How to Talk To Your Children About Sexual Abuse

Not much in life enrages me more than the abuse of children and women.

Children, young girls and boys and women are so often the target of abuse — especially sexual abuse. The statistics are outrageous. The number of times these crimes go unreported is awful. And what is even worse is when the victim does speak up only to have the crime minimized or ignored and even find themselves receiving blame.

As a mother it terrifies me.

I can’t even imagine being assaulted in any manner much less being raped. I have been so fortunate to have had a safe life with nobody hurting me.

But for those of us lucky to have never experienced abuse, it can be hard to know what to say to our own children to make them aware of the dangers and to realize how important it is to talk to us if something ever were to happen. We might also risk not talking openly to our children early enough — especially our preteen and teenage girls — of the reality of sexual abuse.

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After reading my post about the horrific gang rape in Richmond, California, a blogging friend Hollie Pollard, who sadly did experience the horrible reality of rape, offered to share with us here at 5 Minutes for Mom so that we might all learn more about how to talk to our children about these difficult issues.

When a Difficult Conversation is Needed

Written by Hollie, Common Cents Mom, SimplyHollie.

In the past few days I was taken back in time. After reading about the rape of a 15 year old young woman, I was taken back to the when I was 12. That was the first time I was raped. I have read a number of the posts on different blogs about the recent incident. All were “enraged” as Susan put it here at 5 minutes to Mom. I know I was, but then I kind of know what is is like to end up in ICU after a brutal attack. For me I was not gang raped though, I can’t imagine that horror. I do know what goes through the mind of a child victim and I do know what Moms need to know to help our daughters especially.

First if you have a daughter realize, what a precious gift you have. But with that gift comes a great responsibility to teach her how to be prepared for what is out there.

We know the statics are horrid. Did you know that 1/4 of all or young women will have some sort of sexual advance made toward them before they start high school? For me as a mom that is scary. What is even scarier in 46% of those cases it is someone she knows: a parent, an uncle, a teacher, basically some one close. What is scarier? Less then 10% of those are reported. So how do we get our kids ready for this? How do we talk about this?

Now I am sure we all taught our young children — good touch, bad touch — right? The right to say no.

How do we go beyond that as our daughters become tweens. When they want to spread there wings? How do we get them ready for the big bad world that seems to be literally at the door?

For me I remember being 12 and being attacked. The first time I happened I felt such shame and that it was my fault that I never told anyone. The attacks would continue for the next 2 years, what did I do? I told no one.

Now what do I wish I knew then that I know now, what do I wish my Mom knew?

  1. I wished my Mother taught me long before I was 12 that she was the safe fortress, that I could tell her anything and not be judged or questioned, but loved and hugged in the moment.
  2. I wished I knew there is no shame when bad things happen to you, no matter how bad. It was and is not your fault. For 7 years I told no one. I told no one because of the shame.
  3. I wish I had been better prepared physically. I have taught my 11 year old some basic defensive moves. She knows what she can do and how to do it.

Most of all I wished my mother had the courage to have difficult conversations with me along the road.

Sometimes it is hard to bring these things up. In our house we use the news as a catalyst for conversation. We use movies as well. My daughter and I have a rule we can tell each other anything and if it is something I need to digest, I take a deep breath and then I hug her and then I begin to talk and most importantly listen. For it is when I listen, I learn where she is at and how I can help her better.

We can do better for our daughters, we can listen, learn and prepare them by taking the journey to those difficult conversations.

We can help them heal by listening, loving and having an open ear. Together we can walk a better path for our girls.

Written by Hollie, Common Cents Mom, SimplyHollie.
You can find me tweeting at as well @CommonCentsMom.

Thank you Hollie for sharing your experiences and your insight with us here at 5 Minutes for Mom.

We are so sorry that you had to suffer like this and we applaud you for your strength and courage.

If you want to help the girl who was the victim of the gang rape in Richmond, California, a fund has been set up. This article in the Examiner explains how to help.

~Susan, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom


  1. says

    Holly – I am so sorry for how terribly you suffered!! Thank you soooo very much for sharing your story with us and helping us all be better informed for helping our children.

  2. says

    I want to thank Hollie for sharing these tips. It is so important to educate your daughters.

    My mother was molested when she was 6 years old, by some one who at the time was living in her own home. My mother finally told me about her abuse when I was 11 years old. She has been an advocate for sexual victims for years and eventually told the world her own story.

    My mother raised me to be so aware of my surroundings and actions of others. The good touch vs bad touch, what was appropriate behaviors between adults and kids, between myself and other kids, and the wisdom to talk about it. My mom made sure she meet every parent of my friends and talked to them when ever I was invited over for a play date or for any event I was invited too. Even if she knew the people way, she still talked and communicated about everything that involved me. She continued to teach me as I grew up about my changing body about ways to be safer as I grew up. She gave me so many tools in life that have lead me to be blessed enough to have never been assaulted.

    As a mom now, I appreciate my mother’s protectiveness over me so much more. She taught me valuable lessons that I put into action today as a mom and will carry out as my daughter grows older. I hope to instill the same wisdoms my mother instilled in me.

    If I ever have a son, I plan to teach him much similar lessons [tailored to a male of course]. I will teach him how to respect woman, what is appropriate, and that no means no. I want him to understand how his own actions can be interpreted by others.

