Keeping Your Children Safe

The mother's support, attitudes towards abuser and child victim, and behaviors are the most important predictors of the child's recovery. It is imperative that the mother accept the fact that abuse occurred, believe the child's disclosure, decide to take action to protect the child (e.g., separate from abuser), and recognize that the child is at continued risk of abuse. Without these, the mother will be unable to maintain a safe home and protect the child. Revictimization is a serious potential threat to the child's safety. Homes in which children are most at risk include poor supervision, minimal structure, family secrecy, domestic violence , and support of the abuser, rather than the child victim. This home would be unsafe for the child, and revictimization would be predicted.  

Children feel safe when clear boundaries and expectations are in place. Family Rules and Guidelines provide these boundaries. When a child has been sexually abused, he or she is confused about safe and appropriate touch, sexuality, and respect and personal boundaries. Many areas must be discussed when establishing rules and guidelines in the home, and these must include bathroom rules, bedroom rules, nudity rules, privacy rules, and pornography rules. No secrets are kept, and open communication is ongoing among family members. It is the mother's responsibility to assure that supervision is present when children are in the home. 

A safety plan for the home includes the following features:

  • Abuser will not supervise or babysit.
  • Abuser will not be left alone with child.
  • Abuser will not share bedroom with child.
  • Child's bedroom is located close to parent's room.
  • Alarm on bedroom door of abuser (sibling or parent, if in home).
  • One family member in bathroom at a time - no sharing bathroom.
  • All family members dressed when out of bedroom.
  • All family members knock on door before entering.
  • Abuser does not change infant's diaper.
  • Abuser does not dress, bathe, or help young children get dressed.
  • No pornographic materials are in the home.

Out-of home safety requires that mothers communicate with children about safety rules and procedures to follow if an adult or older child/adolescent is inappropriate with them (crossing boundaries implying potential risk). Teaching the child self-protection and resilience will increase the child's self-esteem, and this lowers the child's risk of re-abuse.