Why We Don’t Keep Secrets In Our House {Child Abuse Prevention}


About a month ago, our family was having dinner with some friends at their house. I walked into the kitchen just as the other mom, while winking at me, handed my son a second cookie and whispered, “shhhh. It’s a secret. Don’t tell your mom.” To my delight {and surprise}, my son exclaimed, “Oooooh, but we don’t keep secrets in our house. We do surprises.” In that moment I thought, he gets it and he’s not afraid to say it, thank goodness.Why We Don't Keep Secrets in Our House | Denver Metro Moms Blog

You see, thanks to an excellent Sexual Abuse Prevention workshop that my husband and I attended, called Parenting Safe Children, we have a “no secrets” rule in our house. We have this rule because secrecy is a key ingredient to the sexual abuse of a child. In fact, sexual predators count on the fact that the child will keep a secret. Sometimes they even test the child by asking him to keep small, innocent secrets first to see if he will keep bigger ones later. So, when we teach our children that we don’t keep secrets, even about small and seemingly harmless things like a cookie, we are also instilling in them that they don’t have to keep big and unsafe secrets, like that of someone touching them inappropriately.

Why We Don't Keep Secrets in Our House | Denver Metro Moms Blog

This other mom, the one who asked my son to keep the secret, is a friend of mine and I know that she meant no harm by it at all. Nonetheless, the interaction created a great opportunity for me to share with her about our Body Safety Rules {which we also adapted from the workshop}, one of which is that we don’t keep secrets. I shared with her that we have “surprises” instead of secrets because surprises are something that you keep quiet about temporarily; then you share the surprise and people are happy. But secrets are meant to be kept quiet forever and they’re often to protect something that would make people unhappy.

My friend asked me more about the Body Safety Rules – what they are, why we have them, where we keep them, how I talk about them with my kids – and I began to explain that we have Body Safety Rules in effort to keep our kids safe from sexual abuse, to empower our kids, and to communicate to others that our kids are off limits. I told her that we keep the rules posted front and center in our kitchen; that we went over each rule with our kids when we first made the sign and that we discuss them regularly as situations arise. For example, when I’m trying to get a moment of peace, err go to the bathroom by myself and one of them comes barging in, I remind them that because we’re the bosses of our own bodies, we’re allowed to have privacy when using the toilet. And {for the love} Mommy would like some privacy while going to the bathroom. Or when we go to the pediatrician, I remind them, “no one is allowed to touch your private parts {which we call by their correct name}, but because the doctor is checking to make sure you are healthy, he needs to check your whole body, including your private parts and because Mommy is here, it is ok.” We talk about the Body Safety Rules in the context of different every day situations and we also sometimes play “what if” scenarios, like “what would you do if you were playing at someone’s house and they asked you to take your clothes off?” My kids would likely respond, “I would tell them that we play with our clothes on.”

When a child knows his body safety rules and feels empowered to say no to inappropriate touch and to keeping secrets, it communicates to a potential predator that the child is off limits. And when friends or child care providers see the Body Safety Rules hanging in our kitchen, it’s obvious to them that sexual abuse prevention is on our radar. A conversation is usually quick to follow, sometimes it’s comfortable and other times it’s just plain awkward. But I simply have to ask myself, am I willing to have a moment of awkwardness with someone in order to have my child’s back and keep him safe? The answer is always, without a doubt, Yes.

For more information on keeping your children safe, check out “Is Your Child Off Limits”

Body Safety Rules Source: Parenting Safe Children workshop and Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse by Sandy K. Wurtele, Ph.D. and Feather Berkower, MSW.

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Melissa is an adventurer at heart, seeking to embrace the beauty and wildness of this life with her co-adventurer and husband of 8 years, Tom. When she’s not splashing in a mud puddle with her boys, ages 4 and 5, or cleaning the remains of a diaper gone awry from the hallway walls, Melissa works part-time as a Licensed Professional Counselor, striving to empower women through her practice, Rise and Shine Counseling. Give her a mountain and some free time and she’ll find a way to play, embracing every opportunity to run the trails, ski the slopes, and bike or hike the hills. A great day for Melissa would include a pre-dawn trail run, a cup (or maybe 3) of coffee, brushed teeth, some belly laughing with her boys, a little uninterrupted (what’s that?) time to read and write, and sharing in some good conversation over a glass of bold red wine with her hubby. Her faith, her people, and her sense of humor, carry her through the peaks and valleys of this life. She attempts to chronicle the journey over at her blog, www.expectantlife.com.


  1. We certainly need to provide this key information to our children. In addition, some research suggests that the real defense is to raise our children to be self-assured and confident, so that they feel able to reject uncomfortable speech and behavior. Good work on this important article!

  2. Man I wish I would have seen this about 8 months ago.. my child was sexually abused at school in the restroom by another little boy. And they were only in pre-k. I didn’t think I would have to teach my children at that young of an age about good touch bad touch because they are never out of my sight. This is something for sure that I’ll be making in the morning and going over it with my son.

  3. I found this link from the NSPCC really useful when teaching the basics of body saftey to our LO. It provides downloads for both children and parents, and keeps things simple for younger children to understand. We too dont keep secrets and teach that if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, whoever it is, you tell someone you trust, and if that person doesnt help you you tell someone else. The person you tell should always listen, always believe you and always act upon what you have told them.


  4. Okay, I need to ask an opinion on something. First, let me just say that me and my husband have been happily married for almost 7 years, and our disputes have been fairly minimal, but there’s something that kind of making me a little uncomfortable. If might just be me, because I grew up in rough household where this type of thing happened every once in awhile; but I just wanted to ask. My daughter just turned 3 and my son is 6 1/2. My daughter is really starting to use the potty regularly, and a lot of times my husband is helping her with wiping techniques, I’m guessing that it’s because he grew up with several younger sisters that he knows what he’s doing. Also, I’ve seen him in the bathtub with her on occasion (with her totally naked and him wearing swim trunks), and that kind of makes me a little uneasy too. I have brought concerns to his attention subtlety, but he doesn’t really show any heed or sensitivity about my feelings, almost like total indifference. His main defense is that because I did those type of things with our son when he was her age, that it’s perfectly acceptable for him to help her in this way, the last time he got a little more defensive saying that they’re “our kids” not “your kids”. Am I just overreacting? Basically his philosophy is that the boundaries between a mother and her son, and a father and his daughter (with respect to the child’s age) should be identical; and in the and way but on a different scale the father-son and mother-daughter boundaries (again, respective to age) should also be identical. One time, when our son was pooping, he tried to shoo me out of the bathroom saying he’s getting older and women shouldn’t be in there with him. Is this right way to have things? Don’t get me wrong, I know he loves both of our children from the bottom of his heart, but it’s just this issue that seems a little off, even though she shows no resistance when he helps her and bathes her. If I know that it’s not going to negatively our daughter’s healthy development, then it probably wouldn’t bother me so much, because I do have to say our son has really no noticeable trust or boundary issues. I just want to be sure our daughter grows up with healthy boundaries.

    • What you’ve described is your husband being a wonderful father! Do you have ANY reason to doubt his intentions? He’s wiping her bottom, just like you would wipe her. He’s playing in the tub (with his clothes on even!) And having genuine fun with her! Be thankful that he’s so involved, and tell those paranoid feelings to take a backseat, especially if there is no basis for them. I have two boys, but if I had a girl, I’d be so appreciative that my husband was being a great dad and helping out, and knowing him as well as I do (and as well as I assume you know your husband) I would never misconstrue being an involved parent with being inappropriate. Soon she’ll be a teen and not want anything to do with her parents- let Daddy help raise her while she’s open to his company.

    • Hello Twin Sister! I mean no disrespect, none at all, because I so perfectly understand your fears. I was in the same boat with my ex husband with him from a loving family and the oldest and me being the youngest and everyone not that way…at least, until we got older; now we are close.
      I just wanted you to know you are not alone.

    • For a dad to help his 3 year old daughter with bathing and toilet seems ok to me. But. Go with your gut feel – other people on here don’t know your husband and for some reason you don’t feel comfortable about this. If your gut is telling you something isn’t right, there’s usually a reason. It sounds like your husband isn’t respecting your feelings to me and having a different rule for you and your son. It shouldn’t be his decision if you’re not there when your son is on the toilet – it’s a joint decision. Maybe going to a general parenting class would be a good idea and this could be discussed in a group with a family expert leading it. Or be there too at toilet and bath times but that’s not always practical and not resolving your feelings.

  5. When I started volunteering for the children’s program at my church – with weekly attendance of roughly 1000 people – there was an entire process before I was allowed. They required a background check, 3 references OUTSIDE my family, and an in-church lesson on child safety (focused mainly on abuse). As annoying as it was to have to fill out so many forms & go through so many steps, I was MORE than happy to do it! No system is 100% guaranteed to protect children, but I was proud that my church was taking its job to protect the children entrusted to our care seriously.

    The main rule I remember learning (obviously I knew the ones everyone knows – where not to touch, that kind of thing) is that you have to ASK THE CHILD before you can hug them. Anyone who works with children regularly knows that sometimes children & caretakers alike will greet or depart from each other with a hug. I was working with the same children every single day, and by the second day they would ask ME if they could sit on my lap. This was allowed, but I was NEVER allowed to ask them – it had to be THEIR idea, and I had to sit in such a way that they were free to get up at any time (arms not wrapped around them). I’m someone whose natural instinct is to hug someone when I say hello or goodbye – no matter their age – so I had to really remember to ask the child first. I only ever actually asked once because the child always initiated it, but I did ask a child who was upset once if I could give them a hug to comfort them and they came over to me and stayed with me so they were fine.

    Personally, I think ALL places where children are watched by others should have rules like this. Even if the person doing the hugging has NOTHING bad in their intentions, it could be uncomfortable to the child. Who knows, maybe they were hurt by someone else and that hug, innocent as it is to the giver, feels threatening to them. The children I worked with at church kept in touch with me afterwards – they initiated it – so I’m glad they felt safe enough with me to watch to keep in touch.

    • We all carry secrets. Some of our secrets may be the fact the one gained a few pounds or we feel guilty because we binge watched “Game of Throwns” before a friend or relative had. We keep them out of embarrassment, thoughtfulness to others or any numbers of kind, thoughtful reasons.
      I gave secrets, as a little child, gate my dad asked me to keep from mom and I have secrets that my mom asked me to keep from my dad. Some of those secrets are huge and could potentially wreck their marriage. Some are small secrets like “don’t tell mom we went fidhin'” or “don’t tell dad that we went to Ft. Dodge to buy a dress.”
      Dr. House was right when he said everyone lies. We do it to save someone’s feelings or to save their life from unnecessary grief.
      If one or all were completely honest, we’d have more arguments, divorces, wars, trust issues and unnecessary problems than we really need to deal with.
      So, calm down and take a breath and don’t tell anyone about my little secre:. I’m an Atheist.

  6. I think rule number one would be sufficient. This makes you look as if you have an obsession. Yes, the no secret rule is ok, but nothing taste too good once its overdone.

      • My predator that violated me darned near chopped his leg off just to have me (as a 9 year old) help him bandage it. He did this while no one else was around. Predators will plan and plan and plan… I think he planned the whole camping trip with my parents and his family just to do what he did to me. I got out of the situation by running outside and pulling the sewer handle on the camp trailer which of course spewed shit everywhere…I then went and hid with the horses until my parents and his wife & kids showed up. I finally told my parents some 4 years later. They were coming for a visit and I begged my parents to let me stay at a friends house. I finally told them about the times that Uncle had cornered me and I said I just do not want to be here when they get here. My parents of course let me go stay at my friends house. Years later he got his though…karma is a bitch…he died of a heart attack…

      • Question My mother told me not to tell my father his good friend tucked me in bed gave a kiss but slipped his tongue inside it happened at our house, we have xmas parties every year with close neighbors n everyone drinking But I was 8 yrs old n my mom said don’t tell your dad he will be angry and to this day he doesn’t know I believe she was worried about disruption of family friends across street and how it would affect everyone else Still effects me always not good enough for her but that’s another story there’s four kids I’m in middle n always felt like the black sheep

  7. These are great tips to teach children to stay safe and not keep secrets. The fact that you call body parts by their actual names is really important as well. There is a great video published on a site for child molestation victims and their families called My Body and Me and its a wonderful guide to talking to your children about molestation and child sexual assault. It doubles up on some of the points you made, but the video helps clarify.

  8. The no secrets rule has worked in my household. My children were abused by my husband’s uncle. He french kissed 3 of my daughters, twins age 4 and my oldest age 6. I found out a week later after he had gotten to my twins 4 times. My oldest told me after the only time it happened to her. We went through police reports to forensic interviews to protective order. Because it went no further than a french kiss and we couldn’t get a confession they were unable to prosecute since he didn’t break a law. That’s right, even though my girls said no and he didn’t care…according to the law, thus is only illegal in one state, Virginia. This has torn my family apart since there a few members that feel we should just sweep it under the rug. Did I forget to mention that the perpetrator is on parole too? But he never committed a crime. He happens to be the next door neighbor to my children’s grandparents and therefore my children cannot go there anymore.

    My point being, I thought I had covered all the bases with my kids. I’ve seen this posted by someone before and we did something very similar. Now I am fighting for this loophole in the law to be closed and begging a parole board to put my husband’s uncle back behind bars. But there may never be justice for my girls.

    • That’s ridiculous! The law system is seriously flawed, what would of happened if your oldest didn’t tell you, if you had not enforced the no secrets rule with her and she was scared to tell you like most cases, he would have went on to do probably far worse. What a disgusting pig, and they just let him go, keep fighting mama!

    • I am glad you are make a ‘big deal’ out of this. I am a woman in my 60’s, and my father’s friend did this to me (only one time) when I was 10. I remember it to this day. It is a serious, traumatic violation of a child and it doesn’t go away. It started a process of fear and shame that took years to overcome. Don’t let anyone play it down in any way.

  9. I have read this blog as it was cited on a friends facebook page and it is brilliant that this is being discussed far and wide.
    There is a really good resource produced by the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) which is a UK based organization. They have what they call the PANTS rule. In the UK the word ‘pants’ refer to underwear but I think the content would translate very well. The joy of the material is that it could be used from a very young age. This is the url http://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/underwear-rule/

  10. I worked in daycare for 4+ years and still babysit. I’ve helped with toilet-training more kids than I can count, have changed more diapers than I can count, and have done more bathtimes than I can count.
    At the daycare I worked at, the diaper-changing stations were in full view of the rest of the room, so other people in the room can always see what is going on. The childrens bathrooms had a door, but the door was kept open if one of us was in there helping a child. They were only allowed to close the door when they could go to the toilet by themselves, this included cleaning themselves up.
    When I have done bathtime with kids I take care of, most times they parents were home, but the kids asked that I help them because it’s a special treat to have someone besides mom/dad over at night. I encourage the kids who are old enough to soap themselves up while I supervise, which avoids any touching that they might not want. (obviously for babies this is not an option.) I control the water to avoid flooding the bathroom.

    Just remember, kids are more likely to talk to people other than mom/dad, especially if mom/dad are easily angered. I had one child ask me something about bodies, and I asked if she had asked her parents the same question. She told me she was afraid to get yelled at but she liked me better.

    • I liked the precautions you took. I am soon opening my registered family day care. Thanks for these tips. I likec the topic as I have a year old son and don’t want him or any other child to go through this situation

  11. I love the article. Want to add watch what you say to your kids when leaving them with others. “Be a good boy/girl and do what so and so tells you to do. I want to hear a good report when I get back.” This used to be my parting words until my 4 yr old was molested by her uncle. We have the no secrets instilled in our family and it did work. He was arrested.

  12. What is the recommended age for these rules? My daughter will go to 3 year old preschool next fall (2016). So I was thinking of trying them next summer about 1 month before preschool. Do you think that is too young?

    • It is never too early to teach children. I started talking to my kids about correct terminology for body parts before they were 2. The no keeping secrets around 2/3, appropriate and inappropriate touch at 3, ownership of their bodies and the ability to say no to any touch and to tell any adult that they trust if someone touched their bodies inappropriately. All around 3. We continue to have conversations about what would they would do if touched inappropriately and that they aren’t to touch anyone else’s body parts. There is even a book that is kid friendly about good appropriate and inappropriate touch and what to do if inappropriate touch happens. Again, it’s never too early. One of my kids were yelling “vulva” as we were in the check out line once. She was about 2 years old. Embarrassing, yes, but I was proud of her for knowing the proper names for body parts.

