Highlight: Helping children protect their bodies

Statistics say that one out of five children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

Justin Holcomb wants to remind parents that we can teach our children how to protect their body parts. He stresses the importance of teaching kids to use proper names when talking about their body parts.

“Teaching them the proper names is for numerous reasons. One is because it just has the basic integrity of if your arm is your arm it is called an arm,. It is not called the ball thrower or the ice cream scoper, it’s just an arm.”

“Your private body parts that’s just what they’re called – everyone knows what the proper names are of private parts.”

Another reason for teaching kids to use proper names for body parts is for reporting purposes.

“A child needs to be able to be pretty specific if something did happen, if someone did touch them somewhere to be able to say where they were touched.”

Justin points out that perpetrators will often make a game out of private parts, rather than using their proper names.

“If they can turn a private part into a game and it makes it a play thing, that’s one of the tools that a perpetrator has which is to make a game out of a private part, so teaching the proper names of private parts is really important.”

In addition to teaching children the proper names for their body parts, it’s also important to talk to our kids about appropriate vs. inappropriate touching.

“We use that language, instead of good and bad touch. Good and bad is very confusing to a child if they have been touched in a bad way, but if it physiologically feels good that’s confusing.”

“Talking about touches; where someone can touch, where people should never touch and who is allowed to touch you there.”

Justin describes how he and his wife have used this concept with their own children.

“We’ve had these conversations with our children and said, OK, only mommy and daddy when we’re helping you get dressed, or get clean, or a doctor when mommy and daddy are there, etc. It means being very specific about who can touch and that they are allowed to say ‘no’ to touch.”

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology, philosophy, and Christian thought at Gordon-Conwell-Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. He previously taught at the University of Virginia and Emory University. Justin holds two masters degrees from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Emory University.

The reality of child abuse