If you read news and are aware of international affairs, you'll be aware that something cruel had happened in India in December 2012 that shook the whole nation. For months, this was the headlines of all the newspapers, media channels and even a part of local plays, events and many other things to make girls aware. In fact, schools had several 'self-defense' programs for girls.

During this period, my 8-year-old daughter asked me several times about what all this is going on? In fact, whenever we advise her to be cautious (Indian newspapers, almost daily, have child molestation's news) with an unknown fellow, the first thing she asks is what they do to girls? The same thing she asked for that case of December 2012.

Being in catch-22, I manipulate my answer and tell her that bad people take girls and beat them but you and I know, that's not the answer.

Is there any way to express what exactly it has to do with girls to this little girl?


7 Answers 7


I suggest that you educate your daughter about good touch and bad touch. For example, if someone touches her on her private areas (explaining what her private areas consist of), then it's bad touch and she needs to inform her mom or dad asap, no matter who the person is. You can tell her that rape is a very, very bad touch in which people get hurt. This can happen to boys as well.


There are two questions here:

  • How to protect your daughter against sexual molestation
  • How to explain the concept of rape

These are quite distinct, as most cases of sexual molestation don't take the form of violent rape, and in fact most are not committed by "unknown fellows", but by friends and family members. To prevent that, the best method is to teach children to be self-confident and willing to defend their own boundaries instead of always doing what they're told. Tell your daughter something like "If anyone tries to make you do something you don't like or makes you feel uncomfortable, tell them 'no', go away and tell me about it".

Of course this may prompt questions of "what kind of thing", and that overlaps with the second question. Defining rape as "forcing someone to do sexual things against their will" should be easy enough for an 8 year old to understand - if they know what "sexual things" mean, and your questions sounds like that may not be the case.

And if so, this is the first thing you need to do (or have done by her mother or another female family member): at 8 years, it's high time for her to get the "facts of life" talk (see this question for more info) because she'll soon enough get that information from somewhere else (e.g. friends at school), probably quite a lot of it wrong.

  • +1 Thanks Michael. This makes sense. Is it really a high time for an 8-year-old girl? That's strange. I thought it's 14 though.
    – Maulik V
    Mar 28, 2014 at 11:23
  • 2
    High time for the facts of life varies by culture and the maturity of the child, but the current feeling in the US, at least, is to start the conversation well before they get the details on the school bus.
    – Valkyrie
    Mar 28, 2014 at 11:36
  • 11
    You can't wait until 14 - she will reach puberty long before that, and she needs to be prepared to take care of her body. So yes, I think "high time" is correct. Mar 28, 2014 at 11:55
  • 2
    Like @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun, I agree that you need to have these discussions preferably before the girl starts going through all the puberty changes (especially before her first period). This'll help not only prevent issues about possible molestation & etc, but also help keep her from becoming scared when she starts experiences those changes (or witnesses a friend who does).
    – Doc
    Mar 28, 2014 at 15:04
  • Yeah, every 11-year old in 6th grade at my daughter's school is VERY (if unfortunately) "knowledgeable" - probably more than 50% misconceptions, but given TV and the Internet they have ready access to a lot of information about all of this early. By 11 they think they know more than you on these topics (they may or may not, to be fair).
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 21, 2014 at 15:47

To be honest, if you're not ready to talk about sex, your current answer is the best available.

According to many sources, Rape is considered to be more related to violent crime than to sex crime in terms of its impact and its aims (power fantasies fed by the victim's humiliation & fear). There's no reason to go beyond "they hurt them because they think it's fun" until you're ready to have a talk about sex. Although I actually agree with Michael that you should be comfortable talking about that sooner rather than later, I understand you may not be ready to take that step, and cultures vary on when the "right time" is.

If she's not satisfied, you can talk to her about the fact that they're generally picking girls who are weaker than them and that it's a kind of really bad bullying (again, same impact and aims).

The main thing I don't know how you'd personally approach is society's attitude towards rape victims, this varies wildly between cultures, but one thing your daughter may be confused about is the reaction of "Well, nice girls don't go to those areas/she must have been looking for it/she'll never find a husband now". This is utterly dependent on your own values, and far easier for me, as I just treat it with an angry contempt, and say that "some people need to believe that bad things only happen when you do something wrong."

  • +1 yeah, adding 'bullying' is a good choice to make her undrestand at this stage. I also use 'forcefully hugging, lifting, embracing' etc that she understands quite well.
    – Maulik V
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:05
  • 1
    @MaulikV Okay, but I'd be cautious, as "forcefully embracing" implies a bear hug to me, which isn't the same thing.
    – deworde
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:11
  • It isn't especially if a stranger does it to a girl. I don't forget to use this word.
    – Maulik V
    Mar 28, 2014 at 12:23
  • 1
    @MaulikV but rape is frequently committed by acquaintances. It's not always a stranger.
    – phoog
    Jun 23, 2017 at 13:10

For my very young children who don't understand what sex is, I explain that rape is touching swimsuit areas - parts of our body typically covered by swimsuits - without permission.


It depends on what you are interested in explaining and avoiding. You may first explain that not everyone has good intentions as you're her dad. And you may say some people may want to kill, hurt, or try to force her to do thinks she doesn't want even people that may seem to be nice to you and other but you will always believe her and not blame her for things she tells you.



A criminal offense defined in most states as forcible sexual relations with a person against that person's will.

No need to sugar coat it, be honest and straightforward with your child.



I'd tell her it's when somebody touches her private parts without permission and try to leave it at that until revisiting it when she is older.

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