Preventing Abuse

You don’t have to be a parent, child advocate, or educator to play a role in preventing abuse of children with disabilities.

Keep three things in mind about child abuse.

  1. In the majority of cases of child sexual abuse, the child knows and often trusts the perpetrator.
  2. Many perpetrators of child abuse "groom" children into accepting abuse by taking steps to increase the child’s trust and to make the child feel “special.”
  3. While we can provide information to children with disabilities to keep them more safe, children cannot be responsible for their own safety. Adults must be.

Steps To Prevent Abuse

  • Know the signs of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
  • If you have good reason to think a child is being abused, report it.
  • Share information about abuse with parents, families, or educators in your life.
  • If you live or work with children and youth with disabilities, talk to them about their school and friends. Pay attention to cues that something is not okay.
  • Teach children what types of touches are okay and not okay, and in what context.
  • Let children know they can talk to you if they are uncomfortable with something that has happened.
  • If you are a parent or guardian of children with or without disabilities:
    • Realize that all children are sexual.
    • Talk to your children about their bodies and sexuality.
    • Without scaring them, talk to your children about being safe inside and outside the home.
    • Be open and accepting when talking to them about any subject, so they can come to you if something happens.
    • Find a balance between giving enough but not too much information. Children need to know that other people can hurt them, but they don’t have to be suspicious of everybody in their lives.
    • Get to know the people your child spends time with, including teachers, personal care providers at school, bus drivers, and others.
  • Abuse happens in isolation. Work to include children with disabilities in activities in the community and with other children—with and without disabilities.
  • Treat children with disabilities as valuable, which can also serve as a model for other children and adults.
  • Teach children with disabilities to be leaders among their peers.

(Adapted in part from SAFE, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Child Welfare Information Gateway.)