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Do you talk to your kids about "body safety"?

I am an advocate for sexual abuse prevention education; commonly known as "body safety" and the author of a children’s book Some Secrets should Never Be Kept. Today, with the sincerity of doing a "good thing", I rang up two of my local kindergartens and offered a free body safety talk to their parent community. Disappointingly, my offer was meet with a very luke-warm reception… ‘We’ll get back to you, if we are interested…’ And of course, from the tone of the woman’s voice, I know they will not be getting back to me anytime soon!

Here I was, offering free of charge and in my own time, an information session to parents on how to keep their children safe from inappropriate touch. I was treated by the kindergarten teacher with polite hostility and I felt very much like a salesperson trying to push my wares. I am constantly shocked by educators and parents’ rejection of this simple but powerful message. The teaching of body safety to young children could be the difference between a life of possibilities and a life destroyed.

I do understand that this topic can be quite "scary" for educators and parents who have only ever heard about the sexual abuse of children via the media. And as more and more horrific stories appear on our many screen forms, the conversation around this topic is growing. (And in my opinion, that is a good thing. The more survivors who come forward, the more prevention is on everyone’s radar for this generation of kids.) I have learned, when I approach educators and parents who do not work in the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, to call my advocacy ‘body safety’ rather than sexual abuse prevention education. There is a good reason for this. Most parents, when I mention instructing kids in sexual abuse prevention education, say the topic makes them feel uncomfortable (‘icky’ is a word I have heard on a number of occasions). Equally, they are concerned their child will loose their ‘innocence’ if this topic is broached. When I change tact and encourage them to teach ‘body safety’, I am met with less resistance. And when I mention the statistics of: 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday and 93% will know their perpetrator most folks are shocked. (Yes… the sexual abuse of most children happens in their own homes and with someone they know and trust.)

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Body safety has a very simple message: Your body is your body and no-one has the right to touch it and if they do, you must tell someone your trust and keep on telling until you are believed. Sex and the act of sexual abuse never enters the conversation. We teach water safety and we teach road safety, and when we do, no graphic details are ever mentioned. Similarly, when teaching body safety, the message is simple, non-threatening and the message is safe!

So getting back to my luck-warm reception from the kindergarten teachers I approached… maybe I need your help. Maybe I need readers such as yourselves to view "body safety" as I do; as a non-threatening but crucial part of childhood safety education. People and organizations such as myself can’t do this alone. Please ask your schools and kindergarten if they are teaching body safety and if not why not? I have a website full of free ‘stuff’ on the topic. And please talk to other parents about teaching body safety. Believe me… teaching your child body safety is really not that hard at all. And you never know your interest in the topic may filter down to those kindergarten teachers I approached. I’m hoping so!

Jayneen Sanders is a teacher, author, mother of three teenage daughters and an active advocate for sexual abuse prevention education both in the home and in schools. She has written many children’s books over the last 20 years and is currently the lead author of Engage Literacy —a new P–3 literacy series published by Capstone Classroom. Jayneen is the author of the children’s picture book ‘Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept’. The book includes notes to parents, and discussion questions to guide parents, carergivers and teachers. Available both on www.somesecrets.info and on Amazon. For more information on this topic and Jay’s book go to www.somesecrets.info

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