Explaining the topic to children
There is no easy way to discuss this topic, although primary schools are starting to introduce "sex and relationships education" at ages 9-11. Just answer any questions children may have openly and honestly.
Remember as a parent, if you don't create a home environment where sex (and its counterpart, sexual abuse) is discussed naturally, you will find it enormously difficult to talk to your kids about it later on. Studies have shown that teenagers find it seriously embarrassing to talk to their parents about the subject if it was taboo when they were younger.
If you need to explain what RASASC is to a young child, try telling them it is "a counselling service where older people can go to talk about bad things that happened to them in the past that they didn't like, and where talking about those things makes them feel better". You can also tell the child that RASASC gives advice to adults about helping all children to become safe and happy.
Parents, guardians and teachers must consider with care the child's age and degree of ability to comprehend the issues involved, but pre-pubescent children can for example be informed without engaging in a complete "sex education lesson" that sexually hurtful people are rare but do exist.
Why explain "bad things" to youngsters at all?
As children start to grow and become older it is useful to take the opportunity to begin talking about this topic with them so that they can understand and recognise inappropriate behaviour.
Most schools teach children about "stranger danger". Yet sexual abuse often happens within families and extended families, secretly perpetrated by someone known and trusted by the parents and children. Girls and boys can both be at risk. They are often groomed by the abuser to "keep a secret", but by talking openly to children about the topic their parents and guardians can help to prevent this occurring. Rape too is more often carried out by someone previously trusted, someone already known to their victim, rather than a stranger in the dark. With teenagers, excessive alcohol consumption and drink spiking can play a part in events leading up to this. RASASC therefore recommends parents, guardians and teachers to include discussions about the importance of "self-awareness for personal safety" when talking to teenagers about rape and sexual abuse issues.
Just as sex education is about emotions and not just anatomy, so too with rape and sexual abuse - survivors' feelings and emotions are terribly affected for many years afterwards. We hope that by making this topic more open for discussion, it will help to reduce the number of such crimes and will help survivors to understand that it was not their fault and how by talking about it they can be helped. If you would like any RASASC leaflets or a short presentation to your organisation about our work please contact our office, or if you wish to arrange counselling or speak to someone about personal issues connected with this topic please call our confidential helpline. Please note that RASASC does not give counselling to anyone under 16 years of age but can advise on the legal procedure for referring any abused child in need of counselling.
Don’t forget that if you are a partner of someone undergoing therapy, you are welcome to attend support sessions with RASASC to help you to cope with your own feelings - and to help you to know you are doing the right thing.
If you are a member of the public and have found our advice guidelines useful or comforting, please consider making a donation to support the work we do. Every contribution helps a victim to become a survivor.