  13. […] my wife said, “We don’t keep secrets.” I was confused until she showed me this article on Denver Metro Moms Blog What she got from the article was that we don’t keep secrets, but we have […]

  14. I like the idea of this but as a parent of two kids in their 20s and a late teen- I do have concerns. It is completely normal development for children to start individuating and separating from their parents in the teen years. As open and safe as my kids knew I was- there were still secrets. They felt safe enough to call me for rescued from unsafe parties- but there were still secrets when they wanted to protect a friend. My kids never had abuse and learned to stick up for themselves and demand respect for their bodies themselves- but I am still finding secrets they kept from me- which is normal as teens have to learn to navigate the world and advocate for themselves independently. On another note- the hyper controlling rule family that I knew- was the one with the young adult son who groomed and abused a teen in his church. So at the age teens are individuating-they are at high risk- and sometimes from wholesome families you would never expect. What I noticed? The families where sex was shamed bred kids with an unhealthy infatuation. Putting this list in the kitchen almost seems to over focus the child on sexual topics. Yes discuss safety, but hyper focusing can create fear and deviance based out of curiosity of why mom and dad talk about it so much. Seriously now-I know first hand of two abstinence based -sex shaming -family rules all- focused families – which were the ones that the Abuser himself came out of.

    • There is a difference between not keeping secrets and sex shaming. These rules, instilled at a young age, will teach children to protect themselves and report when someone does something inappropriate to them. When they are brought up with these rules, they are more likely to have the values that they shouldn’t be inappropriate with or take advantage of anyone else’s body.

      I didn’t see any mention of sex shaming in this article. Actually just the opposite, as she says they are open about predicates parts and call them by their real names.

      When children grow into adolescence, they should still be able to trust their parents and not keep any secrets from them. But as young children for sure, there is absolutely ZERO reasons for children to keep secrets from their parents, assuming their patents aren’t abusive to them.

  15. we had similar rules at our house, and a few more. Children were allowed to say no to a adult and any touching by any person any where any time that they didn’t like was inappropriate and they could object. This included kisses to cheeks, hugs etc. whatever felt uncomfortable to them, they had a right to refuse.

  16. […] and those who have kids in their lives that they care for, I think it’s important to share. Head over to this blog to learn about why this family doesn’t have secrets in their home and i…. This could be life-changing. […]

  17. Please don’t think this “we have no secrets ” is always the answer. We had it in my house when I was a child, and we used it with our own children. I can say from my own personal experience, and that of one of my children, that the feeling of “you should do what an adult tells you” , “adults know best”, can instill more into a child’s mind, of fear, shame and guilt. In both instances, most certainly my own, no matter what I had been told, brought up to believe, there are no secrets and no one has the right to do that, I felt I had to do what the grown up had told me, and the following shame and guilt held me back from telling anyone what had happened. In fact I just felt twice as guilty, in fact, I felt I had been a very naughty girl, more so for going against what had been instilled into me. I “confessed ” sometime later to my brother, too scared to tell my parents. By this time all medical evidence was gone (more shame and embarrassment at a medical), and the offender given time to disappear. A child’s mind does not always comprehend what rule is more important under duress and fear like this. And an adults mind always carries the further guilt of not protecting their child, and words like those in this article remind them. I can only reiterate, don’t rely on this and think you have done your job by instilling this rule. It takes a lot more.

    • So at what point will you decide parents have “done their job”? Because in the end we cannot possibly prevent every offense against our children possible. The most we can do is equip our children with some tools to help make abuse *less likely*. I think we could talk about ways to make our kids feel safer coming to us with concerns, but aside from that it’s not like we operate potential abusers by remote control. Doesn’t mean we’re totally helpless either, but face it, we don’t run the universe.

  18. When I was a Nanny I was asked to give the children baths at the end of the day. When the children expressed they were uncomfortable with having a bath I just said we won’t do it. I told mom why .

  19. I’m am confused why in 2015 do we refer to the male and female sex organs as ‘private parts’?! The words penis and vagina should not be considered offensive or obscene, they are the correct word to describe a part of the human body. The title of this article is ‘Why we don’t keep secrets in our house’ so if we are promoting honesty why do we not use correct language instead of making our children ashamed of using the words penis and vagina? I completely agree with the principals behind this article but do not agree with the wording.

    • The author clearly stated that they use the correct words. Perhaps they just don’t feel like having “penis and vagina” glaring at them while they make dinner?

    • I agree with you Confused, that we need to use the anatomically correct terms for the various body parts, which is why I stated that in my post. We use the term, “private parts,” simply to encompass all of those parts. My kids know that private parts include the penis, testicles, labia, vagina, buttocks, and breasts and that is how we refer to them when we talk about them individually, but as a whole, we refer to them as private parts.

      • Excellent article. I recently felt frustrated when a family member let her son run around naked at a large backyard get together with many people who are acquaintances and not well known to the child. I was basically laughed at when I told his mom (nicely and diplomatically) that it is more appropriate for him to be in a swimsuit. I am amazed that people think this is ok. This would seem to create a lot of confusion for a young child but it goes on at beaches and summer get togethers all the time.

      • I think it’s important to teach that mouths are private parts as well, as far as nobody being allowed to touch yours, or put theirs on you, without consent. You can teach that they are a bit different in the way that we don’t cover them up usually, we need them for breathing and talking and eating. But they are just as deserving of autonomy and protection.

    • They clearly stated they use the correct names. It’s possible they have multiple children and are of different genders and it’s easier to place on their rules…

    • If every item on the list has to substitute “private parts” with “penis, scrotum, mons, clitoris, inner labia, outer labia, vagina, urethral opening, perineum, anus, buttocks, nipples or breasts” then they are going to need to invest in a bigger kitchen to post it in.

      Using “private parts” as a generic term for all of those is a lot more ‘correct’ than referring to external female genitalia as a “vagina”.

    • I completely agree. Labeling and creating “prettier words” can infer that there is shame to a penis or vagina. I don’t give new names for my son’s penis because I don’t ever want him to feel embarrassed to tell me that anything inappropriate happened. I tell him that he has a penis just like he has an arm, leg , etc and that only he mommy and daddy can touch it. Otherwise a great article.

    • Saying something is private is not the same as not teaching a child correct language. You probably aren’t ashamed of going to the bathroom, and you know what a toilet and toilet paper are for, but I bet you don’t want to take a dump out in a busy intersection. Unless you want to teach your children to be exhibitionists, sexual parts should be kept private too.

  20. This is absolutely a great article….the only thing I wonder about is why the wording is such…

    1. No one is allowed to touch your private parts (okay, that’s very straightforward and clear. It sets a clear boundary.)

    2. You should not touch the private parts of others. (In my opinion this is not as straightforward and clear. There are a lot of things I should not do but I do them…I shouldn’t eat right before bed. I should not run stop signs when I’m cycling). For me, the word “should” is not as absolute or clear as “not allowed.” In this day and age when we are trying to teach our children about consent, would it not be better to say.

    2. You are not allowed to touch the private parts of others?

    Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to express my opinion about the wording of this piece.

  21. Hi i’m The Eldest of a rather large family and my mother and father both taught me the very things you have posted in your rules list, and I wish more parents would step up and do the same like you and mine have, now talking can only go so far and I would like to also suggest taking your child to self Defence classes, not only with this build confidence but it will give them skills to get away from a dangerous situation, here’s one move I know from when I was taking Martial arts : if some one grabs your shoulders bring your hands up like you are going to pray and force them up hard in between the attackers arms then quickly bring forearms down on their shoulders and kick in either face or stomach/groin area, that should bring them down so you can get away.

  22. I have three girls, ages 12, 9, and 7. About 5 years ago, my sister in law started dating a new guy and he seemed to be alright… a little “off” but nothing you could put your finger on. The family got together at our house one afternoon and he accompanied her. Everyone was in the living room chatting and visiting when I looked around and saw that my oldest girls (7 and 4 at the time) weren’t around. I went to look for them and heard them in the bathroom with my sister in laws boyfriend. The door was shut and I opened it quickly, fearful of what I would find. They were sitting in a circle on the ground and I glared at him and asked “what is going on in here?” My girls cheerfully told me that they were having a “secret club meeting” and I told all of them that we don’t keep secrets and a grown man does not need to be part of their club.
    I did talk to my daughters about what is ok and not ok and we discussed rules like those posted above. I also ensured that nobody was touched and took them to our pediatrician for an exam the next day to make sure he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
    I spoke to my sister in law about the issue and my girls are not allowed to be around her boyfriend if my husband or I are not there. We rarely see them anymore. I still to this day think he was “testing the waters” to see what kind of secrets they could keep.
    I am constantly talking to my girls and keeping the lines of communication open… randomly and often, I will ask them if anyone has ever asked to see private parts or tried to touch them. We go over the rules frequently. What happened 5 years ago was totally eye opening for me and I realized then that anyone can do this to your children… even in your own home while you are there!
    I know the rules are working because my middle daughter had to go to the doctor for a problem “down there” recentlt and the doctor asked her if he could take a look. My daughter turned to me and asked (right in front of him) “Mom, is it ok for him to look at my private parts?” I told her yes and let her know that it was perfectly appropriate and ok for her to ask when she is unsure.

  23. I wish My Mother had been this wise, she was a sweet mother but was innocent about things like this. She thought punishing me would help, when someone bothered me at 5. The boy was 9, and I got a whipping for it. That really didn’t help me to see who was wrong. Others bothered me later and I never told on them……..I tried to protect my children, but I really did not know how. These ladies are so smart,to know how to do that. I am a GGM now and have 3 little granddaughters I wish I could protect, but I have no control of them. I am so proud of you smart ladies. Bless you all. Martha

  24. Now this may sound weird to some people, but I am going to bring it up here because I think it may be an issue for others as it was for me. I wish, as a middle schooler, I had been aware that I could protest the forced nakedness of school gym locker rooms. At an age where many kids are quite sensitive about their bodies, we had to strip and shower in large open shower areas and dress afterward in the locker room with no privacy whatsoever. Due to the issue of body odor after exercise, we were forbidden to refuse to shower (I got a C from that class the first marking period only because I just wouldn’t do it; after that, I gave in and showered “in public” in spite of my discomfort.) Girls who were having their menstrual period were permitted to sponge-bathe that one time during the month. It was assumed that because we were all girls, there was no reason to feel strange about appearing naked in front of each other. Yet at least once in the locker room I was approached by some girls I didn’t know, with sexual innuendos that I didn’t understand at the time, though I could tell something was wrong.

    The reason I said “I wish I had been aware that I could protest” is because years later when I mentioned my feelings of discomfort to a friend from a different part of the country, she told me that at their school when the administrators tried to impose this on the girls, they refused to submit to it.

    I understand that it’s quite expensive to build private shower stalls in a school locker room setting, but I just wish there had been the option to clean up in private (or maybe just to change out of sweaty gym clothes, sponge off while partly dressed and then shower at home later) for those of us who would desperately have preferred it that way.

    • Seeing the huge entry areas, high ceilings, and fancy sports areas in the schools, I’m sure they could find a way to put some plastic sheets or plastic pipes with fabric hanging down between the showers. I had a female phy. ed. teacher who required the girls to walk in front of her on the way to the shower. Creeepy.

      • My mom said the same thing about her middle school gym teacher. When I had her years later, thankfully, shiwers were no longer required

        • Yes!!! When one of my friends went to middle school, the girls were required to get naked and then lather up in front of the teacher so that she could ‘make sure they lathered correctly’ and then they could shower, in front of each other.

    • Im very surprised by this. Im guessing there is a generation gap here but i never encountered this problem. We were not forced to shower or change in front of the other girls. Most of us did change in front of one another but some girls would go into the private toliet stalls. In elementary school we had a pool class and we did change in front of one another but we were never forced to shower.

    • When I was in the Army, the training barracks had open shower areas, but they also had a few shower stalls with curtains over them for women who were menstruating. Schools could at least do that much.

    • I too was .add to shower a dress in public. Even though it was with other girls, at 14 I felt humiliated. I wish we had been able to refuse but when I asked to not shower I was told it would be an immediate “F” for that class. I am now 72 and I still remember how it felt.

  25. Hello, I was just wondering if you had more then 8 body safety rules? I couldn’t tell if the picture of the list was cut off and would definitely be interested in learning all your body safety rules for your household. I think this is a very helpful post by the way. It gives a parent some great tips that you can adjust accordingly to suit your family’s needs , or children’s ages. I’m not sure why some are having a negative reaction. It’s obvious that this is one aspect of your parenting rules, but one topic that definitely needs to be openly addressed with children in this day and age!

    • Hi Tasha,

      We just have the 8 body safety rules and they are geared for my children, ages 3 and 4. We will change some of the wording and add some things as they get older. To see the complete set of body safety rules and explanations for each, as well as age-appropriate wording for different ages, please see the book, Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe From Sexual Abuse by Sandy Wurtele and Feather Berkower. It contains a wealth of helpful information and is worth every penny!

      • I don’t believe that you can ever be too strong with protecting your children. Talking, teaching, watching, … those predators are out there and they will try anything to get at these innocent children. We parents and grandparents have to be open-eyed at all times. Always go with your ‘feelings’ when someone is around your children. You know who is safe and who might not be. God bless our children.

  26. This an awesome piece. We need more awareness on this and children will be so empowered to bring out incidences of abuse or threat. Keep up the good work

  27. Also, I taught mine that if you feel threatened, probably a clerk or other worker behind a desk in uniform, with a name badge, etc., is a safe person in an emergency.

    This panned out once, when one of my sons was traveling home with his 1yo daughter in the car, and suddenly had the most ferocious urge to throw up. He stopped at a truck stop and handed the poor child to the cashiers behind the desk, in full view of the security cameras, and said that he HAD to throw up. When he exited the restroom, the child had charmed all six of her babysitters and my son was able to continue home with her.

    I know, it doesn’t sound as totally safe as we might prefer, but as I said, these employees are probably safe.


    When my 20-something-year-old son encountered an old family friend who wanted to snag him into some hare-brained network marketing scheme, she made ONE mistake: She told our son, whatever he did, not to let his mom know about it.
    Well, as soon as he got home, he called me and told me, cuz our rule has always been: If someone tells you not to tell Mom, then tell her immediately.
    I was able to explain these crazy schemes to him, saving him thousands of dollars, while he was still in college. (My “friend” had no scruples at all…)
    They do grow up and make their own mistakes eventually, but this advice, so similar to yours above, has served us WELL! 🙂

    And I did give the “friend” a piece of my mind…

    • I don’t understand your comment at all. In having kids you work to prevent and promote a lot of things. What she described isn’t “hard” work, it’s parenting. And who says its just men? I’m a female therapist and trust, it’s not just men?

      • It’s not just men but as far as we can tell it *is* MOSTLY men. Women are not raised with that sense of entitlement to other people’s bodies, as a general rule.

        Now if it ever comes out that women and men abuse children and other adults at a fifty-fifty rate then fine, but I predict that’s never going to happen.

        Sometimes kids can’t even trust their own fathers. My high school years were marred by my then-stepmother going through therapy from her father raping her through childhood to age 15, when she had finally run away from home. She’d repressed most of the memories and they came back when I was a teenager.

    • ….uhm….I can’t tell if you are serious with this or not because it is such a bizarre thing to say…Nevertheless, what do men have to do with this? Are you implying only men abuse children sexually?
      Chiildren (which it sounds like you don’t have) are the biggest blessing ever. A true gift from God. They fill a void in life and bring joy, laughte r, fun exasperation, creativeness, unequivacable love and so many beautiful aspects to an otherwise dull existence. I cannot imagine how boring my life would be without my son.
      That being said, anyone with kids knows they would (should) do ANYTHING in their power to protect them. Yes there are a bazillion ways kids could be harmed every day. It is a parents duty to protect. And it may come at a cost at times but there is nothing in this world as rewarding and fulfilling as raising a child.

      • Wow, you must not have lived life to the fullest at all. You had a void in life and were bored by life before you had a mini me? I feel sorry for you that you need to rely on a child to fulfill yourself.

        • Hey ladies, we love that everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and sharing their individual responses to the material posted on DMMB. It is very apparent that our readers come from varied backgrounds, and have a range of values, experiences, and opinions. That being said, we kindly ask that everyone remember that we are all adults and are expected to treat and respond to each other with respect and kindness.

          • Amen!!! Why are people being so rude? I think this is an excellent tool in teaching your children, and grandkids later on when you have them. I don’t see anything negative about trying to protect and preserve the innocence of children for as long as possible. Even if someone doesn’t have a child, we all have family, and/or friends who do. Have a good day, all

        • You’re a very sad person. It’s funny because most women find a fundamentally satisfying role in raising children and that’s just a women’s inherent love of raising their young as humans, just because people pretend to be so obsessed with destroying that image it just isn’t going to work and women are still going to be happy raising children and working. You can be depressed and lacking but I hope any women who wants to be a mother can and not feel pressured by bully’s who want to destroy what you want.

        • Thank you for the informative article. Even though I have come across this topic in the past and we have some books that help us discuss this topic with our children too, I learned some new approaches here. Very helpful!

          I do wish that everyone who chose to respond to your article or to each other in the comments could be respectful and gentle with each other. Some of the comments here are very sharp, unkind and completely out of context.

        • Why are you on a parenting blog lecturing people about children they had that they can’t exactly send back to the manufacturer? That’s about as pointless as being on a peanut allergy blog extolling the dubious virtues of Jif.

