UnityPoint Health - St. Luke's Hospital

What should I teach my child about SAFETOUCH?

According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety there are over 6,000 individuals listed on the state sexual offender registry. Linn County has the second highest number, behind Des Moines, of registered sex offenders.

These statistics are enough to make any parent concerned, but what you probably didn't know is that in most child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the offender. It could be a relative, family friend or casual acquaintance.

For 15 years, St. Luke's Child Protection Center (CPC) has been teaching area school children about the difference between good and bad touches. The SAFETOUCH program reaches over 6,500 children each year.

"Parents need to start talking to their children about good touches and bad touches as soon as developmentally appropriate," said Julie Kelly, St. Luke's Child Protection Center supervisor. "Parents can start by teaching children appropriate names for body parts. It can be a difficult topic for parents and unfortunately at CPC we see children who don't know the correct names for their body. This makes it very difficult for us to talk to them about allegations of sexual abuse."

Kelly suggests using potty training as a time to teach children appropriate names for body parts. "Many children become comfortable using those terms, just like they do with the terms for the rest of their body," said Kelly. "From there, parents can move on to discussions about good touches, bad touches and confusing touches. Keeping the lines of communication open with your child is important. Teach your child that even if something bad happens to them, it's not their fault and you won't be angry with them."

Here are some tips from Julie Kelly on teaching kids about SAFETOUCH

  • Teach your children to say 'no' if a person touches them in an uncomfortable, embarrassing, confusing or frightening way. In our society, parents often teach children to obey adults. Unfortunately, in over 90 percent of sexual abuse cases the people abusing children are individuals the child is familiar with. Parents should teach children that under certain circumstances, it is OK to tell adults or persons of authority 'no.'
  • Parents should teach their child how to identify adults they can trust and go to if they are touched in a way they shouldn't be.
  • Use teachable moments to discuss sexual issues (TV, music or current events). Play "What if" games with your child to practice decision making. For example, "What if your uncle was touching you and you did not like it? What would you say and do?"
  • Assure children it is not their fault if someone touches them or makes them touch another person in a questionable way.

"Addressing good touches and bad touches is something adults should go over with their children more than once," said Kelly. "Talk with your child on a regular basis. Encourage your child to share what is happening in their lives." To learn more about St. Luke's Child Protection Center or the SAFETOUCH program call (319) 369-7908.