Talking to Children About Sexual Abuse Important, Expert Says

January 11, 2018 10:13 PM

The Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault says oftentimes there are no warning signs from potential abusers.

And those abusers can be individuals close to the family.


That's why it is so important to talk to children and teenagers about sexual abuse.

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"I think these need to be ongoing conversations," said Jude Foster, the Statewide Medical Forensic Policy Program Coordinator for the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

"I think they need to be about sexuality in general, so its not just sexual abuse. So you're kind of opening that door so there can be ongoing dialogue."

Foster said children, especially teenagers, can be afraid to speak about what's been happening to them.

FULL INTERVIEW: Expert: How to Discuss Sexual Abuse with Children and Teenagers

"I think teenagers are very concerned they're going to get in trouble if they've been having these conversations with their parents," Foster said. "A lot of teenagers, particularly when we're talking about someone in a position of authority, it's not just an isolated incident that just happened out of the blue.

"Usually people who are in positions of authority are grooming. I think part of the grooming process is kind of pushing a teen's boundaries with parents to (see) 'How much can I get you to lie to your parents? How much can I get you to go around the rules?' Also, another part of grooming is giving victim survivor's gifts, making them promises so teenagers might be worried about getting in trouble with their parents.

"And I think just talking about sexual abuse with a peer is a lot easier than talking to a parent."

While there are not always warning signs, Foster said there are some things parents can look out for.

"If you have a child who all of the sudden has expensive gifts, or gifts in general," Foster said. "Expensive clothes - things like that.

"If their schedule is different. If they're going places they didn't used to go. And again, I think having that ongoing dialogue with teenagers - checking, (saying) 'Hey, you looked upset. You looked concerned when you came home from practice. Is there anything going on? Do you want to talk about this?'"

Foster said the most important thing to remember is that the abuser is the only one to blame when sexual abuse happens.

"I wish there was a magical cheat sheet we could give to parents, and parents could sit down with their children (and say) if you do these 10 things your child isn't going to be abused.

"I want to remind people the only person in a situation like this that can stop sexual abuse from happening is the perp or offender." 

For more information on dealing with sexual abuse visit the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault or Stop It Now! online.


Ana Lastra

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