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I have heard them all.  I have heard all the reasons why parents don’t discuss child sexual abuse prevention with their children.  I have heard them so often that I can recite them by heart.  As the new year approaches, I decided it would be a good idea to memorialize the top 10 reasons for not discussing the subject.  I invite you to add any that may have been omitted.

  1. Children are seldom victims of sexual abuse.  Actually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused by the time they are 18.  Consider those numbers for a moment.  They are shocking and devastating.  Those figures alone should motivate parents to seek out prevention strategies.
  2. This kind of thing doesn’t happen where we live.  Actually, child sexual abuse has no socio-economic boundaries.  It doesn’t care if you are black or white, rich or poor or what religion you practice.  It can creep in when you least expect it.
  3. We don’t let our children go near strangers.  Actually, 93% of all child sexual abuse occurs at the hands of someone known to the child and trusted by the parents.  Even if a child is never around strangers, he or she could be victimized by a neighbor, a coach, a religious official or family member.  Parents who teach only stranger danger are doing a disservice to their child.
  4. My child is not old enough for this discussion.  Actually, the appropriate age to discuss child sexual abuse prevention is when a child is three years old.  The conversation can start as simply as “Did you know that the parts of your body covered by a bathing suit are private and are for no one else to see or touch?”  Continue the conversation by explaining to the child that he should tell Mommy, Daddy or a teacher if someone touches him on those private parts.  Be sure to include any necessary exceptions for potty training, hygiene and doctor visits.
  5. I don’t want to scare my child.  Actually, when handled properly, children find the message empowering and are not frightened at all.  Parents do not refrain from teaching traffic safety for fear that their child will be afraid to cross the street.  So too should we address the subject of body safety.
  6. I would know if something happened to my child. Actually, child sexual abuse is difficult to detect because frequently there are no physical signs of abuse.   The emotional and behavioral signs that may accompany sexual abuse can be caused by a variety of triggers. 
  7. My child would tell me if something happened to him.  Actually, most children do not immediately disclose when they have been sexually abused.  Contrary to a child who falls down and runs over to tell his parents, a child who has been sexually abused is likely being told not to tell anyone because no one will believe him, that people will say it is his fault, that the disclosure will cause great sadness in the family and that the behavior is their little secret.
  8. We never leave our child alone with adults.  Actually, children can be sexually abused by other children.  The very same lessons that can help prevent children from being sexually abused by adults, can keep them safe from other children.  Teach children what touch is appropriate and what is inappropriate, teach them the proper terminology for their private parts and teach them who they can talk to if anyone touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
  9. I don’t want to put thoughts in her head.  Actually, there is no data to indicate that a child who has been taught about child sexual abuse prevention is more likely to fabricate that they have been sexually abused.  According to Victor Vieth, director of the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State University, “Children do lie, but seldom about being abused.  All human beings can and do lie, but it's hard for kids to do it about sex.  They can't lie about something they have no knowledge of," he said, “and children don't learn about oral sex on Sesame Street."
  10. It’s not going to happen to my child.  Actually, as the statistics reveal, child sexual abuse is so pervasive that it could happen to any child.  This reason is the catch-all. Educated, loving parents have actually said this to me.  If one were to ask any parent whose child has been sexually abused if they thought their child would ever be sexually abused, I can guarantee each one would say no.  No one wants to believe this could happen to their child.  We need to stop denying that it could happen and recognize that there are ways to prevent it from happening.  Make the decision to talk to your child about sexual abuse prevention in 2012.  It could be the greatest gift you ever give them.  Have a safe and healthy New Year.


Jill Starishevsky is an Assistant District Attorney in New York City, where she has prosecuted hundreds of sex offenders and dedicated her career to seeking justice for victims of child abuse and sex crimes.  Outside the courtroom, Jill’s fondness for writing led her to create The Poem Lady, where she pens personalized pieces.  Her mission to protect children, along with her penchant for poetry, inspired My Body Belongs to Me, a children's book intended to prevent child sexual abuse by teaching 3-8 year-olds their bodies are private.  A mother of three, Jill is also founder of, a service that enables parents to purchase a license plate for their child’s stroller so the public can report positive or negative nanny observations. 


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Comment by CHERYL D. SCOTT on February 8, 2012 at 1:33pm

In light of this topic... I implore everyone to support a movement happening right now in Jacksonville, FL that will be going "Global"..... Please check out the website at <> if you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse... Please become an advocate member of this group!!! Look for my post on the subjects entitled: 100 March against sexual abuse... or related articles... Please post your comments and lets "blow the lid OFF of sexual abuse being a SILENT CRIME"... God Bless those of you, who will stand up and "Break The Silence & Protect our FUTURE generation of children!!! Who's Gonna Help Me????

Comment by Tlae Baker on January 18, 2012 at 7:37pm

I commend your mission to make an effective difference. So many people (parents/victims) make the conscious and unconscious choice to not deal with this UGLY topic. Personally, I have openly taught my children from the very beginning of their lives about the very REAL danger of this creeping in to their reality. I have received a lot of different views and opinions however, I believe that I have armed my children with knowledge to determine the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior whether adult or child & I believe that has made the difference in their reality for the better. I encourage you to continue your work and empower the children to protect themselves and provoke parents enough to EFFECTIVELY deal with the hard and ugly issues. Tlae Baker

Comment by Jill Starishevsky on January 14, 2012 at 7:33pm

Natasha, what do you propose to alleviate the shame many victims feel?  I think talking about it is a start.  I would think the silence that surrounds child sexual abuse contributes to the shame.

Jill Starishevsky

Comment by Natisha Knight on January 12, 2012 at 4:49pm

I think one of the issues is that the victims are made to feel ashamed and that is why they don't talk - with the judicial system basically hiding the perpetrators it allows them to continue - I say name the perpetrator let them bare the shame and let the victim hold their head up high.  Let everyone know what they are and what they did that will go along way to making this a safer place for our children. 

Comment by Jenna Glatzer on January 12, 2012 at 1:11pm

Jill, those are great tips. I hadn't thought about the "No secrets" rule, but I really like it. You hit on something important there about why kids don't tell, yet you addressed it in a benign way. I'm going to implement that!

Comment by Jill Starishevsky on January 12, 2012 at 1:08pm

Thanks Jenna.  You know the importance of being vigilant.  I am sure you feel empowered by having had this discussion with your child already.  Revisit the discussion as she grows up and hopefully you will be able to keep the lines of communication open.  Here are tips to share with the people who think it can never happen to them or their children:

Jill Starishevsky

Comment by Jenna Glatzer on January 12, 2012 at 12:58pm

You're awesome, Jill. I've started talking to my 4-year-old about it already. I get so frustrated when people think it can't happen to them, or their children... that's what I thought until it happened to me!

I posted on this topic, too: Bernie Fine and Jerry Sandusky: Let's Never Shut Up About This Again

Comment by Jenny Clay on January 12, 2012 at 12:00pm


You're welcome.  I will share this article on my facebook page too.

Thanks for sharing!


Comment by Jill Starishevsky on January 12, 2012 at 11:54am


You hit on some really important points.  It's terrific that you are identifying a back-up person for your children to talk to if they can't come to you for some reason.  Keep up the good work and try to encourage others in your community to have the discussion.  If they hear you did it, they might be willing to give it a try.

Jill Starishevsky

Comment by Jill Starishevsky on January 12, 2012 at 11:51am


Thank you for your kind words.  I hope the message gets through to those parents who are too afraid to have the conversation.  If we don't talk to our kids, the only person they learn from is the person abusing them.  For more helpful tips on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse, check out this article I wrote for a pediatric safety site.

Jill Starishevsky

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