Protecting Children from Sexual Abuse


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Question: We have three children ranging in age from 4 to 10. We have struggled with how to talk with them about sexual predators. We want them to be prepared and protected, but not worry too much about the safety of their world. Do you have suggestions?

Answer: You have sensitively posed a dilemma facing all parents. Sexual abuse is a substantial problem, with confirmed reports of around 80,000 per year. The incidence is undoubtedly much higher, since children do not always divulge the abuse and many situations of actual abuse cannot be legally substantiated. However real the danger is, children's healthy development also requires that they trust that their world is safe and protected. The following advice helps balance these competing demands.

Talk to children about proper use of bodies

Starting with children as young as 4, you can tell them that their private areas are for themselves, their parents and their doctor to help them take care of. Since abuse sometimes involves forcing a child to conduct acts upon another's private area, you can also tell them that another's private areas, whether children or adults, are not for them. You can also say that they should not allow anyone to touch their body in any way that makes them feel funny or bad, but be aware that many sexual activities may not feel that way to a child, especially at first. Also, not all touching is abuse; children sometimes explore each other's bodies, and such childhood explorations, when occasional, limited and without coercion, are entirely normal.

Also let your children know that they should obey grown-ups such as teachers, relatives and babysitters who are in charge unless they ask children to do something that does not make sense or seems wrong to them. Again, find a balance between encouraging respect for authority with their right to use their own judgment. Children understand the difference between defiance or misbehavior and refusing to go along with something on the basis of obeying their conscience.

Use your own best judgment

Most studies indicate that children are likely to be abused by someone in the family or well known to the family. Abuse from strangers is much less common. For this reason, trust your own instincts. If you are uncomfortable about any child or adult who is in your child's life, pay attention to these feelings. You can't be certain you are correct, but providing oversight in situations where you have concerns is part of your protective responsibility to your child.

Maintain good communication

You cannot, and probably do not want to, prepare your child for every possible kind of abusive situation. Furthermore, even properly prepared children may not be able to fend off sexual predators. Accomplished predators are skilled at slowly seducing children in ways they may not realize until it is much too late.

The toxic impact of sexual abuse can be reduced or even eliminated if children tell their parents about the abuse, parents believe and comfort them, and professional help is obtained. With this in mind, we believe that the most important way parents can protect their children from sexual abuse is to foster open, trusting and supportive communication with their children about all aspects of their emotional development. With open communication established, children will feel they can go to their parents with any concern or event - hopefully before it progresses very far.

Establishing strong parent child communication requires parents to respect their children. If children feel respected, they will be able to have the courage to reveal any abuse, despite any confusion, guilt or shame they might be feeling. The following helps build strong parent-child communication:

  • Believe your children and assume, until proven otherwise, that they are telling the truth. Of course children make up tales or exaggerate sometimes, and they should be corrected when they do.
  • Understand your child's point of view even when discipline is necessary.
  • Avoid shaming your child. Saying such things as, "How many times have I told you?" "When will you ever learn?" "When will you get it through your head?" or "What is wrong with you?" induces shame in a child. Children who have become overly sensitized to shame are less likely to confide situations about which they feel ashamed, rightly or wrongly.
  • The best way to encourage respect for bodies is for you to respect your children's bodies. Physical violence of any sort, including corporal punishment, sends the wrong message to children about their rights to own and protect their body from the desires of others, whether that desire is the benign wish to teach a lesson or the malignant wish for sexual gratification.

As much as you might wish that it were otherwise, you cannot protect your children to the extent that you would hope. However, with prudent discussion, proper positioning of respect for authority and strong parent-child communication, you will be able to significantly reduce the already small chance that sexual abuse will impact your child's life. 

The Lucy Daniels Center is a nonprofit agency in Cary that promotes the health and well-being of children and families. To submit a question, please email editorial@carolinaparent.com. This month's question may be a composite or illustration of parents' concerns.

