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By: Jason Jowers, MS

Father Son Talking in Silhouette

Pixabay[Father Son Silhouette by free-photos on January 8, 2016, CC0]

Talking to children and youth about sex can be tough enough for parents, but it is even tougher when talking about issues of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse affects up to one in four children according to the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect within the American Academy of Pediatrics [1]. This abuse can lead to long term effects on physical and mental health, well into later life and adulthood.

And abuse not only affects kids, it also has significant effects on family members, particularly parents. According to a study on the effects on non-offending parents and caregivers, there was significant emotional and psychological distress after learning that their child may have been sexually abused [2]. Anger, depression, and guilt were the most common feelings expressed. Issues of child sexual abuse can definitely take a toll on a family.

When talking to children and youth about instances of sexual abuse and prevention, this article [3] from the Washington Post has several suggestions. They include guidelines on talking about sexuality and ways to normalize sexual behavior. They also suggest having open communication that builds trust and doesn’t instill shame.

For more info on talking to children and youth about sexual abuse and on disclosing instances of abuse, be sure to tune to our upcoming webinar, “Sexualized Behaviors in Children & Youth,” which will focus on common development of sexualized behaviors and when those behaviors can become problematic. Be sure to RSVP for this webinar here, scheduled for May 22, 2019 at 11am EST.

This webinar is the first in in our ongoing “Sexual Behavior in Children & Youth Series,” which will include other webinars and podcast episodes throughout 2019. This series will focus on normal sexual behavior and explore concerning and problematic behaviors that children may display. We will also focus on topics such as adolescent brain development and the role of social media/sexting in shaping sexual behavior for children and youth. Be sure to sign up for our mailing list here for further series reminders.

*Revised on 9/10/19 to reflect series title change


[1] Jenny, C., Crawford-Jakubiak, J. E., & Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. (2013). The evaluation of children in the primary care setting when sexual abuse is suspected. Pediatrics, 132, 558-567. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-1741

[2] Fong, H., Bennett, C., Mondestin, V., Scribano, P., Mollen, C., and Wood, J. (2017). The impact of child sexual abuse on caregivers and families: a qualitative study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence,

[3] Derhally, L. (2017). How to talk to kids about sexual abuse, and how you can help prevent it. The Washington Post. Retrieved from:


This post was written by members of the OneOp Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Learn more about our team at, and connect with us on Facebook, and on Twitter.  Subscribe to our Anchored. podcast series on iTunes and via our podcast page.