For children and adults, the ‘birds and the bees’ is no longer a taboo subject especially with the widespread influence of social media where any savvy 8 year old can find themselves on X-Rated adult sites like Pornhub but thankfully, according to Dr Giladi, it is never too soon to start teaching your young child body safety and tools to prevent sexual harassment.
With 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls being sexually abused before the age of 18, sexual harassment is most likely to show the first signs in kindergarten playgrounds in children as young as 5 years of age.
“If you are having your first sexual safety conversation with your child at puberty, it’s too late,” says Dr Giladi, a global consulting educational sociologist and founder of Voice of the Child Association (VOCA).
And surprisingly, what most of us don’t know is that statistics from the US Department of Justice tell us that 10% of perpetrators are strangers to the child, while 23% of perpetrators were children themselves!
What does sexual harassment in the playground look like?
Preschool aged children use play to identify positions of power. This behavior is an inseparable part of socialization and can manifest through sexual harassment. The ability to identify patterns of sexual harassment at preschool age is of utmost importance.
Examples of child on child sexual harassment include:
1. Forced removal of pants;
2. Forced removal of underwear;
3. Forced raising of skirt or dress;
4. Unsolicited kiss;
5. Touching or grabbing of genitals;
6. Organized harassment;
7. Verbal threats.
“Through my programmes for parents, educators and community workers, I teach the difference between sexual exploration that is appropriate within a child’s developmental stage and interactions that are warning signs of harmful behavior,” says Dr Giladi.
Why are children afraid to speak out and tell their teacher or parents?
Many times, one or both children do not understand that the behavior is harmful.
Often children experiencing sexual harassment or abusive behaviours feels uncomfortable or confused about what is happening but may feel that he or she is willingly involved or to blame for being in the situation.
Why do some children sexually abuse/harass other children?
There are various reasons why instances of sexual harassment and abuse occur in young children including they may have been emotionally, sexually or physically abused themselves; they may have seen or experiences physical or emotional violence at home; they may have seen sexually explicit movies, video games, or materials that are confusing to them. There are also instances where they are simply acting on an impulse with no intent to do harm but which may still harm themselves or others.
As parents and educators we need to be equipped to understand and discern between the different child behaviours and respond appropriately to what is actually taking place. Our goal is to share tools with the child so they may make the appropriate decision when it comes to protecting the rights of their own bodies.
“Arm your children early on with knowledge that could save them. You can’t be with them at all times of the day outside of home and family time, so children are at the risk to society’s desensitization and normalization of sexually abusive behaviours,” warns Dr Giladi.
Want to know more? Purchase Dr Ayelet Giladi’s book “No Children’s Play – Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Educational System and the Community which can be ordered from her website: https://www.global.voiceofchild.co.il