        • Joanne, I don’t think you interpreted Heathers comment as she intended. I had a wonderful run of adulthood and traveling and getting my education and just living in general before I found the man that stole my heart and made me a wife and mother. I completely agree with Heathers description of her feelings toward her child or children though. It is an amazing experience to be able to perfectly grow another human and can be quite terrifying to know that we are in charge of seeing that these precious little babies in pink and blue rompers experience a childhood they do not need to ‘recover’ from so that they can enter this world as caring, compassionate, smart individuals that will increase the goodness in humanity and stand up for what is right even if it means they are not always popular for doing so. Yes, becoming a mother was a earth shaking event for me. Each time was completely different and my children are all completely different from each other as well. As fulfilling as my life was as a young woman with my dress and motivation and strong soul, my children opened up even more doors that I didn’t know existed. My kids filled a space in my heart, soul, mind, arms, home and life that I didn’t know was there, let alone empty. So, while I can say that I agree that my children fulfilled a void that I didn’t know existed, I do not mean to express that my life was “empty and meaningless before meeting my mini-me(s)” and because now, in hindsight, I would agree that my world would be shallow and boring, it does not mean that I was bored before becoming a mother. The ability to see where I have grown and blossomed and improved as a woman and human because I have been given this amazing privelage of growing and raising these precious additions to the world do not leave me feeling bad or inadequate about the amazing life and opportunities and experiences I had pre-motherhood. Sometimes it is hard to express the depths of the feelings involved with the way life embraces us when using words of the English language, especially when theyre as limited as they must be here to comment on an amazing bloggers post. We should be embracing each other and empowering each other to become as strong and as informed as possible in raising these wonderful people who will soon enough be in charge of the world we will be required to live in when we are too old and tired to be fighting anymore. We need to be lifting each other up. If you see an area where your ideas or advice could help another to gain knowledge or empowerment, by all means, offer it! But to attack one of our own kind is pretty counter productive. I would like to speak to all of you as though you are possibly raising my future daughter-in-law, or son-in-law. I mean nothing but respect for you and your methods of growing your perfect addition to this world we all share. And I thank you for having the humility to humbly come here in search of opportunities to grow and learn hints and helpful information that may be helping you, or somebody you know, do it in a manner that will also be an improemwnt to the world as we know it. This is such an extremely important topic, especially today as we watch the news and see people advocating for pedophiles to live in peace amongst our children because their mental health illness and disgusting ways of looking at our precious babies is gaining media coverage and sadly enough,gaining support to be listing pedophilia as just another sexual preference. We need to be United in this world and treat each other as our friends and allies while growing the next generation. Have a fantastic day ladies. You are all amazing, strong, wonderful beings and have the power and opportunity to improve this morning, this day, this week, this year and this lifetime not only for yourself and your family but for everybody your words, ideas, and children encounter. Let’s keep it positive and empowering!!

      • Men aren’t the only ones who sexually abuse kids, but they’re the majority of the ones who sexually abuse kids, as far as we know at this point in time. I have my doubts that those statistics will ever change substantially; as a general rule, mothers feel more attached to children than fathers do and are more protective of same. Note that I said “as a general rule”–there are always exceptions somebody’s got to trot out to try to discredit the general trend. And maybe that works for people who don’t think logically or who have an agenda, but it doesn’t work with me.

    • If protecting children seems too hard for you, you’d make a lousy parent. You’re better off leaving the breeding to the women who want them. The children you would have neglected will be thanking you from a safe distance. I’m still sure I did the right thing by getting “fixed” at age 21. That was not easy to do. Doctors seem to think they have a right to deny full grown women who want to be sterilized to do so. I had to take a lawyer with me to the OB/GYN to give him a written suggestion that since he was denying me the right to be sterilized, if I got pregnant I’d be filing for child support to be deducted from his paycheck. He snatched the paper from her, read it, and handed me an surgical release saying I was asking to be sterilized with my own free will and it was an informed consent.

    • Because, sometimes it’s not a man. Sometimes it’s a woman. Most times (over 95%) it’s someone that the child knows, not an abstract stranger. Horribly, sometimes it’s a parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbor. That’s why children need to know to say NO, loudly and NOT keep secrets. Great article.

  29. Consider being less focused on private parts. Victimizers will often “groom” children using less threatening behaviors that gradually erode boundaries and defenses. As they do this, it increases the likelihood the child will remain silent about what is going on and not seek help from a trusted adult.

    Children should be taught safe and unsafe touch (rubbing a thigh isn’t touching private parts…but I don’t want anyone doing that to my kids!!), what their instincts/gut feelings are and to trust them (don’t force kids to hug Great Uncle Jeb if they’re squeamish about it… which they feel as a funny feeling in their gut), and safe secrets (which all adults keep and no one gets hurt — such as gifts purchased before a birthday) versus unsafe secrets. Discuss potential situations with them and how they should respond. Don’t ” trick” your child to see how they react in contrived situations — you’re just teaching them not to trust you!!!

    Teach kids anatomically correct names for specific private parts, so they have words to use to explain what someone did or tried to do to them. Children are less likely to report abuse to their parents than another adult such as a teacher. Without correct words, reports may be overlooked if that adult doesn’t understand what the child tried to tell them (“Grandpa tried to put his package in my purse but it was too big” may not sound like attempted rape to your child’s teacher.)

    Teach kids what to do if someone does these things to them…. (at a developmentally appropriate level for that child):
    1. Say or yell “No!!” to that person
    2. Get away from that person as soon as possible
    3. Tell a trusted adult as soon ss possible… and if that person doesn’t believe you, tell another until someone does believe.

    Get the community involved. Encourage churches and schools and local law enforcement to host training events on child sex abuse prevention.

    • Melanie, thank you for this very insightful post. I fully agree, ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ touch helps a child understand more. Your point about going with ‘gut feeling’ is the best!! – imho, children ten to be MUCH more discerning, even though they may not understand the why of the feeling.

      With regard to teaching the child to say or yell “NO!”, I’ve also heard a good follow-up to this is “this is not my _______(father/grandfather/etc)”. Way back in the dark ages, when sexual abuse was not talked about openly, I recall my gr’grandmother teaching me if I felt threatened to run away and yell “FIRE”, because it got people’s attention faster. Sadly, she didn’t think or know to teach me that applied to anyone., not just strangers.

      It’s a delicate balance between education and instilling fear.

    • I agree. While I support this general idea, I think there were way too many “rules” containing the words “private parts”. As if that is the only threat out there? Balance is the answer in every situation and if you put so much emphasis on one aspect of something, your rule is much less effective.

      And remember, two 5 year olds playing “I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours” is NOT sexual abuse. Let’s not demonize our children with these hard and fast ideas.

      • Not all children play “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” and it isn’t even necessary to child development. “We play with our clothes on” is a really good rule to follow because today it’s another five-year-old and might be mostly or totally innocent, but tomorrow it might be someone five years older trying to play the same game but for less innocent reasons. And yes, a prepubescent child CAN molest another child, even if they’re only modeling what some adult did to them. So this is something else to look out for. Leave doors open when kids are playing in a room, and check in frequently with kids playing outside.

  30. Of course sexual abuse is something that we don’t want anyone to experience, ever. However, it strikes me that the fear you have of this happening might be exaggerated, and that this might influence your child’s sex life in the future, when they are a teenager, or an adult. I would imagine that these strong associations with not showing anyone else your private parts might have a negative effect then. How do you hope to counteract that effect in the future…will you chat about it in a few years when your teenager is starting to discover their sexual self? To me, in my opinion, having this such a focus as to have it written as a poster, in the kitchen, is too much. It’s too dominant and makes this issue much bigger in your kids’ minds than it needs to be. I think there’s other ways of counteracting your worry that might have less of a negative long-term impact on your child, such as having a very open family…talking about feelings, what happened that day, talking about your body in a comfortable, open way… etc.

    • Thanks for your comment, Leah. I hear your concerns. The Body Safety Rules are simply one aspect of sexual abuse prevention that we use. The real reason that I hang them in our kitchen is for adults to see them. Statistics show 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused, and this is very likely low due to under reporting. The majority of abusers are people known to the child, people who may set foot in your home. We hang the body safety rules there to promote conversation with other adults, particularly child care providers, and it sends the message that sexual abuse prevention is something that’s on our radar and that our children are off limits. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by someone close to our family, I don’t believe my concern is unwarranted. But we are also very careful in how we talk about body safety. We do it in an open and honest way, always reminding them that their private parts aren’t bad, they’re a beautiful part of their body, and they’re meant to kept private. We also teach our kids that they are in charge of their bodies. My kids are 4 and 3, so we will obviously continue to have open and developmentally appropriate conversations as they get older. The body safety rules are meant to empower and not shame, but the responsibility of prevention falls on the parent. Please check out http://www.parentingsafechildren.com and the book, Off Limits for more information on prevention and excellent resources for conversations with kids at all different ages.

      • Melissa, thank you for this insightful post. We teach the same messages to our clients in Atlanta, and we share safety information on our website and Facebook page. Would it be all right with you if I shared your post? I think it’s wonderful for parents to see the rules in action, especially when it’s not something authored by us! Alli Neal, Co-founder, Revved Up Kids

        • Thank you RevvedUpMom. You are welcome to share the link to this post on your page. I would love to see your page and the work that you are doing in Atlanta!

      • My daughter just turned two and generally warms up to most people and will want to to give a hug and a kiss as we say goodbye. I don’t let many people into our lives so I really feel like i control things very closely. I had my first awkward moment when my daughter was telling my mom and her new boyfriend goodbye. My daughter wanted to give hug/kiss as she did with everyone else, and he immediately gave her his cheek, which I was relieved about. Is it too early, developmentally, to have these types of conversations with her?

    • Leah,

      I do the same thing. We have a no secret rule as well. Right now that’s about as far as we have gotten. I am very over protective of my daughter. No sleepovers, no parties, no summer camps and so on. If any of those are to take place and my daughter wishes to go then me or her father will be in constant supervision and ever watchful. Is this too far? Probably, but this is why. I am one of the 1 in 4. My whole life was nothing but one huge secret. From keeping the physical and other forms of abuse excluding sexual abuse that my mother committed, to not telling my father about the drinking, and other dangerous secrets to the day I watched my first porn in the 7th grade with my cousin’s step-father. I knew how to keep secrets and the man who groomed me knew that. By the time I was in 8th grade I knew more about sex than an adult did. The thing is though I couldn’t tell anyone because I would get in trouble and I would never get to see my cousin again. And well, I already knew what would happen if I told secrets, someone would take me from my family and sisters and life would be a lot worse. Then came my 9th grade year. The year where secrets became more important. My mother would go to jail if I told them she bought me alcohol and she took me to parties where I got so drunk I don’t remember the night. Then my molester cashed in and started giving me my favorite brand of smokes and would let me take a beer out in the woods while I rode horses. Thing is, I couldn’t tell anyone because he would go to jail, him and my aunt would divorce, my cousin would be without a “father” again, and I wouldn’t be able to ride horses and see my cousin. This went on and on until he finally managed to get me to have sex with him. He worked me up from 7th grade to when I was almost 17 years old. He waited until I had experimented and had sex with my boyfriend. He showed me all the ways I could be pleasured and how to pleasure him. Then he struck. He would tell me that i couldn’t tell anyone because I just committed adultery. That it was my fault he cheated on my aunt with me. That if I told anyone we had sex I would be the guilty party and that he would make sure my ex-boyfriend who was older, but still in legal range had taken my virginity. This man had daily access to me. He was very trusted and I was allowed to come and go from their house as I pleased. I would spend days and sometimes weeks over there. I was not taught the true dangers of secrets. Secrets were suppose to be fun little things that best friends kept. Not something that would destroy a child and the way she looked at herself.

      So, when I hear of parents making a “huge deal” of sexual and body safety I get excited. When it is a “dominate” topic in a home, I am thrilled! When I think that it is one less child in a sex trafficking circle, one less child who falls to the lies of a predator, one less child who will be groomed, raped, molested, or assaulted, I celebrate. Why? Because it is one more child who is being taught their value, strength, and importance in life.

      • Selena,
        Thank you for sharing your story. Leah, at first I was a little outraged at your comment about the presence of sexual abuse awareness making it a bigger deal than it needs to be and could damage your child sexually for the future. I have a 9 year old girl who just had to give her deposition on a child pornography case that her elementary school teacher is being charged for. This man has thousands of pictures of children he took at school on his home computer, albeit most of them harmless. The only reason he is being charged with the creation of child pornography is because of the photos of my daughter. To the best of my knowledge she is unaware of what his intentions were, and she was clothed, however I have seen these photos, and know EXACTLY what these images were meant to illicit and it makes me sick. What tears at my gut is the fear that I haven’t prepared my daughter well enough for these “over exaggerated” situations. I hate wondering if the stomach aches she’s had since then are a product of keeping a secret she shouldn’t be, or just plain old stomach aches.
        I had hoped that these things happen to other peoples children but by choosing to be naïve will not keep my child safe. Teaching your children its ok to talk to you is beneficial in multiple aspects of their lives. So even if sexual abuse education does give them a complex at least they’ll be willing to talk to you about sex when the time comes for them to have it, because you’ve made it clear its ok to talk about and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.

  31. We have the ‘no secrets’ rule in our house too for the same reason although we haven’t been as comprehensive in talking about body safety as we probably should be now our boys are a bit older (4 & 6).

    • As a parent of a child who was educated about good and bad touching and you can tell mummy if any one touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable because people that do these things are sick and need help so it is important you tell me even if they say it is a secret or that they will hurt mummy. Don’t worry they won’t hurt me it is because they are sick so you see if it happens just tell me and we can get that person some help. BUT GUESS WHAT SHE WAS STILL ABUSED AND ALL MY FRIENDS AND AQUAINTENCES KNEW MY THOUGHTS ON SEXUAL ABUSE NO AMOUNT OF EDUCATION STOPS IT AND TO A DEGREE THE PERSON THAT SAID ABOUT YOU HAVING THE POSTER UP IS RIGHT IT SHOULD NOT BE IN THE CHILDRENS FACES ALL THE TIME OR YOURS YOU BRING IT TO YOU BELIEVE ME IF IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN YOU CANNOT STOP IT YOU HAVE DONE AND SAID ALL THE RIGHT THINGS NOW DROP IT LET THE CHILDREN BE CHILDREN AND NOT WORRY

      • Nothing any parent can do will totally prevent abuse. That doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility to teach your children that they have a right to their own bodies and what to do if they are violated. I’m also more than a little bored with the “let children be children” argument. They will be children no matter what happens; what are we supposed to do, keep them in a bubble til they turn 18? That is how we produce over-dependent adults who can’t fend for themselves and it solves nothing.

  32. I am a woman and this blog is awesome! I am not a parent nor do I want to be, but I remember that “woman” who raised us told me to never let anyone touch you, oh really? She allowed that “man” she married to touch her 1st born half sister of mine whom I don’t know at all and my 2nd oldest sister how she was repeatedly raped while that woman had suspicions called her a whore and a liar which is why half sister is so out of her mind at age 50. Reading these rules you placed in your home is awesome not many parents wanna have these kinds of talks when it does happen then it is too late!

    My parents will barge in when you’re using the bathroom there is absolutely no respect in the house at all and they feel because they are the “parents” that they can do whatever they want yet nobody from the outside feels there isn’t anything wrong with it.

  33. its a good idea for the children not to hear Mom or Dad say things like, “I would kill anyone that touches my kid.” Many times the molester is someone they love and they don’t want anyone to die or for Dad to go to prison.

    • Yes I think you are correct, as Parent’s we need to learn a better way to express our feeling’s when we here these bad thing’s and talking to our children. Death ,pain, hurt are not the word’s kid’s want to hear when someone they love hurt them.

  34. Nice idea…but…sexual abuse is so filled with shame no one has to tell you to keep it a secret. You can be asked a million times why you are an emotional bawling wreck and you’ll never tell, because you feel so dirty. Your teachers should recognize the symptoms, but they’ve met your Dad and he’s such a nice person. Eventually you tell your Mom, but she thinks you’re being overdramatic or something. Even years after the fact, the police have been told, the perv sits in jail, you can write about it, you’ve been through years of counseling, antidepressants, the hospital and Jesus, but you still can’t say the words. They choke you as they try to come. Lists like this are nice, but you also have to watch for symptoms. They might not tell you. The other key is that people have to believe anyone is capable of abuse. It doesn’t help your recovery if you tell 5 people and they ignore you.

    • Hey Kris, I’m really sorry this happened to you. I wish you had been protected and that the adults in your life had recognised the signs of your abuse. I hope you have had and continue to have the support to process and move on from your traumatic experience.
      Sending you a hug through cyber-space.

  35. My husband and I teach our kids this same theory. We don’t have ‘secrets’, only ‘surprises’. When my sister started behaving in a way that made my husband and I uncomfortable, we told her. My parents decided that we were over-reacting and asked us to present our evidence against my sister. It was a family destroying moment! I can never trust my sister to be alone with my children now, knowing that she knows that my parents fully support her, and they can’t imagine that she would ever do anything inappropriate around my kids.

