How & Why to Talk to Your Kids About Assault & Abuse

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By: Jen Pool

April is a significant, but heavy month because it is both Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. As a parent, you may be aware that you should talk to your children about these topics, but you also may feel unsure about how to start the conversation and hope they will never need this information.

As someone who has been educating others about human trafficking and exploitation for over a decade now, I can tell you that not speaking to your children about these issues can ultimately cause more harm than good. I’ve heard all the very reasonable reasons parents have for avoiding these discussions; “it’ll scare them,” “it’ll give them thoughts they don’t have,” “they’re not old enough,” “I don’t know what to say” and so on. 

But what if you knew now that not speaking about these topics might keep them from telling you about their experiences of abuse or assault in the future, either because they felt they had to protect you or they were unsure if you were a “safe” adult to talk to about it.

Maybe you’re scoffing as you read through this post. “Not my kid,” you think. I’ve met too many “not my kid” parents who have suffered the grief of finding out too late what their children endured without their knowledge, help, or support. One of the hardest parts of parenting is that we’re all new to this, and often don’t know what to do – no one has raised our unique kiddo before. Fortunately, we also have tools available at our fingertips to learn, and it doesn’t take a lot to get started with changing our own behaviors and implementing new habits in your household.

Young kids are at a great age to start implementing easy things such as:

  • Understanding and knowing the correct names for body parts (skip the “pet” names for them and use the real ones.)
  • Have ongoing conversations about how they should never keep secrets that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. 
  • Help them learn that they have the right to body autonomy by paving the way. For example: Ask them if you can give them a hug, and if they say no don’t force it on them. Don’t make them hug or kiss family or friends at gatherings or holidays. If you’re having fun wrestling or tickling them and they say “stop,” stop immediately. Show them what it looks like for their wishes about their body, and their words, to have power and be respected.

If you have older kids:

  • Discuss what enthusiastic consent means and should look like in their relationships, including how to get consent, and what to do if someone does not give consent.
  • Talk about the “green flags” of healthy relationships and the “red flags” of unhealthy ones.
  • Talk about assault and unwanted sexual activity including unwanted online attention, what to do, and how to get help,

It’s important to have these conversations early and often with your children, and it’s crucial to have these conversations in a casual and non-judgemental way, so it becomes more natural to discuss them. (Car trips are great for this!) If these topics feel triggering to you, take time to sit with your feelings, seek professional help if needed, or join online support groups. Understanding your own mental models around these topics is just as important as teaching your children about them.

Image Credit: Jayneen Sanders, Instagram: @jayneensaundersauthor

I’m a big fan of additional resources because I think that access to tools and continual learning makes us better people, and better parents. Below are some personal recommendations I have used and have consistently recommended to other parents over the years. You can find many of these titles available for free at your local library, as well as on Amazon. As a note, I always recommend reading the books first before reading them with your child:

For Parents:

For kids:

For teens:

To close out, I’ll leave you with this powerful reminder: “As a parent, you have the power to shape your child’s future. Make sure you are teaching them about body safety and consent.”

man and woman walking with boy in seashore
Photo by Ingo Joseph on

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please know that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you. You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673), or you can visit their website at

Jen Pool is a Board Member for Grit Plus Gumption Farmstead. She also works as the Director of Community Development for another 501(c)(3) outside of Washington D.C. and is a certified Life Design Coach, Enneagram Coach and ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Trainer. 

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