Here are some guidelines for creating a family safety plan:
- Start talking with your family about sexual abuse (see Tip Sheet on 'Talking to Children'). Talk often and make it normal to talk about. This can make it easier for children to tell.
- Take special care to help your children learn and understand their emotions. Feelings are like 'inside warning bells' that can help children to work out when something is 'not right'.
- Talk to children about 'yes' touches (those that make them feel safe, good and that they can tell anyone about) and 'no' touches (those that make them feel confused, overwhelmed, unhappy or that someone asks them to keep a secret). 'Yes' touches can make you feel happy like cuddling the cat or your favourite soft toy. 'No' touch can make you uncomfortable, like pinches or getting hit. Explain that some touching can have both a 'yes' and a 'no' feeling like when you swing too high on a swing or are tickled for too long. Let them know that if they ever get any kind of a 'no' feeling from something someone does, that you would like to know and that they will not get into trouble for telling you about it.
- Encourage a 'telling' environment. Make a household rule that there will be no secrets, only good surprises in your whanau/ family. You can use birthday parties as an example of a good surprise and help them understand that a good surprise is something everyone will find out about soon. Let them know that they should never have to keep a secret about touching or about anything that makes them feel scared. You can reinforce this message with a poster on your fridge.
- Set clear family boundaries for personal privacy and behaviour and model these. Maintain age appropriate privacy in the bathroom and bedroom. As soon as children are old enough to be bathing and toileting themselves, ensure that they have the privacy to do so.
- Protect your child from exposure to sexual activity, sexualized talk and sexual media such as adult DVD's or sexual internet content.
- Set up a circle of safe adults who will help if your child needs it. You can start by asking your child who they would feel comfortable talking to if something was bothering them. Ask them who they would talk to if you were not available. Try and help them identify several safe adults and encourage them to ask one of their friends to help them tell if they are feeling shy. Let them know that sometimes adults can get busy and distracted and that if someone doesn't listen properly and help straight away, that they should keep telling (other safe adults) until someone helps.
- Make an agreement to keep connected to what is going on for your child. Meet the adults who are supervising sleepovers, running after school activities, sports and camps. Know who they spend time with and keep a look out when there are new people in the house or if an adult wants to take your child away somewhere. If a person seems 'too good to be true', ask more questions. Make sure that your family understands that the family safety plan applies at home and when staying away from home.
Before you talk to your children about sexual abuse take some time to educate yourself. Arming yourself with knowledge is the first step in preventing sexual abuse.
Find out what child sexual abuse is and what healthy sexual development for children looks like. You can also learn about the behaviours to watch out for in people who might be looking to abuse children and how to best deal with a disclosure. Learn about social service agencies in your area and who to contact for advice, information and help. Make a note of these numbers.
For more information on setting up a safety plan, see page 11-21 of Ending Offending Together.
This Tip Sheet has been compiled from the following sources; www.sexualabusehelp.org.nz , www.stopitnow.org/family_safety_plan & Ending Offending Together