How Using Correct Anatomical Names Can Keep your Children from Harm

Penis. Vagina. Labia. Scrotum. Do those words make you cringe when you hear them? That is a normal reaction for many of us as we were raised to believe that using those words was somehow taboo or shameful. So instead we often give cutsie names to our children’s’ genitals like “flower,” “weewee,” “peepee,” or “woohoo”. However, by not using the correct anatomical names you could actually be putting your children at risk for sexual abuse. First, by not using correct names for these body parts you convey to your children that there is something different, shameful, or embarrassing about these body parts. This may make them less likely to talk to you or share if someone is doing something because they may feel that it isn’t something that is talked about. Second, in one study, researchers asked convicted child molesters how they chose their victims and several of them mentioned that if a child knew the correct anatomical names for their body parts they were less likely to select them as this suggested that they talked about sexuality with their parent and they were more likely to get caught. Finally, it undermines communication, especially for little children. We heard a story of a little girl who told her teacher that a boy was touching her “cookie.” Thinking that the girl was referring to the food and not her vagina, the teacher told the girl that it was important to share. Therefore, starting from birth always use the correct anatomical names when referring to sexual organs – penis, vagina, scrotum, labia – even if it feels uncomfortable for you, your children will grow up confidently using these terms without discomfort and you can rest assured that by using these words you are helping to protect your children from sexual abuse!

Find out more information about this and other sexual violence prevention strategies in our new book Protecting Your Child from Sexual Abuse: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Kids Safe

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© 2018 by Elizabeth Jeglic and Cynthia Calkins