kids in the park

Plan for Safety

One important strategy for protecting your children is to proactively plan for their safety. Research on factors that may increase or decrease the likelihood of child sexual abuse—for both potential victims and those who will potentially engage in sexually harmful behavior—is limited. However, what is known offers some important clues.

When considering potential risk and protective factors, it's essential to consider the entire picture that makes up a child and the world she or he lives in. Everything we do to raise our children as healthy individuals with a strong sense of belonging and connection matters.

Step One: Identify Protective Factors

Start by identifying factors from that can act as safeguards against being victimized by, or engaging in, sexually harmful behaviors.

Click here for examples of protective factors.

Step Two: Identify Risk Factors

Next, identify factors that may increase your child’s risk of being victimized by, or engaging in, sexually harmful behaviors.

Click here for examples of risk factors.

Step Three: Develop a Plan

Click here to download and print safety planning worksheets. List the protective factors you’d like to increase and the risk factors you’d like to decrease. Be specific (see the examples below).

Protective child factor

My daughter is a talented dancer, and she feels very confident about her abilities. To strengthen this factor, I will:

  1. Become more involved with dance (e.g., take her to the theater to see a dance production); and
  2. Sew costumes for her dance troupe.

These strategies will help connect your daughter to a community as well as to you.

Protective family factor:

Our family is committed to the safe use of technology. The only computer that has Internet access is in the living room where we monitor its use closely (e.g., emails, chat logs, social networking sites). To strengthen this factor, I will:

  1. Make sure my children know our family rules for using techology (e.g., never give out personal information, never send photos), are clear about what’s allowed and what’s not, and understand the reasons for the rules;
  2. Review the rules regularly and revise them if necessary;
  3. Take an online/community class to stay current on the technology my children are using; and
  4. Install filtering and monitoring software on our computer.

These strategies will help make sure you are aware of any unsafe situation and let your children know that you are concerned and care.

Individual risk factor:

My son has a diagnosis of autism. He interacts with several providers on a one-to-one basis and needs help with personal activities like getting dressed. To decrease this risk, I will:

  1. Contact the service providers’ employers to make sure the providers have current background checks (e.g., criminal records, child protection registry, adult abuse regisry, sex offender registry);
  2. Make sure the providers’ employers have policies to deal with inappropriate behavior and suspected abuse;
  3. Make it a habit to drop in unexpectedly to monitor the situation and have someone else drop in if I can’t; and
  4. Tell the people caring for my son that both he and I are educated about child sexual abuse.

These strategies let providers know you are paying attention and take sexual safety seriously.

Family risk factor:

Our family just moved somewhere new. We don’t know our new neighbors and are far from family and friends. To decrease this risk, I will:

  1. Start a new tradition of having “pot-luck dinners” with our neighbors so our family can get to know people in our neighborhood (making sure to monitor my children).

This strategy can create a sense of belonging for you and your children and help to build protective relationships.

Step Four. Put your plan into action.

Follow through on the steps you’ve committed to taking. Review your plan regularly and make additions and adjustments as needed. 


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