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September 2019

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Enjoy local bands, arts and crafts vendors, car show, kids' area, fun contests and games, plus a barbecue cook-off contest featuring veteran cooking teams.

Cost: Free

Where:
River Park
114 E. Margaret Ln.
Hillsborouh, NC  27278
View map »


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Cost: $5 suggested donation; free for children under 12

Where:
Durham Arts Council
120 Morris Street
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Arts Council
Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
Fayetteville St. City Plaza
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
494 Knightdale Station Run
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Towne Centre
1105 Walnut St
Cary, NC  27511
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Sponsor: Kids EveryWEAR Consignment Sale
Contact Name: Gail Walker
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Cost: Free

Where:
David R. Kahn Community Campus
12804 Norwood Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Cost: $5 – $25

Where:
Downtown Pittsboro
Pittsboro, NC


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Cost: $5-$30

Where:
Downtown Pittsboro
205 Lorax Lane #5
Pittsboro, NC  27312
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Sponsor: Abundance NC
Telephone: 919-444-9300
Contact Name: Tami Schwerin
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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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The autumnal equinox signals the beginning of fall. It is the point when there are exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at the equator. Mark the change of seasons by heading to the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Let’s celebrate the arrival of fall! Make a craft inspired by the leaves’ changing colors. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult accompaniment...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

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Rags to Riches Theatre for Young Audiences presents the classic tale for all ages. 

Cost: $3/person

Where:
Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Website »

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Let’s celebrate the arrival of fall! Make a craft inspired by the leaves’ changing colors. We will bring the materials if you bring the imagination! For all ages (adult accompaniment required...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten-Ten Road
Apex, NC  27539
View map »


Sponsor: Crowder County Park
Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Learn about the annual, long-distance movement of the migratory birds in our park. We will learn the difference between summer migrants, winter migrants, and permanent residents and then go on a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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The library invites you to celebrate and enjoy poetry with a series of events for all ages hosted by Hillsborough’s Poet Laureate, Dee Stribling! On the last Wednesdays of the month throughout...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
Contact Name: Libbie Hough
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Apple Day features fresh North Carolina apples, an apple dessert and more.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
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 “Shinrin-yoku” is a Japanese healing technique which means "taking in the forest atmosphere." Developed in the 1980s, it has become a cornerstone of preventive health...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

This family-friendly urban bluegrass festival features a dance tent, workshops and exhibit hall with instruments and gear in the Raleigh Convention Center, food vendors, a youth stage, juried...

Cost: Free-$60

Where:
, NC

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Enjoy down time in nature, or take part in guided art making, herbalism, outdoor yoga, storytelling, or basic women’s camping skills. Dinner and breakfast included, but take camping...

Cost: $50/member, $55/nonmember.

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Come out to the 5th Annual Wolfpack Games at Willis R. Casey Aquatic Center on Friday, September 27th at 6 PM. Enjoy a fun atmosphere and get an exclusive sneak peek at the 2019-2020 NC State...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Willis R. Casey Aquatic Center
2611 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27695
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Enjoy free bowl cuts by Arrow, Worm Farms; a Most Annoying Sound Off; and Costume Contest. Wear a best orange or blue tuxes. Gates and food trucks will open and begin at 6pm with the movie starting...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Raleigh Meadows
Campus Shore Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: VisitCentennial
Telephone: 704-651-3179
Contact Name: Jude DesNoyer
Website »

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Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring live music and food trucks.

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

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Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. See website for hours.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
Benson, NC  27504
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Website »

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Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Give rugby a try. Take part in tag rugby pick-up games every Saturday morning at Baileywick Road Park, near the Second Shelter.  No experience necessary. All ages. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Baileywick Road Park
9501 Baileywick Rd
Second Shelter Field
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Raleigh Redhawks Rugby
Contact Name: denise travis
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Welcome fall's arrival with a food truck rodeo, car show, face painting, a craft show and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
125 U.S. 1-A
Youngsville, NC  27596
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Website »

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Celebrate the Fall Harvest with the Cary Downtown Farmers Market on Saturday, September 28 along West Chatham Street in Cary! There will be contests and games, craft booths and food trucks lining...

