scars will always be there and the anger. These animals don't just take a child's innocents they change the person that child was meant to become.

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  82. AnonymousMay 02, 2013

    thank you so much.... i am going to be bringing a child into this world atthe end of the year and this insight has been so helpful. I am so grateful for you sharing yourexperience and knowledge on this matter. Thank you for putting in the effort to make a difference in the lives of all children. Can never thank you enough :)

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  83. AnonymousMay 03, 2013

    I am so glad l have read this post, l am guilty of forcing my children to say goodbye to people thinking it was rude of them not to. This will change for sure, thanks a million for your insight.

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  84. Just wanted to say thank you so much for posting this. I'm a mom of two gorgeous toddlers now and I was also abused as a child but never said anything. While it was hard for me to read this post through the tears, I'm so glad I finished reading. Thank you for helping me to heal a little bit, and thank you for all of the great tips! Thank you for being a voice for not only me but so many others out there.

    I found this via pinterest and will be repining for sure and recommending others repin as well :)

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  85. AnonymousMay 12, 2013

    Hi, thank you for writing this! I too am a survivor and thriver (as you put it) of child sexual abuse but have never told a soul until now. I am 32 years old. I am a mother of 3 toddlers and it scares me that it will happen to them. Your post brought tears to my heart and soul but the tips are great and very well could be life changing. Thank you so much for having the strength you do!

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  86. These are such wonderful tips.

    When I took my daughter in for her annual check up at the age of 3 - I remember the doctor being very good about telling him what he was going to do before doing anything. He asked her permission to do anything to her body, and then asked my permission in front of her. He reminded her that no one else should touch or see her private parts (anything her underwear covered), but that sometimes doctors or mommies need to. After he was done examining her, I was helping her get dressed and she gave me a hug and whispered "But mom, you said not to show anyone my privates." I was so proud of her for remembering that, for telling me her feelings and that she didn't like it. I told her over and over how proud I was of her for expressing that to me, and for talking to me about it.

    I really hope she continues to remember those things. Having 2 little girls terrifies me of what they may face, and my inability to put them into bubbles to keep them safe. Thank you for the additional tips to provide some protection.

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  87. AnonymousMay 17, 2013

    My mother did all of this with me, but unfortunately, it didn't "protect" me. However, it helped me tell my mother what happened and action was taken against my perpetrator. I don't necessarily like the use of the word "protect" but I think this article is great. It is really important to teach children these things so that they can feel comfortable with sharing with their mom and dad anything that they feel concerned about. This level of communication takes away some of the feelings of fear and shame if they feel that they can share with their parents. I like these steps!

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  88. As a parent, this is always something we want to protect our children from. I'm sorry to hear you suffered. No child should have to go through that. Thank you for sharing your tips.
    Emma x

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  89. You did good; very good read and thanks for the advice.

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  90. i like your advice...but some fathers sexually abuse children too..how can i prevent that???

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  91. Thank you for such a wonderful post. This is something that needs to be discussed over and over and over until it stops it happening. My baby girl is only 5 months, but this is one of my biggest fears. Two months ago, I saw on the news that a woman (here in the U.S.) allowed her boyfriend to rape her three month old daughter and its been haunting me ever since. I mean, my baby was the same age. I had nightmares for days and I've been doing as much research as I can on how to tell and what to do, just in case. As a first time mom, I can't thank you enough for sharing your story and the wonderful tips for prevention. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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  92. Thanks for sharing these tips, I find it very helpful to have these things reinforced. I know I argue about some of these points constantly with my partner as he does not want to be embarrassed as being over protective in front of his other family who are more relaxed than I am used to.

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  93. Naomi, thank you for opening your heart with us to your story. I know from personal experience that was not easy. I totally 100% agree with everything you said and would add one more thing..
    This is just as common in the U.S.. Your tips are awesome!!
    Thanks again,
    Patti

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  95. Thanks a lot for such as great article post on "10 tips to protect your children from being sexually abused...'! very useful for parents. Thanks again. Troubled Teens counselling Adelaide, Relationship counselling, Teenagers counselling Adelaide

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  96. Expect traffic from NZ soon. I hope it's okay to link to you, I think you have touched upon a subject that calls for some consideration! I really, really appreciated your post. Shudder-inducing thoughts 'n' all, I needed to read it.

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  97. Thank you so much for your post here! I found it via Pinterest and pinned it to one of my boards. I must admit that I had to persuade myself to pin it because I am a survivor as well and in the same situation you were with being shut down by those I told and told that I was lying. Those people follow me on there so I didn't want to open the floor for nasty comments and arguments. Such good information. Thanks again!

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