By Guest blogger Dawn Damon, award-winning author of
When the Woman Abused Was Me
In June of this year, 51-year-old Wisconsin school bus driver was charged and jailed after keeping a 15-year-old girl on his bus, pressuring her to come home with him, and forcing unwanted physical contact with her. He was charged with child enticement, child abduction, and stalking.
This case and others like it are far too prevalent. We can bewail culture, poor parenting, the government, schools, the media, political parties, or the high school teacher who gave us that grade we didn’t deserve, but the truth is that predators exist, and most of them are good at hiding their predatory nature. So as parents and caretakers, we must do all we can do to raise safety savvy, stalker-savvy kids.
We want to keep our children safe.We hope and pray that bus drivers, coaches, teachers, friends, friends’ siblings, and our child’s friends’ parents don’t present a threat to our kids. But the truth is that no parent or caregiver can assure their child 100% safety in the world, just as we can’t assure them they’ll never be in a car accident or get cancer.
The world is a scary place. According to the FBI, in 2016, 465,676 children were reported missing to the National Crime Information Center (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 2017). And since many missing children are never reported, there is no way to determine the true number. Then consider the additional one in five girls and one in twenty boys who become victims of sexual assault.
So what can we do to protect the children we love and care for from abuse?
First, it’s important to understand that no parent or caretaker, no matter how well-intentioned, loving, and responsible, can ensure that their child will never be harmed by someone. It is simply impossible to protect children from every possible scenario that exists. But the following guidelines can help you make the world a safer place for the children you love.
- Begin early. Talk about sexual safety when your children are small. Teach young children the names of their body parts and that certain parts are private.
- Teach privacy. Be sure your children know that certain parts of the body should not be seen or touched by others. Stay with your child for medical exams.
- Teach your child to say ‘no.’ Children should learn to listen to their instincts. If they feel uncomfortable about touch, they should say ‘no.’ Let them know they can and should say no to adults who cross boundaries or make them feel awkward. Then reinforce it when you are with them.
- Teach your child to tell. Children need to know that perpetrators try to trick kids. Roleplay different ways someone might lure them. Teach them that abusers lie and ask children to keep secrets. Teach them to expect to be told that terrible things will happen if they tell an adult. Let your child know you will protect them, and that telling is the best and right thing. Explain that telling is the only way to protect themselves and others and for the perpetrator to get needed help.
- Assure them they won’t get in trouble. Experiencing abuse is never a child’s fault. Make sure they understand they won’t be punished if they tell you, and telling when someone is someone else is courageous. Be a safe place for your child.
- Make time. Be available to talk about everyday life with your kids—school, sports, friends. What’s happening? Who do they spend time with? What are those people like? Listen to your child’s concerns as a regular part of your day.
- Use your life. Give illustrations of safe conduct from your life or the lives of those you know. Or provide examples from the media. Talk about safety as the topic naturally comes up.
Warning Signs: Children are often reluctant to talk about sexual abuse, even when asked directly, and understandably so. Be alert to changes in behavior, such as personality changes, anger, grades dropping, regression (bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, etc.), new fears, clinginess, acting out, nightmares/sleeping problems, or self-harm.
Most importantly, know that whether you are educating a child or responding to a child’s tragic story of abuse, your calm, loving, reassuring attitude will lay a foundation for healing, hope, resilience, and a sense of safety in an uncertain world.
#resilience #childabuse #childabusesafetytips #parenting #safetysavvykids #childpredators
Dawn Damon is the award-winning author of When a Woman You Love Was Abused and the recently released When the Woman Abused Was You. She is an
author, national speaker, radio host, and pastor. Her first book won multiple awards for excellence and is used by educators, community outreaches, therapists, and prisons across the country. You can find her at dawnscottdamon.com.