    My sister could have acknowledged that her actions made us uncomfortable and agreed to amend her behavior. Instead, she got offended and insisted she was “right” and we were “wrong”.

    But Hubs and I know that we’ve made the right decision. Our children’s safety is worth more than ANYTHING else!

  36. This is a nice list; however, it is no where all encompassing. For example, it doesn’t cover the fact that children are kissed inappropriately by adults on their mouth – which is not covered by “private parts”. As a forensic sexual abuse therapist for the federal government, one thing I will say is to ensure you are giving proper names to ALL body parts. “Private parts” makes adults feel better, but when I have to interview a child (or even adults) about sexual abuse, and they say “my privates”, it gets confusing when having to distinguish between the backside and penis/vagina.

    We also teach children starting from the moment they can understand (not necessarily talk) that it’s ‘my body’ and NO ONE – including mommy, daddy, or a doctor – have permission to touch them anywhere without their permission. So, asking a child “May I change your diaper” and actually having a conversation as to the necessity is pretty important.

    This is a nice list, but it needs further development.

    • Yes, you are absolutely right, this is not all encompassing. It wasn’t meant to be comprehensive. It is simply one aspect of sexual abuse prevention that we implement in our home. This is why I referenced the workshop we attended and encourage everyone to visit the website: parentingsafechildren.com and to read the book, Off Limits, cited in the post. A much bigger, and perhaps more important aspect of what we do, is to have conversations with every person who supervises our children in any way. This means teachers, coaches, family members, babysitters etc… The website and book I reference are excellent resources!

    • Very good advice as an abused child myself I learned first hand to teach my daughter these things she is now only two but I was young about 6 or7 and I refuse to allow this to happen to my daughter and also I believe just knowing your child their behaviors can prevent or detect abuse

    • I like this, but my one-year-old would be sitting in three weeks of toddler poop if I asked her “may I change your diaper.”

  37. This Works! I am the mother of three girl ages 21, 19 and 17. Modeling and incorporating these behaviors and using accurate terms at this age yields great lifelong results. The hardest/most awkward time was when my youngest was 2-3. My mom was visiting from another state and wanted to hug her. My mom asked her to come to her so she could hug her. My daughter went to her and began to look un comfortable. I asked my mom to let her go and asked my dtr what was wrong. She said she the hug was too hard and nanny had whiskers.She told mom my she loved her but didn’t want to hug.My mom told her she understood and they didnt have to hug to know they love each other. It was a very special moment for me cuz I had already doing this kind of training with the other girls now for 4 yrs(essentially alone) and always felt people felt I went overboard in this regard. What I can tell you is I now have 2 girls in two states in college and I do not worry about their safety because I put the time in their whole life. When situations came up in the news, in their school to their friends I would extrapolate…ask them what they would do in that situation/to avoid that situation……they are now good examples and teach /stand up for their peers.

  38. You missed one… I like this list, i like that so many are sharing, but there’s another thing every parent must face…

    You already know (and trust) the person who poses the greatest risk.

    Most people refuse to accept/believe this fact. “That will never happen to me.” Previously, I refused to believe it too. I always prided myself as a mom who noticed every nuance, every facial expression, every emotion my children express. After all the privacy talks and heart to heart conversations with my children, I was secure they would tell me, secure that I would know… Is wrong…my two little ones were sexually abused.

    Children who are loving and trusting are at risk. The predator used their love and trust for him as weapons.Now my eyes are open. Now I think of him with an indescribably violent hatred. But before this he was our friend. The man was kind, likeable, volunteered in the church and community. We knew him for eight years (before my girls were born!) Please please please wake up parents. You will NOT see this coming. You will not suspect the predator as a danger to your family. Your own trusted friends and family are the greatest risk to your children.

    More than 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their attacker; (“Sexual Assault of Young Children As Reported to Law Enforcement” by Howard Snyder)

    Parents, it is a terrible thing to go around in the world without trusting your own friends and family. But it’s the deception of kindness that gives predators what they need: YOUR love and trust. When I finally asked the right question of my girls, their disclosure came… Has anyone ever touched you in a way that made you uncomfortable, even if it’s someone you love, or someone mommy and daddy love…

    The horrible truth came.

  39. ABUSE IS NOT ALWAYS SEXUAL!!! MORE children are physically abused. Told to NEVER talk about it. Told that over and over, for years, for decades. It’s a secret.

    Beaten for no reason, and beaten hard and often. MORE children are verbally abused, cut down, held back. Sexual abuse is only ONE part of the whole spectrum.

    It’s a terrible terrible disservice to other abused children who grow up sad, lonely, lost, depressed, turning to food, booze, drugs. Sad and self-destructive.

    WE need to discuss this. It’s huge. I know all too well. Because I talk about it, ppl write me. AND I often can tell who has been abused on all levels. Our adult patterns of behavior are very similar.

    PLS INCLUDE US and children like us. Thank you.

    Something some pals and I are discussing privately. ABUSE IS NOT ALWAYS SEXUAL. Being beaten hard and often while growing up is as traumatic as sexual abuse. Take it from me.

    I constantly post about police brutality. The Holocaust. I KNOW BRUTALITY. Physical and verbal. When Ray Rice punched out his girlfriend in the elevator, left her body on the ground, dragged her out, I felt it. I know what that’s like.

    It’s not always sexual abuse. Thoughts?

  40. How do you address changing diapers and bathing for the little ones?
    Being a mommy I’m responsible for making sure parts are clean and talk to little man about this but it’s hard to explain when not a black/white line for a 3 year old.

    • I think it is extremely important to begin showing children respect from the beginning of their lives so that it becomes a natural part of their lives…and so they will *expect* it. They will know intrinsically how they are to be treated therefore won’t tolerate mistreatment!

      Therefore I always talked to each baby I changed…whether my own or infants I cared for. From beginning to end I’d explain what I’m doing and why. Then as they get older I’d also repeat my *mantra* that their body is theirs and they can say no to anyone who wants to touch it….and that anything that makes their tummy feel funny inside is something that they can speak up about.

  41. I would add one thing to this article. If the child does not want to have a doctor look at them or touch them, they should have the right to say “no” regardless if Mommy is there or not. They need to be in charge of their body, and a child will truly learn to say “No” if they are respected enough to choose who will touch them and who will not. A child needs to learn that in regards to their own body their voice matters all the time. No one should be able to veto that–not even Mom or a doctor. If Mom can tell them who can, and who can’t touch, then it undermines the whole lesson.

    • my son went to the toilet and ran back to watch his tv show and didn’t put on his undergarments . I asked 2 times to come put them on the third time I went to him but couldn’t find him as I went back down past the toilet looking for him i saw blood in the toilet and found him hiding in bathroom scared cause there was blood. When my son sat on his bean bag the zip top cut from his anus up by about a centimetre…are you saying you wouldn’t stand in a doctor surgery and say it’s ok for the doctor to check I’m standing here we need to see how bad the cut is so we can fix the problem…. you’re saying you would let your 3 year old son say no and walk out with blood everywhere not knowing if he needs stitching or if we’re lucky enough that it isn’t that bad. There will always be a scenario that is an exception to rule of what anyone says

    • Mom has to be the one to give a child security when it comes to the doctor examining the child’s body. A child can’t make important medical decisions for themselves. My children understood that Mom, Dad and the doctor together made sure they felt safe and comfortable if doctor had to look at any areas that their bathing suit would cover. Our kids always knew that Mom and Dad would be there and that we would protect them.

    • Yes our children should have control of there bodies but if as adults if you tell a doctor no they can’t look at your body for an exam then most wont finish the appointment and if you are in a hospital (ER) and refuse to allow the doctor to touch you then the bring in multiple nurses and social workers and pin you down anyways (known from experience). So we should teach our kids that it is necessary for the doctor to touch them with a parent around.

    • Not all touch is harmful to children, and not everyone (especially doctors) are trying to do them harm by touching them. Not everything that is uncomfortable or “not fun” or unwanted is necessarily bad either. Sometimes it is necessary and sometimes it is isn’t worth making a big deal of. They need to learn that as well. Let’s be careful not to swing the pendulum to far here.

      • You’ve said it all! Totally agree with you! Some people just get paranoid. And that produces situations like: if a classmate tries to hug his/her classmate, just like little kids do, he/she might get into trouble! In the future, they may become cold and lonely adults with social interaction matters, or even one of those adults who pays others to hug them!

  42. I am curious what age is recommended to start this type of thing? My stepdaughter is 4 1/2 now. Her biological mother isn’t in the picture, so it this all falls on her dad and I. How and when did you begin discussing this?

    • Never too early. There are ways to present things in a non-threatening way to the very young. I was molested by a family member at 4 years old. Nobody had ever taught me about “my body rules” so I didn’t tell until I was an adult. By then, the impact has woven so deeply into my daily life and beliefs about myself.
      For my children I found an excellent book called “My Body Is Private”. It is not about a creepy person trying anything scary. It is just mentioning how you have the right to say no and mean it when it comes to any uncomfortable body touching. Like the girl in the book doesn’t want her brother tickling her. She says no but he keeps on, dad comes in and reminds brother that no means no. Later she doesn’t want to have to sit on her uncle’s lap and give him a kiss because his mustache is scratchy and he smells like cigars or something and mom tells her she has the right to be in charge of who does and doesn’t touch her body. It briefly touches on nobody touching spots covered by a swimsuit. A great book for the little ones. If they have been taught, then Heaven forbid if something does happen, they will know to say NO and tell an adult. If I had only known those things when it happened to me, who knows who I might have become? Who knows how I might have been saved from so much emotional damage? Even if it still happened, it would have saved me so much to have gotten help right then and there.

  43. I am also raising my children with “We don’t keep secrets” and “We do surprises” rules… It’s nice to see someone else using those terms, I’ve had to explain myself many times over the years and sadly it’s not always understood.

    • I love this and will use it with my daycare children when I teach them such things. “Surprises” is such a much more fun word, too! I think this is easier for a child to learn, also than to try to distinguish between a “bad secret,” and a “good secret.”

  44. Wow, this is some great advice. I was a lucky one. I was raped when I was 6 by my babysitter’s teenage son. He told me to keep a secret, and I told the minuet my Mom came and picked me up. I don’t remember the no secret rule in the house when I was growing up, but there must have been something similar my parents taught me. I know when I have kids of my own I will be teaching this to them.

  45. Thank you for posting this. As somone who went through keeping the secret of being molested, this is good to see; parents being proactive and giving their kids the tools to get out of a potentially bad situation.

  46. Lets keep it real…no lying either…Santa and tooth fairy are lies we tell kids to keep their innocence in fantasy land.

    • No, Santa and the tooth fairy are surprises. They are meant to be fun and enjoyable, and when the children do discover the truth, the fun part is that they get to join in on the excitement. We tell them about Santa to encourage their imagination and their sense of selfless giving and love. When they are old enough to realize the truth- that it was just mom and dad- we invite them into the fold of getting a change to ‘be’ Santa. As a young girl growing up, I found nearly as much excitement in being Santa as I had when others were Santa for me. Don’t act like allowing children to believe in Santa is the same as abuse or leads to abuse.

  47. I love this….but how do you incorporate bathing when they’re little? I want them to know mom and dad (and sometimes Grandma) will have to touch their private areas to clean them but that it isn’t okay for someone else to do so.

    • By the time they are 3 or 4, they should be taught how to clean their own “private parts”. It is a task they are able to perform and does not require anything but reminders to do so.

    • I’m curious about the bathing too Johanna. We’ve started telling my 2.5year old about giving us privacy when we’re going to the toilet and so far she’s doing well.

  48. I have a little girl who’s one and a half and the wife is pregnant with the another due in October and I just want to say that this is something we will be implementing in our home. Thank you for the post, I truly appreciate it.

  49. Thank you so much for sharing this. I wish it was around 40 years ago, but secrets were the norm back then. Natasha, I wanted to say that although your daughter went through something horrible that will still affect her life, helping her to bring it out in the open at an early age, and helping her to not feel ashamed or guilty is a HUGE blessing in the midst of the pain. I did not have the ability to be open, or at least I didn’t feel I had the ability and I went for almost 25-30 years before I could talk about it. So much buried fear, anxiety, shame, blame……. came from the ‘secrets’. I am so impressed that parents are supporting each other in the journey to keep our kids safer. It may not stop abuse from happening, but it will possibly lessen most of the abuse.

  50. We as parents need to know our children’s parents as well. My oldest daughter who’s best friend in Kindergarten had a Dad who was as old as a Grandfather, he was 65. Her Mom was young my age. They were friends and we liked the family a lot. My younger daughter would go over and the Dad would hold her on his knee and we thought what a great family. We moved out of town a few years later and my older daughter took turns sleeping over and we allways met half way. The last time she visited and we met half way and my daughter couldn’t get in our car fast enough. She said Mommy Anne’s Dad walks around with no clothes on and he tried to touch her private parts under the table. I tried to contact the Mother to tell her and she said her daughter was going blind and they were moving. Never spoke to them again. That was 37 years ago and my daughter has never forgotten. I seldom let my daughters go to sleep overs, there friends could sleep at our home. So please be sure you know your children’s friends family well.

  51. I think this is such good information and all people such as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. should all practice and use this message! I also, think that we need to let our precious little ones that it’s not allowed to happen by anyone no matter what they may tell you, and it needs to be discussed daily starting from the time a child can understand what you are telling them!!
    Thank you so very much for sharing this!

  52. I grew up in a family where there was nothing but secrets. I was molested by a colleague of my father’s when I was 7. I NEVER told anyone until I was an adult and to this day I haven’t told my parents. I didn’t tell them when I was a child because I never believed they would listen to me. I absolutely believed they would take his side. And being from a generation where such things were not discussed I certainly was never taught to not let people touch me inappropriately. You cannot raise children to be afraid to confide. You cannot teach them they won’t be believed. And you have to listen to them.

  53. Such good advice in this article. Thank you for sharing. So good to make our children aware and give them knowledge and tools. My only problem with this is that it’s missing something very important. If we only teach our kids that looking at others’ bodies or showing/touching people’s bodies is bad, then that’s only what they will grow up thinking. Our babies grow up and our little boy goes through puberty and he feels shame for thinking a girls’ body is attractive, or a woman gets married and thinks her sexuality with her husband is bad because they look and touch. Yes, we need to teach our children to protect themselves but along with that teach a healthy view of sexuality and that touching and looking in appropriate ways when your older and married etc. is actually good.

    • You have to use wisdom and teach your children what is age appropriate for them to understand ,and as they mature you can add more. What if it is one of the parents or family member that is touching inappropriately?

  54. We had this conversation with our children. Unfortunately this does not work! Our 3 year old daughter did tell us and did not keep the secret but she was molested none the less. It is a great idea and it may help prevent but it didn’t help us. The damage was done:(

    • I’m so sorry that this happened to your daughter. I am happy to hear that she told you. I think that this rule list and open communication is to do just that. We can’t always prevent bad things from happening, but to educate them to tell a trusted adult is empowering and it sounds like your little girl did just that. It’s horrible that it happened, but it could’ve gone on much longer and you may not have known about it. Peace and love to your family as you continue healing from this.

    • I was just going to say this. In my house, there were no secrets. In 1983 I was in Grade 6 and I was kissed by my principal on the lips (in front of other children). I never told my mother until recently. Good article in “theory” but doesn’t always work in the real world.

  55. We talk about GOOD touches (things that feel good on your body and good inside where your feelings are, like hugs & high fives), BAD touches (things that feel bad on your body and bad inside where your feelings are, like being hit or pushed), and CONFUSING touches, that might feel good on your body but feel bad inside where your feelings are. I think this would help kids distinguish between sexual touch that they might like a little… but that makes them feel upset inside.

  56. This is great advice. Awareness and education often illicit admissions of abuse from children who might have otherwise stayed silent for years more enduring more abuse too. Still there is no substitute for parental vigilance. Predators pick children who are vulnerable whose parents are distracted either with the mundane like money issues, work problems, tight schedules or catastrophic issues like death in the family, death of a child, adultery etc. The predator then takes weeks, months and sometimes years breaking down a child’s previous training. A predator would point to the sign and say, “But you didn’t say ‘No” did you?” and make the child feel incredible guilt. In addition to teaching children about abusers, parents need to remind themselves when they are going through tough times (and we ALL go through them) to be more careful than ever. Watch out for the “friend” who seems like a life savor. Follow your gut and head which will factor in normal social norms and boundaries. If either says “no” then let it override the other saying yes. For example if it is a close relative, upstanding citizen but your gut says “no” then go with your gut. However if the person is someone new in your life and just got out of prison BUT your heart says “yes” and “this person wouldn’t hurt a flea” say “NO!” Parents get tricked too.

