SAN ANGELO, Texas — Children’s sexual abuse has recently taken the national spotlight in the news and on social media. Hashtags and stories have been shared by people around the country and West Texas. Besides raising awareness, there are ways to best protect children against predators by teaching them how to speak up for themselves.
Monica Escobedo is the Chief Programs Officer for San Angelo’s Children’s Advocacy Center for Greater West Texas and has many tips for parents wishing to talk to their children about sexual abuse. Escobedo said talking to the children should not be to scare them but to teach them to trust their feelings. She said explaining when they feel anxious, have clammy palms, or a twisted feeling in their stomachs, it means something is wrong, and they should tell someone. Children who can identify those feelings will then know to tell a trusted adult.
Escobedo also said parents should teach children they are in charge of their own bodies and no one has a right to touch them without permission. She said parents shouldn’t force their children to give any friends or family hugs or kisses, letting them decide if they would rather high five someone instead. Children should also know their safety network of approximately 3-5 adults they feel comfortable coming to, understand no adults should make them keep secrets from parents, be able to use the proper terms for their body parts, and trust they would never be in trouble for telling someone what is happening.
For those wishing to do more to help children in need, Escobedo said they are always looking for more volunteers. The Children’s Advocacy Center has the CASA program, which allows adults to sign up to become a voice for children going through the court system. She also said they are always ready to hold their Recognizing and Reporting class, which teaches people how to look for signs of abuse and how to report it to the authorities. This class can be held online or in-person. People interested need to only call the Children’s Advocacy Center and ask for it.
The Children’s Advocacy Center also has preventative parenting services for any struggling parents. Escobedo said whether it is for materials to help talk to your children about how to keep themselves safe or potty-training advice, they are there to help the community.