Turn on the news the past 6 months and you might want to lock your kids at home and throw away the key just to protect them from the world we live in. A child health charity founder and national chain spokesperson pleaded guilty to child pornography and sex with minors. A political activist on the Family Research Council who espouses family values admitted to fondling his younger sisters. A Dallas soccer coach was arrested on multiple charges of indecency with a child. A local Hewitt teacher was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor. Two Dallas teachers were arrested for inappropriate relationships with students and indecency with a child.
What are we as parents supposed to do? Keep our kids inside 24/7, tell them they can’t walk to their friend’s house three blocks away, forbid them from sleepovers, ban them from team sports, home-school them? I can tell you right now, I’m not home-schooling my children. (I’m sorry. Did I just say that a little too quickly? For their own sanity and mine, our kids attend our great public school and we’re all happier for it!)
The answer, of course, is NO. We can’t live in fear. We have to trust that God will protect them and that we have given them the tools to protect themselves. Have you given them the tools? Do you talk to your kids about their bodies? Tell them what private parts are? Tell them how to act around other people? Tell them how to act around other kids? An occasional “don’t show people your privates” won’t suffice. Think about these specific situations in the news lately. Would you have thought a polite, Christian teenager would molest his own siblings? Would you expect a child charity founder to be preying on young children? He even has children of his own! Would you have thought your child’s coach was abusing the athletes under his watch? Could you imagine a teacher texting your daughter and having indecent contact with her? Of course not. But it happens. A lot. Statistics1 show anywhere from 1 in 4 to 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 6 to 1 in 25 boys will be abused by the time they are 18 years old. Generally speaking, that amounts to 1 in 10 children. That’s two children in each classroom. Don’t be fooled into thinking those classrooms are across town from yours. It’s here, there, everywhere. Child sexual abuse does not play favorites.
I remember the first time I observed a child sexual abuse exam as a medical student. The case shattered stereotypes I had conjured in my mind about sexual abuse. The girl was Caucasian, 5 or 6 years old, from a wealthy family, and was abused by her biological father. I was floored. But over the years, I’ve come to realize there are no “stereotypical victims.” Just victims.
So, here’s what you can do to help protect your kids:
1. Please talk to your children about their private parts and keeping them private. You can’t protect them from the evils of this world by ignoring the topic and sheltering them forever. Protect them by educating them and empowering them to say “no.”
2. Discuss stranger danger. It doesn’t happen often, but if a person tries to take your cute little nugget, what should s/he do?
3. Talk about these things often. Every chance you can. Just as often as you tell them “look both ways before you cross the street” and “don’t play with matches.”
4. If you don’t know how to start those conversations, Camp Careful can help you! The classes make this topic easy to understand, engaging for the kids, and non-threatening for everyone. Register for a class on August 30th or September 13th. (The August 30th 7-14 year old class is sold-out. Please check other classes.) http://campcareful.com/events/
Empower your kids and stay safe!
Soo Battle, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Statistics reference: Townsend, C., & Rheingold, A.A., (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: studies. Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light. Retrieved from www.D2L.org.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this website/blog is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the relationship that exists between you and your pediatrician or doctor. Please contact your doctor for medical advice and/or treatment recommendations specific to your child.