    • there is actually a book it is called the swimsuit lesson by jon holsten – it talks about that the parts that are covered by swim suits shouldnt be touched it is a really good simple yet effective ways for parents to educate their kids…

  57. I love the idea of teaching our kids to be in charge of their bodies, but on a more holistic level I think we need to teach them to listen to their guts – not just report in about their privates. What if Uncle Bill is rubbing their back weirdly and it doesn’t feel right but they think, “well, it’s not my privates so it must be okay.” I want my kids to know that anything that doesn’t feel right, isn’t right. Listen to your gut. And honor that feeling in your own body that says, “nope,not this.” Whether it’s about sexual abuse or about going to a party they don’t really want to go to, listening to our guts is the first line of defense in staying happy, healthy and safe. By teaching them to honor themselves, they will know their whole lives long that they have the right to say no to whatever they want to.


  58. Please keep this dialogue open as your children start to turn into young adults. I joined Swim team my second year of high school and went for a routine physical. I told my mom she could stay in the car. Her last words were “Don’t let him moleste you”. She had always been super vigilant about it being abused herself. I should have listened and I should have spoke up when things he did didn’t feel right. I told my mom what happened and we told the corporation but they said that technically everything he did could possibly fall into physical. I was mature enough at 14/15 to do almost anything but stand up for myself. Abusers are sadly everywhere and will definitely take advantage of those who are vulnerable.

  59. Thanks so much for sharing this though sadly, it is far too late for me.

    My son was molested at summer camp when he was 8. We naturally tended toward almost all the “house rules” on your list, talked about safe touching (parts exposed when dressed), reproduction, real names for body parts, privacy and rights, that it’s ok to say no to adults, and so on. I reminded him regularly (not frequently – but regularly) that I was always available to talk or help him if things were confusing, and asked every now and again if he ever had the feeling of being uncomfortable or being touched. We established open and safe communication around all things – not just this. He knew to yell “fire” not help, he knew how to identify safe people, and he started in karate at the age of 3.

    However, 4 weeks away at camp gave this predator plenty of leeway – and I didn’t find out until 6 years later.

    Once he told us we had a lot of backtracking to do and confusion to sort out. When it came to secrets, we explained to him that a secret is something imposed on you; privacy is something you get to decide about. Friends and loved ones will honor your privacy, so it is safe to share with them but secrets protect someone else, not you.

    • Wow Lori, Thank you! This testimony really gets to the heart of the problem. Predators are very good at what they do and 4 weeks was plenty of time to groom your son and keep him quiet for 6 years. When I read articles like the one above, I worry that people don’t understand the insidious nature of child sexual abuse. There is no comparing Grandma’s secret cookie with a predator’s manipulations and when the mother celebrated her son’s statement to Grandma I knew Mom was the one who didn’t “get it” at all. We just can’t keep our children safe by what we say. I am so sorry you had to see your son suffer in such an unfair way. Sending your child to camp was a very loving thing to do- something on which heart/gut/instinct and head/intellect/”what would they say in the paper?” would both agree was a safe choice. My children loved camps and we sent them to several. You did nothing wrong and neither did your son. I just hope the authorities are able to put the predator in prison and KEEP him there where he can’t hurt more children. I hope and pray you, your family and your son can recover from this nightmare. 🙂

      • Thankyou KathyT, your words are both wise and helpful and demonstrate the complexity of this issue. Predators are con artists, and they are both clever and patient. They are skilled at building trust before beginning to abuse. I too felt the suggestions in the article were simplistic, and I don’t want my kids to grow up ashamed of their bodies. My eldest is 5 and the first thing she and her friends do together is run to the bedroom, strip off and put on dress ups. Then they run around and play in their undies because it’s warm and they are not yet self conscious about their bodies. Pure, innocent, joyful, childish play. I refuse to destroy that. My daughter will develop an awareness of her body in her own time, and I want her to love it, and love herself. Hopefully then she will have the ability to know when something feels wrong. Until then, I remain as vigilant as possible. And I let her know that I will love her always, and that there is nothing at all that she cannot tell me, even (especially) if another adult tells her not to tell me!

  60. thanks so much for posting this. My daughter is 4 and I am desperately trying to figure out a good way to address this with her. I was sexually abused from the time I was 7-12 years old by my older cousin. I finally got up the courage to tell him to stop, but for some reason never told my parents. He hadn’t threatened me, or even told me not to tell, and I knew it wasn’t my fault, but I still kept quiet. When I got married I obviously told my husband, and it bothered him so much I had never told my family, and I had lived through countless family trips and parties facing my abuser for years after the abuse happened. I tried to explain to him that I just had this bad feeling about telling my parents. When my daughter was born and I had to go back to work, I decided it was time to tell my parents, because I had a strict rule that my mom (who watched my daughter) was NEVER allowed to take her over to his house (my cousins) under any circumstance. My mom thought it was just because I didn’t like my aunt, and I was worried she wouldn’t take me seriously so I finally sat down and told her. The reaction I got was not what I had hoped for… My mom just seemed frustrated I was telling her, she didn’t ask questions, and when I was done she left, then would not return any of my calls or texts for weeks! When she finally did start talking to me again she pretended I had never told her. She still associates with my abuser all the time, inviting him to all family parties, etc. And even has become besties with his wife’s parents! She told me for Christmas that I was invited to Christmas Eve dinner, but he would be there so if I didn’t want to come she understands! I felt so betrayed, and part of me wonders if she is in denial? I don’t know, but needless to say, I think even as a young child I had a deep down feeling that if I told her it would be swept under the rug by the one I trusted most. And I realize now that is why I let it go on for so long, and why I didn’t tell anyone. I just think it’s sooo important for parents to let their kids know that they are in their corner no matter WHO is hurting them. That they WILL be listened to, and protected. But I think it’s been especially hard for me to talk about with my daughter because it makes me think of what happened to me…

    • I think she may be in denial. Or, she just does not want to “abandon” another family member – it may feel like that to her if she is part of an older generation.

      Best of luck to you.Q

    • Jess, Give your mom time, but protect your child. I know it’s a challenge. My mother’s father abused me from age 5 to 14 when I stood up for myself. His inviting my sister to spend school vacation with him was the point I told my parents. My father instantly believed me. My mom just couldn’t. It took almost 7 years to fix my relationship with my mother. She totally blocked from her mind the first time I told her about him. She remember the second discussion. He continued to be a part of our lives and I felt I had to hover over him at family events to protect the younger children. I hope you have used the services available to you – it sounds like you have- to be strong in yourself. You can’t do anything about your mom’s attitude. My daughter had a Yes list and a No list of people she could go places with. My sister understood that her drinking put her on the no list. My husband was very upset when I imposed that rule on his father. But my daughter safety came first. I did tell my daughter at age 10 why she wasn’t allowed the freedom some of her friends had for sleep over, etc. It was too young. I wish I had just stuck to general rules and not given her specifics. Not that I went in to detail but… She had insisted but I was the decision maker and should have kept the discussion more general. Post the rules and when your Mom sees them tell her why – again and again. You will be in my thoughts.

    • Jess,

      I can relate to your story. And I’m so sorry to know that you’ve had to go through this. I hope and pray that you have committed to being a more loving, receptive mother to your daughter than you’ve experienced from your mom. There is no excuse for your mom’s behavior, yet we are ultimately responsible for what we do with our own children, and I believe your experience helps you be a better mother to your daughter, just as my experience has helped me do the same. My daughter is only one year old and my second daughter is due in July, so I am grateful to stumble upon this blog–and your story–early on in their lives so I can be more intentional about protecting them. God bless you, Jess, as you navigate the challenging relationship with your mom, and seek the Lord’s guidance about how to share openly with your daughter.

    • I am so sorry for your experience!!! That must be very painful to come against that reaction. It sounds like your husband is an understanding and awesome one! =)
      I had a similar childhood, and also hope and pray my daughters NEVER experience that hurt. Just want to say you aren’t alone, sister!

    • I agree Jess, when my abuse started at age 6-16, I attempted to tell my mother three times. At age 8, 11, and finally at 16 she believed me. I still think there is more to my story than what my mom wants to admit, and I might not ever find out, but mine got “quieted”. I have three daughters of my own now, and it is my biggest fear. My ten year old is being harassed at school this year by a boy, and honestly I am thinking of home school. Just be there for them, I am already aware of my girls surroundings and if I don’t trust that surrounding, they do go there. I hope I won’t be overprotecting, but I do not want them to go through what I did for 10 years. No I can’t be there for everything, but we are teaching self defense just in case.

    • check out the book bu jon holsten it is called thw swim suit lesson it indrodues a simple yet effective way for parents to educate their kids and includes a step by step parents guide the author is a police officerr and he was a dectavie who used to proscute child sex abuse cases, it talks about how the parts of the body that a swim suit covers should not be touched….

    • I feel what you’re feeling. My uncle sexually abused me and everyone still associates with him as though nothing ever happened. 🙁 My father denies that it ever happened and it hurts so much. I feel betrayed and abandoned my him.

      *hugs* You’re not alone.

      • Catherine Iam so sorry that your family don’t have your back. There is no excuse for it and I hope you have found strength and contentness in your own life with family and friends who celebrate you and deserve to be in your life.

  61. One question – do you and your husband follow rules 1-5 as well?

    Okay, one follow-up – do you not have any concerns that this may be teaching them an unhealthy fear of physical intimacy with others that will stunt their sexual development?

    • The difference between this woman and her husband and their children is that the woman that wrote this article and her husband are adults and their children are children. It’s okay for adults to have different rules than children because adults are adults and children are children. Although, that idea is one that has fallen out of favor in popular culture because many people like to think of children as mini-adults, even though they haven’t finished developing their brains and are, literally, incapable of making rational decisions about the future.

      As far as “stunting” sexual development, people shouldn’t be having adult relationships until they are adults (emotionally, mentally, and physically). This means that there are plenty of years and development stages between child and adult to have different rules. I grew up in a home where we had these same rules and as I got older my mom made sure to talk about different levels of intimacy as she felt it was appropriate for me to know.

      • 1. Parents should lead by example.
        2. Children are as adult as you allow them to be. If you treat a child like they cannot be rational, they won’t be. This isn’t my opinion. Numerous studies have shown that if they are taught, children learn to think, act, and behave on levels that far exceed what their peers are at. Logical and rational thought is right among this. Studies have proven that kids as young as third grade can preform more rationally and logically that the average adult as early as third grade if they are taught how to think.
        3. You are what you are taught. If you are taught at a young age to distrust, you will distrust as an adult. Think of all the cases where girls were told to “be pure” until marriage. Then when marriage comes, they can’t even have intimate relations with their husbands because they think that sex is not pure in any form.
        4. I do not agree with all of this model. I agree with some points, yes. But not all. I agree with 1-7. I do not agree with 8. Teaching your kids to not keep secrets from you is one thing. But teaching them to not keep secrets at all is an issue. As I have already stated, adults emulate what they are taught as children. Adults HAVE to keep secrets. No matter what, adults have to keep secrets. I think, rather than teaching your kids to not have any secrets, you should actually teach them about life. What is ok and what isn’t. Who they can trust, who they can’t. I think that this model is setting up for paranoid adults with trust issues and intimacy issues.

        And sexual development starts at around 3rd grade. Not adulthood. You don’t just wake up one day after you graduate high school and say, “Gee, I think its time I discover sexuality.”
        No, kids shouldn’t be having sex. But the OP said sexual development. This does begin in about 3rd grade (depending where you live). You begin to learn the science behind it. Sexual Education courses usually start in about 5th grade. They ones where they tell you the science behind human reproduction. Then by 8th grade, you typically see the video where they show you a woman giving birth. By high school, you’re in classes where they actually tell you how it is done. That is sexual development. Sexual development does not mean preforming the act. That’s a different subject all together. And on that subject, it is called Sexual Awareness. Where you are beginning to become aware of your own sexuality. Again, this develops in middle school for most people. Even ‘late bloomers’ in this subject are usually in ‘full-swing’ of awareness by their sophmore year. You know if you like boys or girls. You get a boyfriend or girlfriend. Your bio-chemistry begins to react and you get the “butterflies.” You begin to become aware that relationships exist and you start to figure out how they work. Even the ‘late-bloomers’ usually have a full sexual awareness (as in the desire to have sex) by age 18.

        I know a lot of this is off the topic of the author, but I thought you might need to realize that there is more to sexual development than just having sexual relationships.

        And lastly, this model is really only good (with or without #8) until the child is in 1-2nd grade, at latest. By this point, you should be teaching your child ‘why’ this is in place. You need to tell them that there are bad people out there, but there are also good people, etc. You need to teach them that only bad people will try to do these things. But especially #8. You need to teach them why they shouldn’t keep secrets from mom and dad. You need to teach them some secrets are OK, as long as they aren’t being kept from mom and dad. Etc.

      • I found Alan’s question extremely creepy. The parent’s sex life is private and should be kept within the family and online for that matter. Knowing proper boundaries and maintaining them is important for child safety too. No one owes anyone ANY information on something so private and personal. Many parents put their children at risk by sharing too much and violating the child’s boundaries.

        All that being said, lack of marital sex is a dynamic (not cause) of child sexual abuse.

        • Geeze, I thought we didn’t keep secrets.

          No one owes anyone any information about what rules they give their children either. But that really isn’t the point at all, I get how uppity parents who need to look to the internet for their bad advice (cause I guess just getting from books isn’t good enough these days) have trouble comprehending so I guess I’ll spell it out – her rules don’t reflect how she actually wants her kids to relate to their own and others bodies when they are older, and she is quite likely harming their ability to get their all to make herself feel that they are safer without actually making them less susceptible to the sexual abuse of children as it happens in the real world.

    • Wow Alan, did you seriously just go there? The writer is demonstrating rules regarding keeping her young children safe from sexual predators, and you inquire about her intimate practices w her husband?

      Talk about crass!

      As the children get older, and their understanding or more mature subjects becomes greater, I feel certain that she will talk to them in greater details.

    • Really? I can’t tell if you’re actually asking, or just being smart. These rules are obviously for children (who need to be protected as children), but in some ways they still stand for adults. Of course marital intimacy is important, but I learned these same rules as a child – and they have given me the power and the voice to tell my husabdn “No” when I don’t want to be touched. Same for him – he was raised with these rules, and he has the voice and power to say “no” to things he is not comfortable with or doesn’t want.

      As a child, no one is allowed to touch your private parts, and vice versa – because children are not matured enough for sexual activity.

      As an adult, we’re matured and ready for sexual activity, so the rule changes just slighly – no one is allowed to touch your private parts *withour your permission*.

      They’re all part of the same thing – learning to respect, protect, and love ourselves and others.

      • Except that is the piece missing from her absolute rules – the formulation of them is absolute, not conditional on your permission or about your control of your own body.

        Sorry, but these rules as stated are more likely to cause children to have an unhealthy relationship with their own bodies and difficulty being intimate with others bodies. Guess what, I wasn’t raised with these rules and I also have no problem saying no or accepting it as a response – there is no need to scare children off of their natural curiosity just because you are irrationally afraid of them being abused.

    • One of my first thoughts on reading this was that it would absolutely help as they got older with sexual intimacy. A child raised to think this way is a child that will grow up knowing they are not allowed to touch other people’s privates without permission, etc, and abuse and feeling the need to hide abuse happening to you is not something that only happens to kids.

      I’m sure these children hug, kiss, and are physically affectionate and will have further discussions when they’re older about other types of contact.

      And if the other option is abuse and allowing your kid to keep the abuse secret… well, that’s not exactly something that usually lends itself to healthy sexual behavior when theyre older either.

      • A child raised to think this way will grow up thinking they are not ever allowed to touch other people’s ‘privates’ nor have anyone touch theirs. What in the formulation of these rules gives them any indication that permission has anything to do with it?

        And no, the other option isn’t abuse and allowing your kid to keep the abuse secret. That is an absurd false dilemma, the kind that leads to these absurd extreme parenting ‘rules’ and the bevy of poor parenting advice scattered across the internet. If you really think the only way to keep your kids from being abused and telling you if they are is by scaring them from natural experimentation of their bodies than you are almost certainly harming your children’s development.

  62. Thank you for this article! It is so important to educate parents about the need to educate our children. I have just launched our award-winning educational DVD program aimed for children ages 2-6 years of age to watch with their parents to give them a voice to prevent sexual abuse. I would love to send you a copy to see if it is something you would want to recommend to your viewers. Please visit our website to learn more!


