Frederick parents get advice on how to talk to kids about sexual abuse

A recent criminal case in Frederick, Maryland, involving a pediatrician accused of sexual assault prompted calls from concerned parents about how to talk to their children about the topics of abuse and assault.

So the Frederick Police Department and the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office are hosting a public meeting Tuesday, May 14. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Experts will be on hand to help parents learn the techniques police and child advocates employ when speaking with children who might have been assaulted or abused. The event runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Frederick police training facility, 6424 Plant Road.

Robin Grove, director of The Child Advocacy Center of Frederick County, will be one of the presenters. She recognizes that the topic is one that leaves parents feeling uncomfortable, but she said it’s important information that children should have. 

By the age of 5, Grove said children should be given the message that “they are the boss of their own body.”

She said one way of doing that is to give children the ability to draw boundaries. “They don’t have to be hugged, kissed or touched by anyone if they’re not comfortable,” Grove said.

Grove also said children should learn correct names for their body parts. “It just takes away some of the uncomfortableness of it, so it just becomes another body part, like your elbow,” she said.

And when it comes to understanding which parts should not be touched by someone else, Grove said telling children that no one should touch them in a place that’s normally covered up by a bathing suit helps them understand what’s off limits.

For years, parents and educators have been told to use the terms “good touch” and “bad touch” when trying to help children understand what sexual abuse and assault are, but Grove said that can be confusing. “It requires kids to make a moral decision,” she said.

If a child is sexually abused or assaulted, having heard the phrase “bad touch” can leave them feeling guilty, as if they did something wrong. So, Grove said, “the term that we’ve gone to using now is ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe,'” to describe incidents of sexual assault.

Often, abusers will tell children that what has taken place between them must remain a secret. So Grove said explain to your child that they should see that as a red flag. “No one should be asking them to keep a secret,” Grove said.

And, help them distinguish between surprises and secrets. For example, keeping information under wraps about a birthday party should be described as a surprise, not a secret.

Grove and other speakers will also provide information about how interviews of sexual assault victims are done and how police carry out investigations.

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