You can empower yourself with info to help protect your child.
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I debated about posting this now, but in lieu of the Stanford rape case, I feel like it is appropriate. Now, what I’m about to write about isn’t necessarily the same exact scenario. But, it has to do with sexual assault, and it is something close to my heart because I was one of them. I once was a defenseless child who had everything stripped from her, and I am still (over 20 years later) dealing with the aftermath of that nightmare. For the longest time I wanted to talk about it. I knew it was important. I wanted to speak out against it. But frankly, I didn’t quite have the courage.
I do now.
I have the courage to speak out against the evil that prevails. For every young child, teenager, adult – I have the courage. I don’t know much about assault between adults. But, I know an awful lot about childhood sexual assault. I know way more than I should. I know . . . because I was a victim. I was violated in unspeakable ways. I was 6 . . .
6 years old.
Despicably violated by a man five times my age.
My innocence was repeatedly stripped, and I was left with a lifetime of suffering. I’m speaking for the protection of children like myself and the dozens of others girls that that man stole from.
Some of us have been able to slowly but surely rebuild our lives, while others are still greatly suffering. All at the hands of a man who only had to endure a couple years in a county prison. Disgusting.
Parents, it’s time to stand for our children. It’s time to be proactive and learn how to protect our children from the predators. It’s time to act, and no time is too early. Now is the time.
Realize that your child is more likely to fall prey to someone you know, as opposed to a random stranger. About 90% of victims know their abuser (60% of those are abused by someone the family trusts), while only 10% are victimized by a stranger.* Predators are meticulous and slow in their approach. They don’t just automatically sexually assault a child. They oftentimes will first establish a trusting friendship/relationship with the parents. If they can, they’ll make sure the relationship is so strong that even if the child says something about it, the parents won’t believe it. Predators will also establish a relationship with the child. Counselors and psychologists refer to this as grooming. Sometimes the relationship they establish with the child will be a “friendship” type of relationship or a domineering, authoritative relationship. Oftentimes, in church settings, it is the latter. All in all, they always make sure they have established a trusting relationship with the parents. So, parents, be oh so careful about who you trust with the care of your children. In essence, be distrusting until you can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that your child is safe.
Recognize that predators can be a man, woman, or even youth. Unfortunately, no matter the gender of your child, male or female can take advantage of your child. In this day and age, you can’t even be trusting of youth. The age of the predator doesn’t fall only at adulthood (though predators are most oftentimes adults).
Instruct your child in what are appropriate and inappropriate touches. Your child is never too young to know the difference between good and bad touches. Explain to him or her what areas of the body should not be touched by anyone else and what kinds of touches warrant coming and telling you. Granted, there are times when it is necessary, like when the child is being checked by a doctor or you are helping your young child clean him or herself. But, be sure to also explain that as well, so that confusion is kept at bay. There is an excellent book called, “God Made All of Me,” that is geared toward children and explains the good and bad touches very well (among other very helpful information).
Maintain an open, honest conversation with your child. Make sure your child knows he or she can talk to you about anything. Be proactive when your child has been with other people such as, in nursery, day care, at school, at a party, at church, etc. If there is a situation when you’re putting your child in the care of other people, talk to him or her afterwards. Make it normal to discuss whether or not someone has touched them inappropriately. When they feel normal talking about it, your child is less apt to hold something back if something does happen.
Make sure your child knows the difference between a SECRET and a SURPRISE. Try to be careful about telling “secrets” at home because you want your child to know why a secret is not good. Predators oftentimes use the concept of a secret to keep things between them and their victims. Secrets are meant to cause harm and don’t ever involve anyone eventually finding out. Surprises, on the other hand, are intended to bring happiness and eventually involve other people. As your child grows, he or she will be able to understand the concept of a secret much better. But, when he or she is still young, it is important that they know a “secret” is a red flag situation and to come tell you. You can then assess if it is a harmless or harmful situation. There is another book, “I Said No!” that does an excellent job of explaining (in kid language) the difference between red, yellow, and green flag situations.
Make sure your church has strict policies in place for the nursery and anyone working with the children. This is something that I will explain in further detail in future posts, but the following are questions you will want to ask your church’s nursery director:
- Are background checks run on workers and volunteers?
- Are all workers and volunteers put through instructional training before being allowed to work in the nursery, and does that training include matters of sexual abuse?
- Are there two or more workers in each classroom? If only two workers, are they unrelated?
- When it comes to diaper changing and potty breaks, who is allowed to do these (male or female workers)?
- Is there adequate visability into each nursery room, so that parents can come by and check on their child?
- Is a plan/policy set in place for dealing with anyone that might attempt to harm a child?
As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, this topic is heavy on my heart, and I want to help empower parents with information that will strengthen their ability to protect their children. This post is part one of a series that I will be doing. You can expect to see future posts on this topic every Wednesday of the following weeks, until the series is completed. In future posts I will discuss things in further detail, such as:
- Policies churches should have in place, for their nursery and children’s programs.
- Things to look for in your child’s behavior that might indicate he or she has been a victim of sexual abuse.
- How to have an open conversation with your child about matters like this.
And more . . .
Come back next Wednesday for part two of this series!
*Statistics supplied by Darkness to Light.
*Main photo by myself at Vintage Flair Photography.