    Jennifer Hillman, M.S., CCC-SLP

  63. I just wanted to say a couple of things…First, Thank You so much for sharing. I will be borrowing from you for sure. Second, was to add that my husband and I chose to incorporate our son’s preK “Greeting Choices” into our home/family-friend life. You see in my family/friend circle (which is very large) we grew up announcing to people “Oh we’re just huggers”. And it was true, we hugged “Hello” “Goodbye” and things in between at every family gathering, which was most weeks, and even during the sign of peace at Church. While there’s nothing “wrong” with it, I could still tell it was really limiting our children’s sense of autonomy AND confusing on boundaries as far as who is it okay to hug, who do we “have” to hug, and worse blurring a unwritten rule about “listening to adults”. I even had an aunt tell my daughter she would not get her Christmas present if she didn’t hug her…in October :/ At my son’s school they are greeted every morning by the main teacher. There is a picture near the door and a red line on the floor where the children stop and choose one of the 4 greetings listed “Hug, High-Five, Hand-shake, or Hello”. Now, instead of telling our children to “give everyone a hug and kiss goodbye”, we ask our children “Do you want to give _____ a hug, high-five, or hand-shake?” They know if they don’t want to do any of those, then they atleast have to offer a “Goodbye, Goodnight, nice to see you” or whatever. Hope this can help another parent out there, trying to navigate a similar set-up.

    • I like this a lot. I am a Grand Parent, and we too are a ‘hugging family.’ So this was a good idea to add to the article and I shared it with my kids.

    • … besides that, I LOVE the part about “the unwritten rule about listening to adults.” This is something that needs to be addressed. “Listening to adults,” is something that needs to be navigated in each family –to teach when it’s appropriate to listen and when it is not–and not to be afraid to question-and refuse with, ” not until I ask my Mommy/Daddy about it first.” –to try to teach politeness (within the refusal)–yet firmness (about asking a parent).

      Thank you

    • I love this. I never tell my kids they have to give out hugs or kisses to anyone because if we don’t enforce some bodily autonomy how can we ever hope to really teach it to them? I really like your idea though, much more proactive

    • Thanks for clarifying that 🙂 Unless it’s a safety issue, children do need autonomy over their own bodies, even if it’s something as ‘innocent’ as a hug.

  64. And then we have the kids with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) who falsely cry abuse and ruin lives because instinct is to always trust the child. Stuff like this is just ammo to a RAD child. It’s like these days you’re darned if you do an darned if you don’t.

    • WTF!? Don’t teach kids body safety because you’re afraid they will ruin _your_ life? Seriously, that is really screwed up logic. How about don’t be a creep?! According to Mayo Clinic and many other sources RAD is very rare and usually affects children who have been severely neglected and/or abused. Go troll somewhere else and stop being so selfish and sorry for yourself. If you read this and your main concern is for yourself, not protecting children from being raped, there is something seriously wrong with you.

  65. I am THRILLED that you have highlighted Body Safety Training! These rules are so important to communicate to young children and based on the comments, many adults wish their own parents had talked with them about body safety when they were young. Thank you so much for bringing this important topic to your audience, and please contact me if I can be of any help. Sandy Wurtele, author of the Body Safety Training workbook.

  66. This article is, for the most part, wonderful. I like the idea of not having “secrets” as it definitely is one of the things abusers use to make sure they don’t get caught. However, I was a little uncomfortable with posting such a list in the middle of the kitchen and having what sounds like VERY frequent “What if” scenarios. There should definitely be rules, and at times what if scenarios are helpful, but it seems like this may be too much… I don’t want to be rude at all, as most of this is good, but is it possible that putting too much focus on the body could cause just as many problems later as not focusing on body safety rules at all?

  67. I LOVE this! My husband and I do not have kids yet. I however have been very involved in anti-sextrafficking and with that on my radar, have worried about how to talk to my kids when I do have them. This is such a great way of being open with younger ones. Thank you.

  68. This is a great idea. Here’s the thing, you just have to be open with your children. My daughter has known the birds and the bees since she was 7. As she has grown older (She’s now 11), she’s asked more and more questions about it. Also, you have to be open as to your own experiences. If you were abused, don’t be afraid or ashamed to tell your kids that it happened to you! Details aren’t necessary. They need to know that it’s ok to talk about things and that you have even had things that are difficult to talk about happen to you. The scary part is that unless you are constantly in the presence of your children, nothing is fool proof. Something can always happen. You can’t control people, whether it’s something happening to your child OR your child doing something he/she isn’t supposed to do. We can guide, encourage, educate, but we cannot control.

  69. Hi! This was a really good! And the questions are super.
    I have a norwegian blog where I would love to write a similar post, and if you don’t mind I would love to translate your “body safety rules” to norwegian, so people here can print them out and have them in their houses. Is that ok with you?

    – Grete

  70. Thank you so much for this. I wish my parents had known to teach me this stuff when I was young. We have implemented some of these ideas already with our 4 year old daughter but we are searching for more ways to educate her on the subject. Knowledge is power, and parents need to know how to protect their children.

  71. I disagree with the post.
    If you install the ideas of NO, Don’t touch private parts and so on, it becomes a great TABOO and becomes a great torture when the child grows.
    Then the child when he grows up cannot be intimate with the partner and will always have sexual issues.
    Having sex will create a guilt and there will be a conflict.
    Then his/her life will be full of torture, therapies to heal and so on.

    It is wrong to give commandments. See how the so called religions have made this humanity insane already!
    Let the child live naturally without taboo.

    And one thing:
    1. I agree with not keeping secrets.
    2. Meditations should be introduced in the life of a child, specially Osho Active Meditations.


    • I agree with theses parents you should educate them and know what creates guilt in a child is when a predator touches them and it feels wrong and a child is afraid to say no because we were taught what was right and wrong touching and we assume we aren’t allowed to say no at some ages to adults, I am a victim of sexual abuse and the guilt of not disappointing people has effectively hurt and help my adult life in so many ways. As a child I wouldn’t open up out of fear I’d be looked down upon this caused me to always make the safe choices and be afraid subconsciously to do something I felt was right for me out of fear of disappointment which kept me out of trouble but also kept me from getting what I wanted out of life for a long time. I am now almost28 and owning my life opening up on the subject of my abuse if it can be openly talked about and prevented it should be without shaming a child because either way either the parents need to talk before or these predators will shame you’re child into growing up with a undeserving sense of responsibility for what happened to them

    • I think proposing these rules to children teaches them to RESPECT their bodies. I agree that making something taboo does create issues for future situations, however, teaching someone respect vs teaching some very very strict (and sometimes unobtainable standards) towards teenagers are two very different things.

      I do hope to prevent those challenges during intimacy, the have another talk with their children at an appropriate age and discuss sex. Sex being a natural thing that happens (keypoint)when they WANT it to happen.

    • I am a student studying child and adolescent psychology. I find your statement to be untrue. In this article she states that she teaches her children that 1. People don’t touch your private parts but, 2. You are in charge of your body. If she follows at the appropriate time with “the birds and bees talk” then they should be fine. Actually they will be better off than most knowing that their first time is safe and consensual with someone they love and not with some sick pedophile.

    • And therapy from being sexually assaulted? I was taught not to have people touch those places and I havent been in therapy, nor do I need it. My niece on the other hand? she will go through years of it. Why? Because her step brother said “dont tell anyone this is a secret, if you tell your mom she will think you are a bad girl and you will get in trouble” and he continued sexually assaulting her. So, from personal experience, no secrets are not ok.

    • NO.
      The child learns to own their body and know that they are in charge of their body and they have the right to say No if they don’t feel comfortable.
      As for sex, they will be taught about it in school and im sure their parent will ensure that they know sex is their choice and should be on their grounds that are reciprocated and mutually met with their partner, even so schools do teach that as well.
      As for meditation a child can only sit still for so long however, mindfulness techniques proves more effective for adolescence and children. It also teaches them how to deal and cope with their emotions and identify them.

      Sex in general has Taboo, with taboo comes shame, oppression and frustrated sex maniacs. So its always better to be safe than sorry with children. Especially since children’s minds are still developing and easy to manipulate, this is an EXCELLENT safety rule chart that the household has enforced and is backed up by a doctor that obviously has a PhD.

    • i was raised knowing I should never let anyone touch my private parts. I was taught this at a young age and reminded whenever I would be staying the night away from home. I was never afraid I just knew my body was not to be touched inappropriately. I was also taught that sex was for marriage so I happily saved myself for my husband.
      And I have never been tortured, I have great intimacy with my husband, I have never had sexual issues, never had guilt, never had conflict. My life is full of joy for respecting my boundaries growing up and waiting to have sex with my husband only. I have no torture and no need for therapy.
      Letting a child live naturally with no boundaries is what causes all those issues you listed. They will not learn to respect their bodies and will not know to create boundaries. You’ll have kids having sex in middle school and a lifetime of random sex partners. I know this because my friends who were not told to say “no” were having sex in middle school and had countless sex partners before eventually having children with more than one man/woman. Those people struggle with guilt, shame, torture, conflict, sexual problems and therapies. Children need guidance and direction and boundaries. And they need parents who love them enough not to be afraid to have real conversations.

      Humanity is insane because of sin. Sin will exist until Jesus returns. There are many religions but only one Truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth and with Him you will have life. Believe that He died on the cross for your sin and rose from the dead as our Lord and Savior. Repent and follow Him and you will have everlasting life in Heaven with Him. There’s nothing better than that!
      Grace and Peace!

    • That’s insane. I grew up with these same rules. So did my husband. I am now married and we are actually quite happy. No torture. No therapy. No taboos. We’re very healthy – healthy enough, in fact, to say “no” to each other when we don’t want to be touched. We have a deep amount of respect and love for each other, and part of that was learning these types of rules as a child.

    • Many sexual taboos are wonderful protection against the kind of immorality that leads to a lifetime of pain i.e. child sexual abuse, incest, adultery beastality, and we would be far worse off without them. And you are giving commandments too. Rules 1-5 reinforce a children’s natural boundaries. Stating them just gives the child permission to set boundaries for others. I was sexually abused by a family who believed that sexual boundaries and taboos were oppressive, unnecessary and lead to guilt and shame. They talked inappropriately about sex and shared things they never should have shared. “Openness” is often overrated and used as an excuse to break down a child’s NATURAL boundaries. By the time I realized my parents were right and these people were wrong I was too ashamed to tell.

  72. As a child who went through sexual abuse from the time I was 1 to the time I was 17(I will be 19 in a few months)I fully support this set of parents. I wish my parents had enforced this with me and let me know the things that are OK and are not. If I had some sort of enforcement in my house hold I may not have let it go on as long as it did without telling someone. So, as a victim for 16 years I ask all parents with young children to take work shops like this. Protect your children. They deserve to know that they are in control of their bodies and not someone else. There may be cases where they are too scared to say something and as sad as that may be we still need to enforce this into children. When we suspect something we need to confront them and be patient. Assure them that no one can harm them or family and that they are safe to tell you and you’ll protect them. When they do open up to you keep close tabs on them until something is done about the abuser. Our reaction is to protect our children from every evil thing in this world. We cannot do that. Sexual abuse is too hard to protect them from. It seems harsh but its the truth. We need to be open with them about body parts, sexual abuse, touching that is appropriate and not appropriate, and that they can say no. As upsetting as it may he to teach them anything about sex so young it needs to he done. I’m not talking about birds and bees but making sure they know that their privates are private. That they don’t need to do what someone says that involves abuse. The younger we enforce this the stronger they become.

    • Kloey I’m sorry you had to experience this in your childhood, also.
      For years I was molested by a family member, and I was raised in a home with these exact rules. Unfortunately the rules were more harm than help, as I have lived years with shame and guilt from breaking those “rules”. I’m not saying that the rules are to blame for my abuse, but they actually helped my predator to use them against me to keep quite.
      You’re right about creating dialogue with the kids and watching them close afterwards. I think a healthy dialogue is safer than rules and am grateful my mom took the training on how to know when a child has been abused, as she didn’t stop asking what had happened to me (I had changed from outgoing to withdrawn).

    • I am a student studying child and adolescent psychology. I find your statement to be untrue. In this article she states that she teaches her children that 1. People don’t touch your private parts but, 2. You are in charge of your body. If she follows at the appropriate time with “the birds and bees talk” then they should be fine. Actually they will be better off than most knowing that their first time is safe and consensual with someone they love and not with some sick pedophile.

    • That’s really the question, isn’t it? The problem is that these rules are a great thing and this parenting tool is a fantastic one, BUT predators are crafty SOBS and they still get around this stuff.

      When I was growing up my mom was very honest about these things with me and taught me all the right stuff. But all it took was my first abuser telling me my Mom would hate me and be ashamed of me if she ever found out. And the next one being my much older cousin who I worshipped. And by the time my third abuser came into the picture, I thought that this was what I was supposed to do and be. That it was like, my freaking job to do those things. All three were very close, trusted persons.

      That’s why teaching stranger danger is so dangerous — it doesn’t teach about the dangers that non-strangers possess. And that’s the peoblem: when we live in a world this sick, how in the world do we teach our children who to trust? The people most likely to molest them are their own male family members. I mean, how do you combat that?

      I can’t have kids, but when I was a teenager and started really thinking about it, the only solution I could ever think of that might have saved *me* is if my Mom had told me that anyone, absolutely anyone who ever asks to touch me or to touch them is not to be trusted and to scream my damn head off to her ASAP. I figure if you’ve got at least one parent telling them that, and saying “and the only time *I* should be touching you is if I’m helping you bathe (when they’re small), or if you’re itchy or hurting down there and ASK me to look at it so we can take you to the Doctor…” it’s a good start. And then to from there.

      I mean, it sounds extreme but the number of people I know who were molested by Aunts, Uncles, cousins, grandparents, and even their own parents and siblings is so extreme, until we can find a way to eliminate predators, I don’t think any measure that isn’t causing harm is too big.

    • Implementing a set of “Body Safety Rules” is absolutely not the ONLY work that needs to be done to protect our children from abuse. The responsibility for keeping children safe is on the parents and the adults who care for them, and “Body Safety Rules” are a tool – not the solution. This post is just intended to address a very small part of a protection strategy.
      Parents must talk to family, friends, and caregivers and arm themselves with knowledge to prevent abuse– we must dialogue with our children “What would you do if someone threatened to hurt you if you wouldn’t keep a secret?” “What would you do if xxx person said xxxx to you?” Arming them with situational examples and experience is critical — and ensuring that you have that open “no secrets” trust with them. The workshop and book referenced talk a lot about the dialogue around these rules with not just the children but also caregivers, friends, family, neighbors– and how parents are responsible for that dialogue.

  73. Not to scare anyone but I always let my son know that we don’t keep secrets. He would tell me everything even the Dr. Pepper that his grandmother gave him that he knew I would not approve of. I falsely thought he would tell me if something was going on that should not. However after 2 years of physical and sexual abuse from his father he finally spoke out. His dad and I had been divorced 3 years. Come to find out his dad told him if he told me that he, dad, would shoot me. That kept him quiet for 2 years. It was not until him keeping quiet started affecting his health that he finally told me.

    • I applaud this mom’s intentions, and Julie, theoretically it should be clear that these ideas and rules would apply to parents and relatives as well as strangers . . . but as Jennifer said, it often is not enough. My daughter was a wise, opinionated child who frequently spoke up to adults about anything she saw as unjust or wrong. I was fully confident that she would tell me if anyone ever attempted to abuse her. However, when she began to suffer from debilitating episodes of mental illness as a teenager, I was horrified when it came to light that her older brother had been molesting her since she was in kindergarten.

    • Jennifer, thank you for sharing. I bet you did everything you could to protect your son. I can’t begin to imagine your heartache. I pray for healing, peace, and protection in your lives.

  74. Wonderful post! I speak with Mom’s groups about childhood sexual abuse prevention and what you have written here is spot on! Applauding you for taking what you learned and applying it in your household. It’s clear your son felt empowered and safe to use the “no secrets” boundary with your friend. Awesome job, Mom!

    Carolyn at RiseAndShineMovement.org

    • I tend to agree, somewhat – I think it’s better to tell a child “If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it/say it/allow it”. Help them to develop, and to rely on, that ‘inner voice’ they can hear when something isn’t right.

      • That is dangerous verbiage to use as your child will just be confused if it happens as it will physically feel good even tho inside it feels bad. Sometimes it is hard to get a toddler to understand that inner voice. Until they are old enough to understand they must be taught black and white rules. This wasn’t meant to be rules that are set in stone until they are adults.. These are discussion reminders. It’s all about dialogue with your kids and having full conversations around each rule. A 5 year old should not have to have the burden of trying to figure out if the inner voice is saying no when someone is molesting them and then feeling the turmoil and confusion and shame and pain of trying to figure out if they failed in hearing the voice and not being sure if it’s a big enough deal to tell their parents. I have never met anyone with a private part complex or sexual/intimacy issue that was NOT abused at some point in their life. Every age with your child requires a different conversation..and the “inner voice” conversation can always be included with the “tell someone no and come get me if someone tries to touch you” convo.

    • They will definitely have a complex about their private parts if they are abused…whereas believing they have the right to be in charge of their body and say “no” to anyone, just might lead them to have a healthy level of self-respect.

