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OPINION

Health and Wellness: Preventing abuse of children

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department

The most effective prevention happens before a child is harmed. Parents, caregivers, coaches and other leaders who commit to speaking up as soon as they have a concern can literally make the difference between life and death.

Set and respect boundaries, even with very young children. Don’t insist that a child hug or kiss a relative if the child doesn’t want to; teach children they have the right (and the power) to refuse contact that makes them uncomfortable. YSS, based in Ames, Iowa, has developed programming for youth with titles “Rights, Respect, Responsibility,” and “Draw the Line/Respect the Line.” For descriptions and contact information, see https://www.yss.org/program/child-abuse-prevention.

Sexual abusers often tell the minors they abuse that the acts are a secret. Teach your children and grandchildren the difference between a temporary, fun surprise and a long-term secret. Children who are used to keeping secrets are more likely to agree not to report abuse.

If you are experiencing abuse, get help. Anyone may text IOWAHELP to 20121 or call 800-770-1650 to talk to trained advocates. They offer free help and support with issues surrounding domestic and/or sexual violence, human trafficking, or other violent crimes.

If you suspect abuse, call the hotline 800-362-2178.