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Teach your child the good, the bad touch

Despite the various interventions and myriad actors in the child protection and welfare sector, child abuse in Uganda is still high with defilement among the top three abuses, according to ANPPCAN Uganda.

The girl child is at a higher risk of being abused than the boy, but that doesn’t mean boys don’t fall prey. For example, a 2011 survey by ANPPCAN revealed that out of the 630 cases of defilement, a significant 529 involved female children. Only 101 cases involved boys; representing 84 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.

One of the interventions we can champion as parents is the ‘good touch, bad touch’ counseling to enable children fight against molestation. We can equip our children to say “no” whenever they feel something is wrong. The goal is not to scare them from being touched by adults, but we are trying to help kids develop a healthy sense of intimacy.

Although a healthy sense of intimacy is difficult to define, many experts have words of caution about ‘good touch, bad touch’ programmes. Hershel K. Swinger, director of the state-funded Southern California Child Abuse Prevention Center at California State University, Los Angeles, once said, “They are asking children to make sophisticated judgments based on their perception of the touch.

“We don’t want them to be so fearful of adults that they don’t develop natural human feelings and respect for adults. We also know that most of the sexual abuse is not done by strangers, but by family members, but I don’t think anyone is willing to say ‘don’t let a family member touch you.’”

However, the ‘good touch, bad touch’ initiatives aim to ensure that children can comfortably express themselves. Most schools teach where a child’s hand or head is with almost no lessons about genitals. Children should be taught how to determine a good touch from a bad one and the importance of saying “no”.

A key tool to teach our children about the good touch and bad touch is the ‘underwear rule’. This rule is a guide to help parents explain to children where other people should not to touch them, how to react and where to seek help. The rule states that “a child should not be touched by others on parts of the body usually covered by their underwear. And they should not touch others in those areas”.

Open and direct communication at an early age about sexuality and using the correct names for genitals and other parts of the body will help children understand what is not allowed.

Children have the right to refuse a kiss or a touch, even from a person they love. Children should be taught to firmly say “no” to inappropriate physical contact, to get away from unsafe situations and to report to a trusted adult.

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