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Open communication and education key to keeping kids safe



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She tells them there are no secrets from parents. In fact she encourages parents not to use the word secret in their homes on a daily basis.

If a child does disclose Noon said adults should take the child to a quiet private place, talk to them gently using open-ended non-threatening questions.

"Don’t come right out and say have you been abused," advises Noon.

"Instead start off by saying, ‘I have noticed some changes in your behaviour.’

"Or, ‘I have noticed that you act strangely in front of this person. Do you feel comfortable in front of this person? Why or why not.’

"And you could say, ‘you know that if anyone came into your space you could tell me and we could deal with it and you would never be in trouble, right?’

"It is just a constant reminder of those things.

"They haven’t done anything wrong and it is safe.

"And a parent, even though they may not feel this way, must send a message to the child that they are completely in control of the situation and know exactly what to do, otherwise why would children report."

Give positive messages too, telling the child you are proud of them for talking about what has happened.

Educating kids about their personal space is also critical said Noon.

"I always tell people about when I was a child and my parents would have dinner parties and before I would go off to bed I was expected to go around the room and give every person a kiss and a hug goodnight," said Noon.

"But what message are you sending to your child then? That they are public property and that they don’t have the right to say no.

"I think it is alright for kids to say, ‘I am not in the mood for kissing or hugs, how about a handshake.’

"And the research shows us over and over that kids who have healthy boundaries are not only much safer in childhood, but also in their teenage years and their adult years in relationships.

"They know how to be assertive and say no."

Research shows that sex offenders prey on children who aren’t educated about their bodies and therefore lack the skills to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate touching.

Noon said it is difficult to directly link types of behaviour with incidences of abuse. But she said if children are behaving out of character there is a reason for it.