This blog post originally appeared on Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault's Blog here
For the past two and a half decades I have been providing mental health services to children and adolescents who have been sexually abused, as well as treating children with sexual behavior problems, and youth who have sexually offended. These services are critical for the healthy development of youth and our communities as a whole. Equally important is doing everything we can do to be PROACTIVE and PREVENTION-ORIENTED to stop sexual victimization from occurring in the first place. Factors that can help reduce the risk of childhood sexual victimization and promote healthy development include:
Establishing and maintaining open communication between children and their loving caregivers about all topics including sexuality
Enhancing children’s knowledge about their bodies including their very special private parts
Helping children to grow up loving their bodies including their very special private parts.
Enhancing children’s knowledge about their living environment including the people in their life who can help keep them safe.
Enhancing children’s knowledge about healthy boundaries, healthy relationships, and healthy sexuality.
Enhancing children’s knowledge about potential at-risk scenarios regarding how someone might try to sexually abuse them. Note: These scenarios must be presented in a manner that educates youth without scaring them or making them feel bad about their bodies
Ensuring that caregivers are vigilant about who, when, and where they allow their children to be under the care of others.
To help promote these factors within youth and families, I recently authored a children’s book entitled, Our Very Special Bodies. It is a fun, interactive book for preschool and primary school-age children to read with their loving caregivers. Creating a safe, healthy environment in which children grow up to be well-adjusted, prosocial adults is what we all want for our families and our communities.