Although this is a sensitive topic and many in the Muslim community shy away from addressing topics such as sexual abuse, child neglect, and domestic violence, avoiding it will not make it go away unfortunately. The first step in eliminating this stigma is to understand what child sexual abuse is and looks like, as well as how to talk to your children about it.
1. Teach your child about personal safety.
- Teach children the names of their body parts. When children have the words to describe their body parts, they may find it easier to ask questions and express concerns about those body parts.
- Some parts of the body are private. Teach your children that certain parts of their bodies are private (not dirty or shameful) and that other people shouldn’t touch or look at them.
2. It’s OK to say “no.” It’s important to let children know they are allowed to say “no” to touches that make them uncomfortable. This message isn’t obvious to children, who are often taught to be obedient and follow the rules. Support your child if they say no, even if it puts you in an uncomfortable position. For example, if your child doesn't want to hug someone at a family gathering, respect their decision to say “no”.
3. Talk about secrets. Perpetrators will often use secret-keeping to manipulate children. Let children know they can always talk to you, especially if they’ve been told to keep a secret. If they see someone touching another child, they shouldn’t keep this secret either.
4. Reassure them that they won’t get in trouble. Young children often fear getting in trouble or upsetting their parents by asking questions or talking about their experiences. Be a safe place for your child to ask questions or talk about things that make them uncomfortable. Remind them they won’t be punished for sharing this information with you.
5. Believe Your Child. Remain calm if your child discloses an assault. Thank them for telling you. Reassure them that you love them no matter what. If the disclosure is hard to believe, keep reminding yourself that false disclosures are rare. Try not to show relief or disapproval to the answers your child gives. When children detect pain in others resulting from their disclosure, they will sometimes try to take back or “recant” the disclosure. This is common and is not necessarily an indication that the abuse really didn’t happen.
6. Get to know your child's friends and their families. Screen all caregivers, such as babysitters and daycare centres. Find out what they know about child health, child development, and child care. This may include getting permission for a police background check. "95 percent of sexually abused children will be abused by someone they know and trust".
7. Children have a better chance to recover if parents intervene quickly and appropriately. Taking action against the harassers especially in major cases is mandatory, not only to ensure it won’t happen again, but also to help the child get over the situation and report further possible attacks.