  75. This is a great article and an important concept. We have taken it even further with our daughters and told them that they are able to physically defend themselves from anyone, adults and children, if they do not stop the unwanted touching when told to do so, and they can’t get away from the person. This applies to bullying as well. I know this may offend some people, especially family (I despise the concept that tickling is somehow fun) who want to “tease” my children, but I don’t care about an adult’s feelings as much as I care about my children’s sense of ownership of their own body. I have also assured my children that I will always believe them and always be on their side. Schools are contributing to a lack of confidence in children by having “zero tolerance” policies in place concerning “fighting, hitting, or touching”. They suspend all parties even if the child is defending himself/herself. This is wrong. We have assured our daughters that they are very much entitled to defending themselves, and if they are suspended for it, we’ll take them out for ice cream. I just won’t have them ever believing they don’t have a right to defend themselves, verbally, and physically.

  76. Something has been bothering me. I grew up in the 50s and 60s when this was not talked about. I had a babysitter whose husband had a fascinting electronics shop in their basement but a couple of times he started to get me to sit on his lap, then wanted to touch me, etc. I told his wife who dismissed it as “he fell out on the high chair when he was a baby and damaged his brain”. I told my mother and she dismissed it like it was no big deal, that I must be mistaken. So I just never went down in the basement with him again and never told anyone else. How did I, as a 7 or 8 year old, strong enough to handle this and make this decision on my own? I guess it still bothers me to this day but there is nothing I can do about it now.

    • Gail,

      I’m sorry you had this experience and that you had to deal with it alone, as a child. I think children aren’t given enough credit for knowing when something is “off”. You obviously were a strong little girl, and I’m proud of you then for telling the adults you knew about what happened, and I’m ashamed of them for their response. I think it’s the kind of response that was all too common when you were growing up. I hope you can take pride in the girl you were and the woman you are, and thanks for sharing your story.

      • What a wonderful and caring response Christine! I couldn’t agree more. Lots of hugs Gail! You have an amazing inner strength/intuition as most kids do, sadly many are taught they are “wrong.”

  77. We began the private body parts conversation with my son before he was two and have just evolved it as he grows. He is now three and just recently I caught him playing without pants with a little friend. They were looking (touching, maybe?) each other’s privates. I explained that he shouldn’t have his clothes off etc and his privates are for him alone etc but he was quite upset with me. He explained (in three year old language) that there was mutual consent and both enjoyed the “game”. How do I explain to my son it’s not something he can do despite the fact he enjoys it and it isn’t “naughty”?

    • Use non judgemental language that helps him understand that those parts of their bodies are just for them and one of the ways we show respect for one another is by touching only the parts that are not private. Teaching a child that being touched is a game is one of the ways that child molesters warp the minds of their victims. I would be concerned for the other child, are they being taught about a “game” by someone?

    • at three it’s an exploratory learning phase that is “normal.” just because it’s “normal” doesn’t make it right. it is “naughty” for him to touch other people and to let others touch him at that age. knowing it is “normal” though, I think helps with the not freaking out on the parents’ side. talking to him calmly, removing him from situations and friends if it happens again, but letting him know if he has questions about his body and why it feels certain ways he can always come to you. as he gets older, he’ll be able to understand that that kind of touching is to be saved for when he’s in a serious relationship (or married, if that’s your view), and that can be added to the discussion. the important thing, I think, is keeping an open communication about the body and it’s natural functions (as uncomfortable as it might be sometimes) with our children.

  78. This is an incredible resource. I am not a victim of abuse, but I have three daughters. I know the world is a scary place, all the time growing scarier. It makes me physically sick to think of one of my daughters being taken advantage of in that way. And hearing the statistics makes it worse. Please direct me to any other resources you have on the subject. I need to be sure I’m doing all I can to help prevent this. We have started telling people, even family members, that we won’t make our kids give hugs and kisses or any kind of contact they don’t want to. Not even if they’re uncomfortable with it. If they don’t want to do it, they absolutely don’t have to. I’m trying to teach them that they have all of the say in what happens to their bodies. Its a start. Thank you for speaking out and helping parents like me, who have good intentions, but don’t quite know how to go about teaching our kids on this subject.

    • On the other hand, how can your healthy three year old get through to you that two little kids have a natural curiosity about one another, and that this is worlds different from abuse by someone older. These tots didn’t ‘abuse’ one another, they engaged in harmless curiosity. They will be fine. It won’t be constant daily fascination, except what fascination you give it through overreacting. I’d suggest let it go. The tot is wise beyond his years.

      • Kathy, your child was just exploring like all children do. Please read Mike’s response. Please don’t create a taboo for your child.

        Talk with your children about everything. Ask them about their day, how they are feeling. Be interested and observant. Be there for real. Don’t put that “private parts” list up – you’ll mess kids up.

        • Thank you for some common sense.
          This game was not naughty.
          It is normal
          It is not the same as an adult abusing a child
          We get so confused!
          Talk, develop trust, maintain a dialogue, be interested and observant.
          Let your kids know they can tell you anything that worries them.
          But don’t make them ashamed of their bodies.
          They are innocent normal kids.

      • Her child said they were both on board, and he was surely telling the truth as he understood it, but a three year old does not understand consent. Can we agree on that? And what if the other child was six? Or eight? Or thirteen?

        I don’t think you’re wrong, but I think the actions instigated by natural curiosity of one person can be harmful to another. On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like any harm was done here and I agree that the mother shouldn’t make a big deal about it retroactively. But at the end of the day, I think the safest message across the board is that ‘private things are private’.

  79. This is an excellent list. As someone who teach self-defense to young children I would go so far as to say they have the right to say no to unwanted touch anywhere except in matters of health and safety. Thing is it is not about “rules” it is about teaching them to trust their intuition. Something doesn’t feel right- by anyone they can say no and to tell if the person does not listen to them. Thing is often by the time someone gets to to the “private parts” it is often too late as the child has been groomed by this person to accept it. Imagine older person- kid or adult is just putting their arm on their shoulders. They feel uncomfortable but it is not a “private part” so it does not follow the “rule” and overtime it all blurs. And their learn to ignore their intuition.

    • Thank you for bringing this up, Sarah. I definitely agree that kids have the right to say no to any unwanted touch. We teach our kids that they can say no to even things like hugs if they don’t feel comfortable receiving one. We also teach them to respect other peoples’ bodies and boundaries and to ask if someone wants a hug rather than just giving them one. One of the phrases we taught our kids at an early age is, “you’re the boss of your own body,” which means that you can say no if you don’t want someone touching you. We played a what-if scenario at dinner tonight where I asked my boys (ages 4 and 3), “what if one of your friends was pretending to be a cat and started licking your face and you didn’t like it. What would you do?” My older son responded, “gross. I would tell him to stop and tell him I don’t like that.” I said, “And what if he didn’t stop?” He said, “I’d come tell you or another adult.” I think the rules are starting place for many families, but I agree with you that it is about teaching kids to trust their intuition. Throwing out “what-if” scenarios has been a really helpful tool for teaching my kids and helping them problem solve different scenarios, not just in regards to body safety, but all kinds of life situations as well. Thank you for sharing these points and for the work that you do to empower young children!

    • Excellent point Sarah,…just perfect. It take more than just teaching “rules,” as many of those who have posted here have had to point out using their own tragic childhood experiences as examples of why just the rules don’t always work. Many of those who have posted were taught these rules, but they did not necessarily help them if an adult had been “grooming” them. When parents teach their children to listen only to them, or to the rules, or to other adult authorities the child does not learn how to listen to themselves, to their conscience (or as some religions and cultures call it, their inner voice, the Holy Ghost, the Light of Christ, whatever). They only learn to wait for the next set of instructions, which works fine as long your child is in a situation that fits perfectly with that set of rules or is within your care every minute and you can give them the next set of instructions. But the minute they start being exposed to others in the world, and especially as they grow older and go to school, play with friends and get to that terrible age where they begin going to parties and driving cars and you’re not there, then they’re screwed. They must have been taught from an early age, how to listen to their own conscience so that when they get into uncomfortable or inappropriate situations they have the strength to get out of them, if at all possible, and not be tricked by deceiving adults (or other children who have not been taught how to make good decisions) looking for their own self-gratification. The “Randy Driving Over the Cliff with His Friends in the Car” story as told by Jim Fey in his Love and Logic series is a perfect example of this. I do think having a discussion and giving a set of rules by which the child can then learn to start practicing how to make good decisions and not allow others to take advantage of him is a good place to start, but it’s only a starting place. Teaching conscience to children is a long and arduous process that takes time and patience.

  80. I’m glad you make the distinction between secrets & surprises…when I was a nanny the kids & I made a surprise dinner & presents (some of their artwork framed for the big blank wall in the hallway) for their Mum & Dad’s birthdays (they had birthdays within 4 days of each other)…it was really hard to explain the difference between a good secret & a bad secret to them. They had, quite rightly, been programmed to never keep secrets from their parents so it was really hard for them to understand that it is OK to keep something like a gift or a special dinner a secret…I wish I had thought of the secret vs surprise thing myself all those years ago!

    As it happened, the 3 year old didn’t keep the secret but their Mum & Dad were very good at pretending it was a big surprise!!!!

  81. Thank you sooo much for this post! I was a victim of sexual abuse at a young age and have always been terrified of my boys going through anything like that! (Already came very close by almost letting a neighbor girl watch them that is known for doing things to kids).
    I had no idea how to really talk to my 3 year old about this! Thank you, this really helps! 🙂

  82. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (by a trusted teenaged neighbor) I’ve always been very frank with my kids about abuse. My kids are 4,2, and 6 months. We use proper names when discussing our “private parts” and I answer inquisitive (and sometimes embarrassing) questions from their little minds openly and unashamedly. I’ve always limited the people who changed diapers so the kids will understand that very few people have a reason to even see their genitalia.

    Another point I’ve always made (especially to my husband) is that when tickling or rough housing and the kids say “stop” the rough housing stops immediately. The kids need to know that they can stop physical behavior that they do not like and that they need to VERBALIZE those feelings. I once read an article that as people “groom” victims for abuse they try to seek out kids they can manipulate or those who will not raise the alarm.

    Though I am aware that there is no silver bullet, I believe we should do as much as humanly possible to empower our children and give them the skills to speak up.

    • Though not sexually assaulted as a kid I am glad to hear you talk about even when being tickled or rough housing, the adult should be educated to stop before their kids have to ask because my siblings didn’t sexually do anything to me, but they did hold me down to tickle or rough house, and when I begged for it to stop it didn’t and as a result I have been left with claustrophobia issues. My husband doesn’t understand it and it hurts his feelings when he tries to get close to me at times I panic because it triggers those memories. I love my siblings and know they meant no harm, but it’s there and affecting my marriage. My son is 6 now and I am very protective when I see any behavior resembling it, when I notice he is getting agitated at all I call a stop to it. My husband looks hurt because he thinks I’m accusing him of hurting our son, but I know even if a kid is laughing they can still be traumatized by it, tickling is a thing where you can’t stop laughing even when inside your head is saying help! This is a great educational opportunity as well.

      • Stacie, I’m sorry for your experience as a kid and for how it still affects you now. I think it’s great to teach adults AND kids that stop means stop. We have taught our kids that they are the bosses of their own bodies and they are allowed to say, “no,” even when it comes to “kind touches” like hugs or tickles, as well as rough play. I encourage teaching kids to say “no, I don’t like that. Stop” to any touch that feels uncomfortable to them. And I let adults know that I don’t force my kids to give hugs or even high fives if they don’t want to. I also encourage my kids to ask permission to hug or touch someone else. The rough and tumble play is so tricky because I do believe certain kids need more of that big body play, but it’s important that both kids involved feel comfortable with it. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope you can continue to encourage your son to say stop whenever he’s feeling agitated.

  83. I applaud you for having this conversation with your kids. It’s so important for the future of child abuse prevention that kids understand the dangers involved. I would simply add a caution: be sure that when you are teaching your kids about the body safety rules, that you make sure that they understand that the rules are in place because they are the only ones with complete control over their bodies, and not because their bodies are dangerous and they shouldn’t be curious about them. A major part of healthy body image and body comfort, especially later in life, is knowing your own body and being comfortable with the way your body works. As they grow, make sure your rules don’t discourage them from being curious about their bodies and asking questions about why it does such and such. Emphasize that it is ok and natural to be curious, and that when they are curious, exploring their own bodies and asking questions is the right way to find answers. This will help promote healthy body image as they grow into their teenage and adult years. Our bodies are nothing to be ashamed of, but they are our bodies to be in complete control of and shold be protected ad well. The healthy lessons lie in children knowing the difference between the two.

    • Thanks Christina. This is such an important topic you bring up. This is why we teach our kids the anatomically correct names for their body parts, so there is not shame around their bodies. I also think that tone of voice is so important. When we witness one of our boys touching the others’ buttocks, we will say something like, “oh I know you’re curious about bodies and yes, your brother has a buttocks just like you do. Just a reminder of our body safety rules, that we don’t touch each other’s private parts. I know you’re curious though, is there anything you want to ask me or talk about?” We try to “enforce” the body safety rules in a very loving (not shaming or condemning) way, so as to honor their curiosity and also empower them.

  84. I love this post and agree that sexual abuse can only perpetuate through secrecy, not keeping secrets is a wonderful thing to teach children.
    Having been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and having had my own child go through this (and tell us about it) I have concerns about the wording. Telling kids no one is “allowed” to touch their bodies inadvertently places some of the responsibility on their shoulders and could keep some kids from telling about it if it does happen because they could feel like they “allowed” it. This is a really common reason for kids not to tell, they feel like they have done something wrong. I tell my kids no one has the right to touch their body in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable, private areas or not. I tell them if someone persists when they say no or touches them in their private areas that that person is doing something they shouldn’t. And we teach them ways to deal with it if it happens.
    Anyhow, I just wanted to throw in my 2 cents, I think what you are doing and teaching is wonderful and important.

    • Thank you so much Crystal, for your comment. And as someone who has also survived sexual abuse, I hurt for you and the road you have had to walk, both yourself and with your child. I hear what you are saying about the wording. We work very hard to keep this an open dialogue with our kids and we talk about these things in a non-threatening way with them. When I say, “no one is allowed to touch your private parts,” we also include the phrase, “you’re the boss of your own body.” I think not only the wording but also the tone in which we say things is so important. I think it gets tricky because sometimes sexual abuse perpetrated by an older child, can feel physiologically good to a child and doesn’t feel uncomfortable, so can be very confusing. I completely agree with you that no one has the right to touch their body (any part) in ways that makes them feel uncomfortable. I am so so glad that people are talking about this and talking to their kids about this. Thank you so much for sharing.

  85. I agree with this idea. However, ALL bad touching should be considered as wrong, not just certain parts by the opposite gender.

    I grew up in a house in which my parents were quick to tell us that it was wrong for men to see us naked or touch us, but not much was said about other women. Also, our parents would forcibly remove our clothes at the doctor’s office if we were a little reluctant and would barge in the restroom on us at any time until we were 18. This created conflicting views.

    Because of this, my sister got away with forcing me to kiss her and grabbing my butt for years… After I developed breasts, she developed a habit of barging in while I’m dressing and making up some excuse as to why she absolutely had to enter my room at that time. I told all of this to my parents, but because it was not a man, they did not take it seriously… They would just say “now, stop or else someone might think you’re gay”. Of course, she would just continue when no one was around.

    She kept doing these things and I would awaken with her over my bed in the dark (doing who knows what) and as soon as I’d open my eyes, she’d quickly leave the room so that I would think it’s a dream.

    Finally, one day, she forced me to kiss her and I called her every word that wasn’t explicit… Only then did she stop. However, she uses holidays and other times when everyone hugs as a chance to still quickly cop a feel in front of everyone. Mom kind of knows this, but still will not put her foot down and set her straight.

    • Dear No One:

      In case no one has told you, you are not required to attend family functions where this may go on. You have permission to remove yourself from this situation entirely. I’m sorry your parents don’t understand/agree/support this, but you do not have to continue to be involved in situations where you are abused. And trust me, this is abuse. It is unacceptable behavior and you can end it. I hope you do.

      Get help. Please.

  86. I couldn’t help but know that in these lessons they are also teaching how to respect others bodies as well. They know how to protect their bodies as well as others. Thanks for all of this insight.

  87. I found a somewhat different situation once: a child in my Sunday School class (5 yrs old, wearing pullups) was yelling and disrupting the lesson. When I took hold of his arm, to stop him from hitting another child, he yelled, ‘You can’t touch me!’. I explained that I most certainly could, to stop him from hurting the other kid. None of my attempts to calm him worked, so he got sent back to Momma. Guess what? The parents were arrested shortly afterward…for dealing drugs. They’d taught him to make a fuss, so that they could hide/destroy their stash.

    The difference? A child who calmly stands up for himself is one whose parents care. A screamer has been abused in some way already.

    • I have to disagree with your last point. I have taught my son that if someone grabs him (usually referring to someone in a store but kids often apply one lesson to other situations) he needs to make as big of a fuss as possible. Kick, scream, shout, whatever it takes. He hasn’t been abused but is aware of things to do to keep safe. If an adult grabbed him in a threatening manner I would not be surprised to hear him scream and yell.

