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Keeping your child safe

Child sexual abuse - recognising the signs

People who abuse children are often very skilled at building up trust with the child and their parents and carers and abuse may take place for years with no one being aware of it. Recognising the behaviour of people who sexually abuse children is not easy.

The Stop it Now campaign website provides useful information on this subject - and you can download their Keeping Children Safe booklet from the Scottish Government's website.  Stop it Now states that in order to prevent sexual offences against children we need to:

  1. Be aware of the warning signs that someone we know may have a sexual interest in children and seek help if we are worried. Don't keep it a secret.
  2. Talk to children and listen to what they say. People who abuse children rely on secrecy. They will try to silence children and to build trust with adults - counting on us to be silent if we have doubts. The first step to tackling this secrecy is to develop an open and trusting relationship with our children. Let them know they should not worry about telling us anything. It is important to talk with them about sex and to be comfortable using the words they may need.
  3. Demonstrate to children that it is all right to say "no". We need to teach children when it is OK to say "no", for example when they do not want to play, or be tickled, hugged or kissed. We also need to help them to understand what is unacceptable behaviour and that they must always tell us if someone is behaving in a way which worries them, even if they were unable to say no at the time.
  4. Set and respect family boundaries. Make sure that all members of the family have rights to privacy in dressing, bathing, sleeping and other personal activities. Even young children should be listened to and their preferences accepted.
  5. Take sensible precautions about whom we choose to take care of our children. Find out as much as we can about babysitters and don't leave children with anyone we have reservations about. If a child is unhappy about being cared for by a particular adult, talk to the child about the reasons for this.

Parents in Scotland can use the Community Disclosure Scheme to find out if someone who has contact with their children is a known sex offender.

If you have any concerns about your own feelings towards children, the safety of your children or children you know, contact us.