Children are meant to be protected by adults around them, but this isn’t always the case. That’s why cases of defilement and sexual assault remain a big problem in society. According to National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA), 3769 cases of child defilement, involving both girls and boys under the age of 18 were handled in 2019-2020. A total of 2,167 defilement cases reported to the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) between 2018 and 2020 involved children aged below 10, The New Times revealed in a previous article. Addressing this issue not only requires dealing with perpetrators but informing children as well. Diane Iradukunda a child protection specialist at the National Child Development Agency says that it is very important to have a discussion with your children on this topic, especially when they are still young. “Having a talk about this with your children not only helps a child know where the danger is but also creates a strong bond between you and your children,” she advises. According to Iradukunda, it is best to have a conversation that hides nothing, a conversation that highlights all the possible dangers and how to act when such happens, and everyone, parents or not, have the responsibility to engage in this conversation with children. “Danger is everywhere, even among family members. Parents might fear to tell their children that their uncle or maid is likely to be a dangerous person, in fear of exposing their family, “But it is better when you feel that a person close to your child might endanger them, to cut them off, make them move out of your home or take them somewhere far from your child. Also, explain to your children why the person cannot be trusted, but do this while asking if any encounter has ever happened between them,” she adds. Charlotte Munezero a mother of three boys says parents should prioritise such discussions, adding that for her, they are so crucial for the family that’s why she always has them with her children. “I started having these conversations with my boys when they started getting exposed to the world. I would tell them not to greet strangers on the road, not to accept anything from them, and also, I always insist they tell me when anyone at home makes questionable moves on them. Why I think this is important is that it gives an opportunity for children to know these dangers at a young age and how to walk away from temptations,” Munezero explains. Jean de Dieu Karemera a father of two girls and one boy says that ever since he and his wife started having conversations around the topic and allowing their children to tell them everything, it created trust between them as a family. “Honestly we were terrified to bring the conversation in the family because we thought it was not suitable for our children when they were still young, but when they were between the ages of 10 and 7 years, something changed. Our firstborn, our 10 years-old daughter started telling us how, when they are coming from school, sometimes strangers try to lure them with candies,” he confesses. Karemera says that they were surprised their daughter knew how to act when such things happened, and they were more relieved the children access such discussions at school. He says this gave them motivation to also have them at home every night before bedtime. Ways to approach your children Start by creating friendship and a safe environment “It starts with creating a safe place where a child will feel at ease and free to say anything. When there is friendship between you and your child, it creates trust and they will always feel free to come to you when something happens,” Iradukunda says. When a child feels like an environment is hostile and a parent is more terrifying than wanting a friendly conversation, opening up will be hard for them. If they are shy to talk, provoke them Some children have a shy personality, and they sometimes need a push to start talking. “If they can’t ask, you can start by asking simple questions that are engaging to make them feel at ease and so they can share everything with you,” Iradukunda proposes. Set and agree on the time and day for a conversation Setting a day and a time helps a child feel like the topic is important to talk about, and it also helps you as a parent to get to know more about what happens during their day when you are not around. Provide contacts to call when something happens As a parent, you are not going to always be there. It is best to give contacts to your children in case something happens, they can be yours or someone else close to them that can help. And if you are a busy parent, try to monitor your children every day, ask their teachers if they come to school, if they don’t pass somewhere else before going to school or if they skip classes because something else might have happened without knowing. And when someone assaults your child, it is best to talk to the police, so the offender gets punished by the law.