    I’m going to do everything I can to protect my daughter and to give her the tools to do all she can to protect herself. When she has a daughter of her own, I will be there for her to help her teach her own daughter and to pass on the wisdoms from generation to generation.

  3. says

    Holly thank you for sharing. Our local preschool just went through an incident…a 4 yr old girl was raped by a worker..male/18 yrs old. Don’t wait until they are pre teen to address this as unfortunately it happens much sooner than that : (

  4. says

    As difficult and as scary as this topic is, it is imperative that our kids know that we are that safe place. The alternative, when a parent is closed or blames the child, is horrific. And even as adults, we need to let kids know within our sphere of influence that we are that safe place too, in case their parents aren’t or if their parents are part of the abuse.

    I’ve suffered sexual abuse multiple times in my life and never had a safe person to turn to for help or guidance. Now, as a mom, I’m vigilant in prayer and also in creating an atmosphere with my kids where they can tell me any and all of their concerns. And I try to teach them to be assertive, that it’s okay to say NO, even to an adult, that “being nice” is not the goal. We affirm the fact that we’d prefer our kids to speak out even at the risk of being rude if something doesn’t feel right rather than go along with something against their conscience.

  5. says

    As a survivor of child abuse by my grandpa who was not supported by the adults in my life who should have protected me I just wanted to say thank you for writing on this subject. And I agree with the above commenter that you shouldn’t wait until they’re older. It is challenging to know what to share with smaller kids(mine are 6 and 4) but the fact that I was molested at the age my oldest now is makes me want to give them ways to avoid it if possible and if something does happen then know that if they tell me I will be there to help them through it!!

  6. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this Hollie. This is such a sensitive subject, but such a very important one. We all need to have the courage to engage in conversations about sex and appropriate behavior with our kids, and to keep a dialog going. It is difficult to open the subject, but the more we discuss it the less akward it becomes and the more likely they will be to come to us for advice, or help.

    Hollie, thank you for your honesty, courage and openness. You have helped us all to be more mindful of protecting our children from harm. And thanks 5 Minutes for Mom for sharing this!

  7. says

    Thank you so much for this article, Hollie. I asked all my friends with daughters to look up today’s post and read it. It’s a must read, and I’m so sorry you had to endure this in order for all of us to be aware.

    Janice and Susan, you guys put such great content on this site. As a mom, this post might outrank them all. Thank you.

  8. says

    It is very brave of Hollie to share what happened to her and for Janice and Susan to tackle difficult topics. Thanks for reminding us to have these conversations with our children.

  9. says

    i am also a survivor, barely.
    i have horrible depressive episodes because of my past.
    i’m not sure HOW to talk to my 4 kids about it. they know (at least the older 2) that it happened to me when i was 8, but can you REALLY keep your kids safe? i guess i’m going thru a rough time lately. i’m trying not to medicate myself, as i gain too much weight on pills. daily life is hard for me and my husband definitely feels the tension lately. sorry, i just had to dump this . i’m really down today, not sure why. but i read the post and it hit home this particular day. just know it’s very real and is very hard to talk about. thanks for opening up people’s eyes about it.

  10. says

    I agree that the conversations need to happen younger and younger..We need to let them know home is the safe haven( at least I pray it is-for me it was not), that they can talk about it, whatever the what is. Today over lunch my daughter and I were talking about an incident at school that made her uncomfortable. She feels safe now telling me anything and everything because it has been a journey of hard conversations. She knows I have her back. I think that is the greatest gift we can give them. I am thankful I get to be her mom and I just want her prepared.

    I know what it is to be where you are. Really truly I do. For me healing came, when I finally realized the shame did me no good, either did the guilt and I could be me and me was pretty well darn good.
    For me I got there by journalling alot, walking alot and talking it out with people who care.As for when and where to have those conversations. I chose to use the newspaper or tv shows or even games as conversation builders and they really did do the trick for me and my daughter.

  11. says

    Hollie, I’m so sorry for what with you and everyone here. It’s such a terrible violation; I feel no punishment can suffice. I really admire your courage at speaking out openly and helping others. The importance of communication between a mother and a daughter can’t be emphasized enough! And a training in self defense (or as my teacher says, counter offense) is a MUST! There are 2 things to take care off in such training. Firstly it has to give you the correct orientation which has a ‘street’ approach instead of a ‘fighting in the ring with rules’. Second, you must prepare your child to stand up against peer pressure to continue with such seemingly boyish activities. One of my friends left the classes when we were 13 because the boys used to tease her. She was molested a few years later. So while the communication is the vital part in combating abuse, the right kind of training in self defense is the thing that will complete it.

  12. Amy says

    As a mother going through hell and back with my 5 year old, it’s a horrible situation. It is her dad doing it to her , she has told me on multiple occasions. However until she tells someone else( social worker, therapist, teacher) no one will protect her. This has been going on for 2 years and since the state has no proof that it’s him I am now court ordered to send her there and will go to jail for up to a year if I don’t let her go. I’m not for people who don’t report, but I understand. The recent report came from our family doctor and still nothing is being done to protect her , all because she won’t point the finger at her dad. Everyone thinks I’m crazy now, and when she does finally share the truth with them I doubt they will believe her. She knew about good/bad touch, but it’s still happened and is continuing to happen. Our system is flawed and does not work.

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