Nationwide, one in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they reach 18 — that's according to Darkness to Light, a national nonprofit aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.
"The effects of that trauma can last through their lifetime if they don't get treatment," said Karen Yeversky, a Child Advocacy Program of Chautauqua County family advocate.
In an effort to stop the abuse, child advocates are working to help parents bring up the conversation with their children early.
"It's through talking about this that we make progress. Talking about good touch/bad touch or similar kind of language from very early on," said Dr. David Kaye, UB child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Yeversky said, "We recommend that it's a series of conversations that are age-appropriate from the time children are able to begin learning and using everyday situations to teach them. Beginning talking about sex and sexuality by the age of 8. The reality is kids hear about it earlier than we think they do."
Experts say use anatomical terms or say something like “no one should be touching your bathing suit area unless they're changing your diaper or giving you a bath,” and to speak matter of factly.
"Teach kids that their body is theirs, that it is private. That there are private parts of their body that only they touch or their parents touch, but there's another concept that I think is important, that no means no," said Kaye.
Yeversky said, "You can put your own values and instruction in there and you can be the person that they would come to ask those questions of rather than making it feel like an awkward thing that they wouldn't want to talk to you about."
Having that ongoing conversation will normalize the topic. Advocates say the most important thing you can do is believe your child and if they bring up an issue, support them, reiterate that it isn't their fault and reassure them that you will do everything to keep them safe.
"We have that natural reaction to turn away, that ‘no, this couldn't be true.’ And it's frightening for parents too. And it's confusing," said Kaye.
Child Advocacy Centers, your pediatrician and a number of websites like d2l.org are just a few of the resources that can help you start and continue the conversation.