What children should know
Children should know that adults who break the body rules know what they are doing is wrong so they will use tactics to prevent others from finding out about the abuse. These tactics include:
- coercion – pressuring the child into doing something the child does not want to do
- threats – telling the child they will do something harmful to the child or something bad will happen if the child tells
- secrets – preventing the child from telling, by telling the child, “this is our special secret” or by using implied secrecy
- bribes – offering the child something if the child does what the offender wants
- treats – giving the child things that they like when the child and offender spend time together
- making the child feel special – making the child think that the offender really cares about them
- blackmail – using pressure or threats to ensure the child does not tell
- making the child believe they wanted it – telling the child that he/she thought the child wanted the abuse because of something the child said or did. Alternatively, the child may be confused about what has happened and may think that he/she wanted it, especially if aspects of the abuse felt good
- making the child believe it is their fault
- tricks – making the child believe something that is not true or is not how the child thought it would be
- isolating the child from those who can help them – creating emotional or physical barriers between the child and those who can help them, including setting up a child to be seen as a liar or untrustworthy.
- making the child think no one will believe them if they tell
- child grooming – a gradual, progressive process that is used to make the child feel “okay” with the abuse. This is usually done through building a relationship with the child and family, becoming liked and trusted.
- manipulating the child into believing something that is not true.
Why this is an important part of child sexual abuse prevention
Perpetrators of sexual abuse are generally well known and liked by children and their families. As an adult you may have some confusing feelings about sharing information about child sexual abuse and offender tactics. But by becoming informed of the techniques used by child sexual abuse offenders, children are more likely to question the motives behind the behaviours listed above and identify them as offender tactics. Without this understanding, children will be more likely to blame themselves for the abuse or be more vulnerable to it.
The ongoing secrecy surrounding child sexual abuse is the greatest risk to our children’s safety because it protects perpetrators and creates an environment for them to continue to abuse children without detection.
Ideas for having conversations on this concept
- Play several levels of the tap tap mini-game and discuss some of the “need to tell” stories included in each level. Also spend some time analysing who has the power in the stories.
- Explain to your child that most adults do not abuse children but those that do may use one or more of the above tactics to carry out the abuse.
- Talk to your child about what they should do if someone uses these tactics on them to break the body rules (see Telling and Keep on Telling)
- Encourage open communication and let your child take their time to respond. Asking open questions like “what do you think about that?”, “what questions do you have about this?”, or “do you have any worries/feelings about this?” gives your child an opportunity to open up.