Why Educate Children About Sexual Abuse: The Law of First Mention – by Dr. Kelli Palfy
Parents often don’t want to teach their children about sexual abuse because they don’t want to traumatize them. While this perspective is understandable, I personally think it is a very dangerous position to take. Parents who worry that if they educate their kids about the realities of sexual abuse, that their children will live in fear, do not understand that fear is a learned response. Nor do they know of the frequency and prevalence of child sexual abuse.
As adults we all know the intent of an adult or older child who engages in sexual touching. It is not good; children don’t know their intent and they won’t understand it until they learn about sexual matters later in life. This means that educating a child in age appropriate ways – for example teaching young children that their genitals are not to be touched by others, that no one should be inviting them to touch them or showing them pictures, and that if they do they need to tell you, is not harmful nor trauma inducing for a child. Nor is explaining the concept of masturbation (even if you tell them not to do it) and educating them about how their bodies may someday respond to sexual stimuli harmful to an older child. Teach older children that being aroused is a natural response and that they can manage it alone and make sure they understand that no one needs to teach them how to masturbate etc.. Having this information will help them say no should a predator approach them. (Remember 90% of abuse is perpetrated by someone a child knows and cares for. )
Here’s why: According to the “law of first mention” when a child hears something for the first time, this new information becomes their truth; it becomes the measuring stick from which they consider all other related information. So, if an offender (especially if it is an elder sibling or someone they like or trust) takes opportunity to “educate” them about sexual matters without prior knowledge, this child would be ill equip to say no, or to disbelieve the new information. Offenders often offer ask children what they already know about sexual matters, then offer to teach them. They may lower their inhibitions by referencing their prior relationship of trust, showing them pictures of other children engaged in sexual activities, then will manipulate them based on their little body’s natural biological responses. (Research shows that baby boys get erections even in utero).
If an adult or older sibling offender is the first one to teach a boy about sexual responses, in doing so, they would be manipulating them with false information. False information like they are old enough to know what they are doing, that they are willing participants and that they are sexually attracted to them etc.. If children don’t have other accurate information to compare to (from what their parent taught them), they may spend a lifetime trying to reconcile the false information they “learned” during abuse.
Talking to kids about sexual matters can be tough. For ideas on how to do this, check out my websites, prior blogs and read: “Men Too: Unspoken Truths About Sexual Abuse” available on Amazon, Audible & Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/author/drkellipalfy. Follow me on Facebook: Men Too Unspoken Truths About Male Sexual Abuse, Linkedin or Twitter:@MenToo2020.