Instead, teach them body safety so they understand their rights, that abuse is never their fault, and that you will always be there to support them.
It has never been and never will be the responsibility of a child to protect themselves from the tactics sexual abusers employ to take advantage of a a child's trust to deceive, manipulate, and control their victims. And it would be unwise to expect that a child - even the most confident, would be able to. Every child deserves to know they have a right to bodily autonomy, and to understand what constitutes inappropriate behavior - but that it is never their fault if a body safety rule is broken. No child should feel that they failed or ashamed that they were too 'weak' to protect themselves - it's the job of us adults to keep them safe.Every child should know that there is someone that would believe them and be proud of them for telling - no matter what. Body safety should teach children they have body safety is their right, not responsibility.
Beyond that, children not only need to be educated to keep them safe, but to reduce the chance that they could perpetrate abuse against another child. Body safety is a two-way street, and with 40% of sexual abuse estimated to be perpetrated by other children, we have the opportunity to reduce the number of children being abuse by taking time to teach our kids about consent, respect, and personal responsibility.
Every adult should know the warning signs of abuse so that a child that needs our help can receive it sooner than later. Remember, most children (even children educated in body safety) most likely will not tell right away.
2. Because you believe that it is the only way to keep a child safe.
Instead, lets teach kids body safety in addition to taking preventative efforts.
The reality is, we as adults can do more on our own to keep our kids safe than by relying on their education in body safety. Educating ourselves on the situations and warning signs that signal increased risk of abuse, minimizing opportunities that our children are alone with others, and possibly the most important yet least exercised - educating and seeking others to become involved in reducing risk. Convicted sexual predators have shared that they targeted families/children or took advantage of a situation where they were trusted to be alone with a child, without any concern that the protective parent was even considering the risk of sexual abuse. Too many families that did educate their children in body safety never suspected that those they trust the most, the ones they assumed were on their child's side would break that trust. It's not enough to educate ourselves and our children - we need to involve our partners, family, friends, teachers, and youth leaders to be proactive in reducing risk and taking steps to keep kids safe.
Think of a child's education in body safety as the last line of defense - we, the adults, should be at the front lines. Think of trust, not as a gift, but as an action involving authenticity checks and balances.
3. Because you're terrified your child will be kidnapped by a stranger.
Instead, teach them about lures and how to get help if they're ever alone (Protecting the Gift is a great book for this), teach them how to get out of uncomfortable situations - not just yell and tell, but that it's OK to make excuses to get away, and it's OK if they were too scared or confused to get away.
In approximately 93% of cases where a child was sexually abused, the offender was someone the child knew, trusted, and often loved - most often a family member or close family friend. A parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt/uncle, cousin, caretaker, family friend, coach/mentor, or teacher. In a growing number of child predator situations involving strangers, the perpetrator established a relationship with the child online, masquerading themselves as someone closer in age. The Stranger Danger mentality can be dangerous if we believe they pose a greater threat than the people we know.
There's no denying that this can be a hard reality to accept, but there's no good excuse why we can't each do more to raise awareness and protect the children in our own communities. With 1:4 girls and 1:6 boys estimated to have experienced sexual abuse, there is no greater threat to the health and well-being of our children, and no better time to do more to stop this from affecting today's generation and in the future.