  88. Beyond Excellent! I bless you/our children/communities/world with J.C’s power-life-irrepressible grace-unshakable LOVE for self-others.
    Ref-Blessing Your Spirit
    Take Care,

  89. This is a wonderful reminder for families! One thing to also consider educating our kids about (as they approach adolescents) is how to deal with, and what is happening to their maturing bodies. I read a book once about raising boys. Although, this was just a small portion of the books content, it is what stuck with me. Boys entering puberty and even pre puberty (as early as 8yrs old) can have raging hormones and an overwhelming urge to experiment with them. The book suggested not to use teenage boys as babysitters and not to allow your teenage boys to babysit. I know that sounds harsh, but like someone said above, abuse often happens by the ones we trust most!! Also, the 4th grader who assaulted the younger child…he is only 9 or 10!!! Of course he should know not to physically assault anyone in any way and he should be punished! But, also educated about his actions. I don’t know the story but if we don’t educate our kids about clear rules of sexual right and wrong, then we leave them more venerable not only to be abused but to unintentionally abuse someone! When I was 6 I was “abused” (I actually feel bad using that word because I was just as interested and curious as the teenage boy who “abused” me) by a friend of our family’s son. He was probably around 12yrs old. Our parents thought it was so “nice” that we played so well together, alone, while the adults spent time together. All the while we were doing things that would have horrified them and instantly ended their friendship! I, even now, have a hard time “blaming” that boy. It was mutual, so to speak, and if I said “stop” or “I don’t like that” he would. My point here is…yes, that boy should not have done that. He was 12, I was 6, but I don’t think he knew HOW wrong it was! I don’t think he thought it was any more wrong than, say, using bad language or telling a lie to avoid getting in trouble. I don’t think he is an abuser. He was a hormone filled adolescent boy who was eager to find out how his body “worked.” He was not educated about what was happening to his once little-boy, all-girls-have-cooties body. I would actually like to have a private conversation with him now, if I could, and see what he thinks looking back on the situation. It cannot be stressed enough that open communication and early education can protect our kids is so many ways!!! Thanks for helping to get the word out on how to do this!

    • Yes, Stacy, you bring up an excellent point. Often times, inappropriate sexual touch is perpetrated by other kids who may be older or by family members or friends. Thanks for caring about this and for being willing to enter and continue the conversation!

  90. Would you be willing to share the photo or a downloadable file or even just copy/paste the Body Safety Rules into the body of this post? I’d like to work from it when we have this conversation in our house and add to it a few of the other smart comments below. Good stuff. Thank you

    • Lisa,

      Thanks for asking– Since the rules are taken from the Parenting Safe Children workshop and book “Off Limits: A Parent’ s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe From Sexual Abuse” by Sandy K. Wurtele, Ph.D. and Feather Berkower, MSW, we’re unable to offer a downloadable .pdf of the rules,.

      We would like to refer you to http://www.parentingsafechildren.com – where there is workshop information and the book are both available. http://www.parentingsafechildren.com/off-limits-book/order

      The workshop, book, and other resources on the site help parents to effectively implement their own “Body Safety Rules.” You will find critical information about not just how to equip your children, but more importantly — how you as a parent can take the steps necessary with friends, family, and caregivers to prevent abuse before it even gets to the point of a child needing to use their rules. Since it’s the responsibility of parents and adults to keep our children safe, the background knowledge surrounding the “Body Safety Rules” is an absolutely critical piece.

  91. I love this post and truly commend you for being proactive about this subject with your kids. Not enough parents are doing it. I would like to add a couple of very important things to add, speaking from experience:

    1 – Most perpetrators are, tragically, people that both the parents and child **already know and trust**. Sometimes it’s even a parent. Sometimes it’s the child’s favorite schoolteacher. who’s received the “Teacher of the year” award a few times. Sometimes it’s Mom’s clean-cut younger teenage brother who stops by for a weekend visit. Sometimes it’s the highest religious leader in the family’s local church, such as Pastor Smith or Bishop Smith, who represents godliness when he speaks in Church every Sunday from the pulpit. Sometimes it’s Dad’s best buddy who lives down the street whose family vacations with yours. Sometimes it’s the kind neighbor who always brings you peaches every September. My point here again is that most of the time, it’s someone the parents and child think they can trust and they would literally NEVER SUSPECT in a hundred years. This is what happened to me as a child. It was someone who was a close friend to both my parents. It only happened once (thankfully), but I remember I was so confused when it happened because in school and from my parents, I had been led to believe two things:

    A – That it would be a “stranger” (you know – the obviously shady-looking creeper that you don’t know from Adam who pulls up out of nowhere in a dark van, trench coat, jumps out at you on the street and tries to grab you or offers you candy).

    B – It will be obvious to you what he’s trying to do (AKA he’ll savagely grab you and it will be obvious to you that he’s trying to hurt you by shoving you into his van or try to rip your clothes off)

    I was told “If this happens, shout “No!”, run away and GO TELL SOMEBODY YOU TRUST. Check and check. As a kid, I thought, “I got it! Stranger danger! I know how to spot one from a mile away!” But herein lies the very problem: The adult that did this to me had been a close ‘friend’ of my family’s for months – giving us kids piggyback rides, celebrating birthdays, playing Duck Duck Goose with us and giving us candy, all in good fun, and always with my parents around. He was kind, he was fun, and I never would have suspected him. Until it happened the one day when for whatever reason, my mom was doing something outside and my dad was at work. I remember being so confused because this wasn’t a creeper stranger – this was my big friend that I had come to love and trust! And it didn’t hurt the way I’d been told it would either because it wasn’t violent. He was so subtle, it literally was happening before I even could grasp what he was doing. I felt sick, nauseated and confused inside because I knew it was wrong, yet it was my friend who I trusted that was doing it. After about 5 minutes, I worked up the courage to ask him to stop. He did and then told me not to tell my parents because “They’d never believe you because I’m their best friend”. As a 5-year-old, I completely believed him. So I didn’t tell them for 20+ years. Looking back, there was something he had done a couple of weeks before the incident that had made me feel a little ‘funny’ inside where he left his hand on my shoulder for a little too long. But since it hadn’t been anything overt, I had just shrugged it off. I tell you all this to reiterate two things:

    1 – Parent needs to tell their child something like this: “I don’t care if it’s Dad. I don’t care if it’s Mom. I don’t care if it’s older brother’s best friend that you tag along with, or a senior leader in our local church, or the nice neighbor that’s a friend of the family, or your favorite teacher at school, or your leader in youth group. Because sometimes, it is someone you trust and it can be confusing. If anything happens – **even if they haven’t touched you at all but they make you feel kinda ‘funny’ inside every time you’re around them** – you find an adult you trust and tell them how you’re feeling. We will listen to you and we will protect you.

    2 – It doesn’t always hurt. Sometimes it even feels good. But they still shouldn’t be touching you like that, it’s not your fault if it feels good, and we need you to tell us immediately if it happens.

    A really good book that talks about this is the children’s book called “Some Secrets Hurt” by Linda Garner. It talks about a little girl who chose to tell her parents about the person who was touching her even though they were a friend of her parents, and why her parents were still glad that she told them. Here’s a link to it:


    • Would you be willing to share the photo or a downloadable file or even just copy/paste the Body Safety Rules into the body of this post? I’d like to work from it when we have this conversation in our house and add to it a few of the other smart comments below. Good stuff. Thank you.

    • I attended a workshop a couple of years ago with our local sexual abuse help center where they introduced the concept of teaching “okay” and “not okay” touches instead if “good” or “bad”. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it makes sense to talk about it that way…sometimes a ” not okay” touch feels more confusing than anything.

      As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (at the hands of relatives) I am so hyper aware all of the time, and I am still worried my kids aren’t going to tell me something!

      This post is a reminder to continue the dialogue.

      • Thank you Tiffanie for sharing this! Good for you for dialoguing with your kids. I really like the concept of “okay” and “not okay” touches rather than good or bad. We use this same wording. And you are right, sometimes “not okay” touch feels confusing, and can even feel physiologically good, which is why I think it is so important for us to keep talking with and really listening to our kids. More on that to come! I encourage you to check out Feather Berkower’s book, Off Limits, as I have found it to be an excellent resource.

  92. My 4yo daughter and I read “No Trespassing: This Is My Body” whenever she wants. It is nice to have her pick the book and therefore the time for the discussion . It helps the conversation happen organically. It is a great book for preschoolers. I bought it on Amazon and can’t remember the author.

  93. Ok so I agree with this but I have to add… not all sexual assaults are by adults. My kindergartener was sexually assaulted by a 4th grader during school hours. She told me and her teachers immediately. Two years later she is still in therapy and we speak openly and honestly. we had discussed how to handle a situation like that from an adult… however, like most parents, I left out (actually never imagined) that it could be ANYONE! The school took no accountibility for the situation and the principal had the audacity to state (in front of seven other staff members) that the situation was all an exaggeration! There was such a mild response from the school, 3-day suspension For the agresser. My daughter refused to go into the school bathrooms due to a dibilitating fear that she would be assaulted again.I had to a. Bring her clothes or b. Pick her up, almost daily. Word of advice… make sure that your child knows that it’s not just adults that are dangerous.

    • Sarah, I am so sorry to hear about your daughter’s assault. I imagine that has been a heart-breaking road for all of you. You make a good point in stating that sexual abuse can be perpetrated by other children not just adults. That is why I am such a strong advocate of teaching children body safety rules at a young age. Rather than create a fear of dangerous people, I believe the body safety rules help to educate and empower the child to know that no one is allowed to touch their private parts and if someone tries, they can say “no,” and if they are not able to stop it, they can and should tell a safe adult. I encourage you to check out Feather Berkower’s website called Parenting Safe Children.

      • I also had a similar situation as your daughter, but it wasn’t that someone did it against my will so to speak. I think this other girl had been groomed (knowing what I know now) and she did the same to my sister and I. It didn’t help that I was brought up in the sex-is-everywhere-BUT-we-don’t-talk-about-it 80’s. I’m astounded now what I was allowed to view as a child on tv and in movies. No wonder I was boy-crazy and so curious at a young enough age that it was possible for this other girl to lure us into what she did by promising to show us how to French kiss. It still makes me crawly to think about. I don’t shelter my kids in that we answer any and all direct questions directly and try to initiate conversations on a fairly regular basis as well, but we very much limit what they watch/read/listen to. I’m hoping it limits their curiosity by giving them truthful, clinical answers without stimulating the parts of their brain that creates the warm fuzzies that caused me to be open to experimenting at 8 or 9 years old. So far, so good. We also have an amnesty type thing but it’s not a formal arrangement, though making it something set in stone so we have a safe phrase/word so they know that NO MATTER WHAT, they can ask/say something without fear of reprisal wouldn’t be a bad idea.

      • I just came upon this article, and I can see most comments are from last year but I just wanted to add to Sarah’s POV, not all the time the abuser is an adult, also in my opinion, there’s abuse and there’s molestation (I dont know if it’s scientifically different I just think it’s different with penetration or oral sex, or touching vs viewing, talking about or looking at things that make u uncomfortable), and the latter could be “innocent play”, or role play (mommy and daddy/ doctor and patient/ show me urs and i’ll show u mine). I wasn’t abused or molested as a child but I remember being sex crazed, wanting to know and then “learning” from the wrong sources, like porn movies because my mom didnt make me feel like I could ask her stuff. I remember having a couple female friends maybe 5th or 6th grade (10 or 11) who took me to the school restroom and into a stall to talk about french-kissing and masturbation and how good it felt! It wasnt like one of them tried to kiss me or show me how to masturbate but it was weird, maybe if it had happened, which would have been considered sexual assault, at the time I would have thought nothing of it because they were my pals, my besties. All innocent at the time but now as an adult I know better, had I had this openness with my mom I could have gone ask her what they meant and about all my questions about sex and sexuality, and have tools to say NO had they wanted to kiss or touch me. Thank God I learned some good things which allowed me to avoid losing my virginity at 15 when I wasnt ready.
        FF 20yrs, now I have an almost 4yo and I have told her since she was 2 that it’s not ok for someone to touch her in a manner she doesn’t like, even daddy or me, and being in contact with so many different adults I’m always afraid for her, with these “rules” now we can enforce the conversation and openness with her, and take it from there as she grows up, including peers as well, so thank you very much. I will also, with ur permission, Melissa, share this article with her preschool director and psychologist so they can help us as parents as well and know we are on the lookout for our children. I’m sad some people didn’t take the article for what it is and tried to “find the cat’s 5th leg” as we say in spanish, of course you have to adjust ur discourse as they age and become more aware of themselves and their bodies.
        Also let me just say, I’m not religious but I believe in God so allow me to thank Him and ask for His blessing for so many courageus women who have overcome (for lack of a better word) being sexually molested/ assaulted and have wanted to become mommies and are now empowering their own children the way they think best to help them avoid the same happening to them, bless you mommies, and God bless all our children and keep them from harm, sexual or otherwise. And may God heal those that have gone through this and help their mommies heal too.

    • This is very true…children who have been abused often perpetuate on other children, so we need to teach kids that it isn’t appropriate for anyone, even if it’s another kid. I love my little sister’s way of handling this when in elementary school. She was seated next to a little boy in the third grade who would put his hand under the table and try to grope the little girls he was seated next to. Apparently she wasn’t the first girl this had happened to. This was back in the day when parents often taught their children to take such matters into their own hands first and then if they couldn’t solve the problem, then the adults would get involved (I realize this could never be the case now days as we live in a much more ugly world with a lot more sickness, illicit violence, and other problems and kids are no longer allowed to defend themselves against others using physical force as they once did). But, for what it’s worth, back in the day I think my mom was right to give my sister the advice she did: beat the crap out of him and I’ll bet he’ll stop doing it. So, the next week, my sister and her friend lured this boy into a deserted part of the playground where they knew no teachers would see, then the one girl pushed him down to the ground and sat on top of him while my sister slapped and punched him in the face repeatedly and yelled at him, “are you going to do it again? Are you going to do it again?” Finally when he admitted to her what he had been doing and crying and blubbering said he never would again, they let him up. Then they told their teacher about what he had been doing and what they had done to him. She moved him to the back of the room to a table all by himself for the rest of the year. My sister said that as far as she could tell from talking with the other little girls he never tried anything on anyone ever again. As sad as it was for this little boy, you can’t argue that it didn’t have a powerful influence on the whole situation! I’m proud of my sister for having the courage to stand up to him; you can bet she’s never been the victim in her adult life either. Love to my spitfire mom!

  94. I have always had the same “No secrets” rule in my house. I had no clue it was included in any sort of teaching out there since I thought it up on my own and no one I’ve told it to had ever heard of it. I’m so happy to hear it’s becoming more widespread. My oldest are 8 and 11. I am reading a Book by the name of Finding Jake and the Dad creates what they call an “amnesty moment”. It always the child to tell something without the fear of being in trouble or getting a lecture. Genius!

  95. I am teaching my daughter to yell “fire” if a stranger offers her candy. She yells “no” all the time so that wouldn’t get anyone’s attention 🙂

    • As someone who teaches self-defense to young children if you child is alone and someone is trying to get in her “circle” I would teach her to leave and get help and do not converse with them AT ALL. They do have the capacity to deal with an adult who will then manipulate anything they say.

      So you could role play, they are alone playing in the yard. A “stranger” some along and asks for help – say find lost puppy. She should get up fast and go get help. Her staying there and saying “no” or fire” or anything is dangerous. She should aim to stay 3 giant steps away.

      But role playing is the best. Studies show that role playing is way more effective then just telling them a “rule.” They often cannot transfer the info to other situations.

      There is a fabulous organization called Kidpower.org with lots of online resources.

      • Great ideas, Sarah! And thank you for providing that resource. Could you say more about, “circle?” And how you teach that concept to a child? Thanks!

  96. Thanks for sharing! How do you prevent your kids from making false accusations? Also, what age did you start these conversations? I feel like my 2.5 year old would misunderstand and if I asked a question might say someone did such and such because she is still learning what language means. Then I would obviously be totally freaked out… Thoughts?

    • Thanks for your questions. We started talking about body parts and body safety rules when my kids were 2 and 3. We did it in a very non-threatening, casual way, with the point being to provide understanding and empower them, not to instill fear. As far as questions go, I think you have to be very careful with asking questions. If you do ask questions, make sure to ask open-ended ones like, “What didn’t you like about going to so-and-so’s house?” and not yes/no questions like, “Did something happen at so-and-so’s house?” I typically try to do more listening than question-asking, using phrases like, “you seem sad, tell me more about that” or “I believe that so-and-so was being mean to you, let’s talk about it some more. I’m listening.”

    • Mary Beth,

      We have an educational DVD program aimed for children ages 2-6 to watch with their parents. It is a tough topic to navigate – so, we are here to help. Our DVD walks you through the age appropriate material and your daughter will pick it up quickly with the animation, songs, and stickers she would earn throughout the program. Check out our website at: http://www.baileybeebelieves.com.

      Best to you.
      Jennifer Hillman, M.S., CCC-SLP


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