Having multiple conversations with your child about the dangers of sexual abuse is essential to provide them with the knowledge necessary to identify a dangerous situation and avoid the manipulation of their trust. The next step is showing your child how to use that knowledge to get out of unsafe conditions and away from unsafe people.
Creating a safety plan provides your child with the confidence of knowing that there is always a way out of an unsafe situation and the specific steps they can take to keep themselves safe. A safety plan also gives you, as a parent, the relief of knowing your child has the means necessary to protect themselves when you are not around and the important information of who your child trusts and where they feel safe.
Use the following tips to develop a safety plan with your child:
1. Safe Spaces
Have a conversation with your child about what safety means to them. How do they feel safe? Where do they feel safe? Once your child recognizes their own safe spaces, talk about where they would go to feel safe if they were in a dangerous situation at school or at a friend’s house. Create a list of safe spaces that your child can easily find and how to get there from areas where they regularly spend time such as school, the playground, extracurricular clubs, and a friend or relative’s house.
2. Trusted Adults
One of the most important aspects of a safety plan is that your child has a close circle of adults that they can fully trust to help them without judgment and to contact you whenever needed.
Ask your child about the adults they trust in their life. Why do they trust them? How do they feel safe with them? Create a list of these adults and how your child can reach or talk to them when they feel unsafe.
3. Code Words
We encourage you to create a special code word with your child to use during unsafe situations. Your child should text you or call you and say this code word so that you know they feel unsafe and need your help. Code words can be especially helpful in situations when the abuser is listening, as they can be an emergency signal without letting the abuser know that the child is seeking help. Code words can also be helpful to use with a trusted adult!
Although it's challenging to think of sexual abuse happening to your child, one of the best prevention tools you have as a parent is to protect your child by preparing them to face an unsafe situation. By encouraging your child to have the confidence and courage they need to uphold their boundaries and get out to seek safety, their vulnerabilities are strengthened against abusers and they are able to take part in ensuring their own future to be free from sexual abuse.