The NSPCC has launched a campaign which aims to help parents and carers have simple conversations with their children to keep them safe from sexual abuse. They have produced resources based on the Underwear Rule which teaches children that their body belongs to them; they have a right to say no; and they should tell an adult if they feel worried or upset.
Source: NSPCC Website 08 July 2013
The Underwear Rule
Talk PANTS and help keep your child safe from abuse
The Underwear Rule is a simple way that parents can help keep children safe from abuse by teaching them that:
- their body belongs to them
- they have a right to say no
- they should tell an adult if they're upset or worried
We know talking to your child about their private parts and staying safe can seem difficult, but doesn’t have to be scary or mention sex.
Simple conversations can help children understand that their body is their own and help protect them from abuse.
Learn the Underwear Rule and you'll have it covered
Using PANTS is an easy way for you to explain to your child the key elements of the Underwear Rule. We've also developed a child-friendly guide that you can use when explaining it.
You don't have to go through each of the elements of the Underwear Rule all at once. It's much better to keep the conversations small and often as the subject comes up.
Details of the Underwear Rule are listed below and we have also provided you with some usfeful download materials.
Privates are private
Be clear with your child that parts of their body covered by underwear are private. No one should ask your child to touch or look at parts of their body covered by underwear.
If anyone tries to touch their private parts, tell your child to say "no" and to tell an adult they trust about what has happened.
In some situations, people - family members at bathtime, or doctors and nurses - may need to touch your child's private parts.
Explain that this is OK, but that those people should always explain why, and ask your child if it's OK first.
Always remember your body belongs to you
Let your child know their body belongs to them, and no one else.
It can be helpful to talk about the difference between good touch and bad touch:
Good touch is helpful or comforting like a hug from someone you love.
Bad touch is being touched in a way that that makes you feel uncomfortable.
No one has the right to make them do anything with their body that makes them feel uncomfortable. And if anyone tries, tell your child they have the right to say no.
This can be a good time to remind your child that they can always talk to you about anything which worries or upsets them.
No means no
Make sure your child understands that they have the right to say "no" to unwanted touch - even to a family member or someone they know or love. This shows that they're in control of their body and their feelings should be respected.
If a child feels confident to say no to their own family, they are more likely to say no to others.
Talk about secrets that upset you
Your child needs to feel able to speak up about a secret that’s worrying them and confident that saying something won’t get them into trouble.
To help them feel clear and comfortable about what to share and when, explain the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ secrets.
- make you feel worried, uneasy, sad or frightened
- may be asked to be kept in exchange for something
- there is often no end to a bad secret
- can be nice things like surprise parties or presents for someone else
- will usually be shared in the end
It's important that your child knows the difference because 'secrets' are often an abusers greatest weapon in stopping a child from telling anybody about abuse.
Phrases like "it's our little secret" are their way of making a child feel worried, or scared to tell someone what is happening to them.
Speak up, someone can help
Tell your child that if they ever feel sad, anxious or frightened they should talk to an adult they trust.
A trusted adult doesn't have to be a family member. It can also be:
- a teacher
- a grandparent, uncle or aunty
- a friend's parent, or
Whoever they feel most comfortable talking to, reassure your child this adult will listen, and can help stop whatever is making them upset.
The more your child is aware of all the people they can turn to, the more likely they are to tell someone as soon if they have a worry.
Remind your child that whatever the problem, it's not their fault and they will never get into trouble for speaking up.
Downloads to help you and your child learn the Underwear Rule
A brief guide for parents and carers (PDF - 1,659KB)
The Underwear Rule guide for children (PDF - 1,625KB)
How to talk about keeping safe (PDF - 2,261KB)
Parents' questions about the Underwear Rule answered (PDF - 1,486KB)