Cost: Free

Where:
West Chatham Street
Cary, NC  27511


Sponsor: Cary Downtown Farmers Market
Telephone: 919-244-6463
Contact Name: Lindsey Chester
Website »

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Take part in a 1.4-mile walk for inclusiveness. Registration and activities begin at 10 a.m.; walk begins at 10:30 a.m. Enjoy refreshments, games, raffle and a decorating station. All ages and...

Cost: $15/family, $5/individual

Where:
Kids Together Playground
111 Thurston Dr.
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

More information

Campbell Law School will host a bike ride from “The Creek to the Capital” the morning of Saturday, September 28 as part of its yearlong anniversary celebration. Riders of all skill...

Cost: $40 fee includes T-shirt/lunch

Where:
Finish line @ Campbell Law School
225 Hillsborough St
Raleigh , NC  27603
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Sponsor: Campbell Law School
Telephone: 919-865-5978
Contact Name: Lisa Snedeker
Website »

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Enjoy a day at the park and listen to stories from professional storytellers in this event presented by Wake County Public Libraries and Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Oak View County Park
4028 Carya Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Oak View County Park
Telephone: 919-250-1013
Website »

More information

Live Entertainment all day, including a Talent Contest. Win the Raffle. Enjoy at least a dozen international options prepared by parishioners-- Mexican, Irish, Filipino just to name a few. ...

Cost: Free festival admission. Food and raffle incur fees

Where:
J. Ashley Wall Towne Square
J. Ashley Wall Towne Square W. Third St. & W. Cypress St.
Wendell, NC  27591
View map »


Sponsor: St Eugene Catholic Church
Telephone: 919-449-5234
Contact Name: Susan Welsh
Website »

More information

Enjoy live performances, cultural exhibits, children's activities, dragon boat racing and more. Taste a wide collection of ethnic foods and delicacies created by local chefs.

Cost: $5 advance tickets; $8 at the door. Free for ages 12 and younger

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn basic canoeing skills and a bit about the millpond's history, then head out to explore the pond's many features as seen only from the water. Canoes, paddles, and life jackets are provided,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Travel to Germany without leaving the Triangle at this German-inspired festival featuring live music and food, as well as the ever-popular wiener dog races.

Cost: Free

Where:
Lafayette Village
8450 Honeycutt Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Website »

More information

This family-friendly urban bluegrass festival features a dance tent, workshops and exhibit hall with instruments and gear in the Raleigh Convention Center, food vendors, a youth stage, juried...

Cost: Free-$60

Where:
, NC

More information

Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1:00, 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 & 3:00 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

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In 1979, the NC Legislature designated the Eastern Box Turtle as our state reptile. Learn how you can help conserve this valuable state symbol. Meet Lake Crabtree's adopted turtle, Shel...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
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Take the family for live music, crafts and food. See website for hours.

Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Town Hall
301 W. Main St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Mums and pumpkins take center stage at this festival featuring food trucks and great music. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Knightdale Station Park
810 N. First Ave.
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East Cloud Kungfu hosts a Parent's Night Out event, featuring a safe environment for kids as they about the wide world of kungfu.   Check it out!...

Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
Telephone: 252-646-7053
Contact Name: Imari Colon
Website »

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Railroad Days' 44th consecutive year features the Railroad Days pageant at 7 p.m., where a queen in five age divisions will be crowned. The festival continues Oct. 4-5 in downtown Selma.

Cost: $12/person for pageant admission

Where:
Selma Elementary School
311 W. Richardson St.
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View map »


Website »

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Rodeos, a mule-pulling contest, arts and crafts, vendors, carnival rides, street performers, bluegrass shows and more are all part of Benson Mule Days. See website for hours.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Benson
500 S. Market St.
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View map »


Website »

More information

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