'Swimsuit Lesson' Teaches Kids About Sexual Abuse

Jan. 6, 2005 — -- Jon Holsten, a police officer from Fort Collins, Colo., has an important message for parents to tell their children.

"Anything that is covered by a swimsuit is off-limits," he said.

In a mission to educate parents and children about sexual abuse, Holsten has self-published a book called "The Swimsuit Lesson."

Beautifully illustrated by Scott Freeman, this book is about a mother explaining to her two children about inappropriate touching and telling them not to be afraid to tell their parents or a trusted adult if anyone touches them.

For three years, Holsten was a detective covering child sexual abuse cases until it became too much for him to handle emotionally and he became a police officer.

"I've got five kids of my own," he said. "A lot of the victims were the same ages as my children so that was hard."

Holsten recalled one particularly horrifying case of a man who married a woman for the sole purpose of abusing her daughters.

"I'm on a crusade to tell parents [that] you've got to pay attention to this," he said.

Even parents who have been educated about sexual abuse may not be aware that it is happening to their own child.

"You need to tell us. I put that responsibility on the child," he said.

Yet the children may be too scared to say something.

"Perpetrators will use threats: 'If you tell anyone, I will hurt your family.' And then there's the shame," he said.

Holsten said there were three things every parent should do:

Talk to your children about sexual abuse. Parents should start talking to their kids as soon as they can comprehend their advice, between ages 4 and 10. Discuss this subject with your kids every couple of months so they don't forget the information.

Watch for red flags of abuse. Parents need to be vigilant in watching for behavioral changes in their children and in the adults in their lives. If your child is suddenly withdrawn, wets the bed, or has problems sleeping and eating, there is a possibility he or she is being abused. If there is an adult who is suddenly heaping gifts on your child, wants to spend time with them, or has an influence on them, there is a possibility that adult is abusing your child.

Be safe, not sorry. Don't take it for granted that your child will be safe. Don't let them sleep at the house of a friend whom you don't know. Try to accompany your child to public restrooms.