Counselor explains importance of talking to your children about sexual abuse


March 30, 2019

Decades after losing her son to suicide, Janet Patterson wants to make sure parents are talking with their children about sexual abuse.

“The main thing is if you’re free to talk about what’s going on, they’ll feel more free to bring it up if there’s a problem,” Patterson said.

Sharilyn Ray is the founder and CEO of Restoration Family Services. She has years of experience working with sexually abused children.

Ray says parents should start the conversation at a young age.

“I think as early as they are able to comprehend body parts,” Ray said. “We’re working with our young ones on ear, nose, mouth eyes, but also teaching them names for their private parts. It is during that time they can recognize what areas are their own personal space.”

Ray says use the technical names – not nicknames or slang terms. She says anything that’s covered with a swimsuit should be taught as a private area.

As children get older, parents need to continue to have that conversation. Rays says the majority of abuse happens by someone kids know and trust. So anytime they spend time away, ask them if anything happened. If anyone touched them where they shouldn’t

“Did someone make you feel uncomfortable in any way? Even asking “do you feel like someone invaded your bubble space?” Just to get them used to having that conversation with you and that door to be open,” Ray said.

She says it’s a conversation you should have often and don’t let your kids believe it’s a taboo topic.

“This is a picture of Eric when he was in high school and he had that detached look on his face. You see your child like this and you see them happy the next day and when you try to find out, they’re just naturally not going to say anything so its hard,” Patterson said.

“You have to work through the nonverbal stuff to get to the verbal,” Say said. “Sometimes a simple hug goes a long way, and silence goes a long way. Sometimes you have to build up to that comfortable place to where your kid can just word vomit to you.”

Rays says parents need to make sure to keep the guilt off their child.

“If you’re a victim, you’re a victim. You do not have control over someone’s actions. If you say no or you’re not inviting that, then it shouldn’t happen have,” Ray said.

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