Q: My daughter’s children are close friends with their cousins. The parents of these cousins took in foster children who sexually molested the cousins. My daughter wants to know how best she can protect her children from being molested by the cousins. All the children involved are younger than 10 years old. My son was similarly molested by neighbor children and has been struggling with pornography and masturbation for twenty years. She doesn’t want that to happen to her children. Where can she go for advice?
A: The first step your daughter can take is to begin to have first of several conversations with her young children about good and bad touch- explaining “good” touch is a hug, a tickle under the armpit, a high five. A “bad” touch is when someone touches your private parts or asks you to touch theirs. Talking about what to do if this ever happens is also a topic for conversations throughout their lives- always tell a grownup! She also needs to ask if they have ever experienced “bad touch” to find out if they have also been abused.
Just because the cousins were sexually abused, it does not necessarily mean that they will in turn, molest others or engage in sexually inappropriate behaviors. If they have not acted out sexually, you do not need to limit their exposure and time together, unless the foster children are still in their home. To be on the safe side, an adult should be supervising their play for the next few months. They can still have play dates and engage in normal interactions, but I would suggest that the play just takes place out in the open- no closed doors allowed. I would also say “no” to sleepovers for the time being. If the cousins have been acting out sexually because of their abuse, it is okay to limit the play dates and offer support as adult friends/family.
A good resource for your family members is The Association For Play Therapy where you can find play therapists who specialize in treating sexually reactive and abused children in your area. There are chapters located throughout the United States.
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