The Body Rules
What children should know
Children should know that a person is breaking the body rules if that person:
- touches the child’s private parts. The only time this is not breaking the body rules is if:
- a doctor or parent/carer is helping keep the child clean and the child is unable to do this for themselves
- a doctor needs to touch a child’s private parts when the child is sick (usually the child’s parent/carer would be present in this situation).
- shows the child their private parts
- asks or forces the child to touch someone’s private parts
- shows the child pictures of people’s private parts
- takes naked pictures of the child
- uses sexually explicit words
- asks the child to perform sexual acts.
Breaking the body rules is sexual abuse and is against the law. It is never okay and it is never the fault of the child.
Although most people do not break the body rules, there is no way to tell the difference between people that break the body rules and those that don’t. The person probably won’t look different from anybody else. The person can be someone the child knows or someone they don’t. The person can be someone the child likes or someone who is supposed to look after the child. The person can be a man or a woman. The person can be a friend of the family, a member of the family or anybody else.
Any child can be sexually abused. It does not matter how old or young the child is, whether the child is a boy or a girl, what cultural background the child has, whether the child has a disability or how many friends the child has.
Why this is an important part of child sexual abuse prevention
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse may attempt to make the child think that what is happening is normal; therefore children need to have a clear understanding of what constitutes child sexual abuse. They need to know that if this happens it is never okay, it is not their fault and that they should tell their trusted adults about what is happening to them.
Children are developmentally able to interpret rules as opposed to recognising feelings. Recognising feelings has been a feature of other protective behaviours programs and proven ineffective in cases where children can’t recognise or don’t have negative feelings in relation to the abuse.
Ideas for having conversations on this concept
- talk about private body parts (see private body parts)
- introduce the concept of body ownership to talk to your child about the body rules
- reflect on how the body rules were applied to the Robot Factory mini-game that the child played in chapters 1, 2 and 5
- help your child understand that, although most people don’t, anyone can break the body rules
- explain to your child that if someone breaks the body rules, this is called sexual abuse
- help your child understand that any child can be sexually abused
- talk to your child about what they would do if someone breaks the body rules
- explain to your child that they have the right to privacy and that their body is their own and no one, not even you, has the right to break the body rules.