Parents, guardians and other primary caregivers know that they can’t always be with the person they’re caring for at every moment, regardless of if that person is a child or an adult in need of care. At some point during the average weekly routine, the responsibility of caring for the individual will be temporarily transferred to a teacher, health professional, or other trusted adult. Whether this time apart translates to a half-hour health checkup or a sleepover at a friend’s house, there are certain precautionary measures caregivers can take to try and help prevent abuse from occurring when they’re not present. These measures include educating the child or adult on what abuse is and what to do if it occurs, knowing the signs of abuse, and getting to know the other caregivers entrusted with looking after the child or adult.
When it comes to educating children on the topic of sexual abuse, there are various books, videos, and games that are specifically designed to help parents and teachers empower children with awareness. In addition to teaching children about what constitutes sexual abuse, caregivers should also encourage children to confide in a trusted adult if they suspect that they might be the victim of abuse. Another precautionary measure to prevent abuse entails encouraging children to not keep secrets with other adults, and encouraging them to tell another trusted adult immediately if they are threatened or coerced into keeping a secret.
In addition to bruises and other visible signs, abuse can also manifest in the form of sudden changes in behavior. An abused person might suddenly become moody, withdrawn, and despondent, or he or she might begin to act out or become violent. An abused person may also begin using drugs or alcohol, experience a drop in his or her grades at school, or exhibit a loss of interest in the activities that previously made him or her happy. If a caregiver spots any of these signs in a loved one, he or she has a better chance of being able to intervene and prevent abuse from escalating.
Another important step that can be taken in order to help prevent abuse is for primary caregivers to get to know the other people who are entrusted with caring for their loved ones. Asking their loved ones about their routine, and who they spent time with during the course of the day can give caregivers an idea of the other authority figures in their loved one’s life. Ultimately, it is important for caregivers to trust their instincts, including any red flags that may arise from the behavior of those in authority when they are around those who are vulnerable to abuse.