Every time I hear another Jerry Sandusky-like story, I want to lose my lunch. Whether it’s Elmo’s puppeteer or the church priest, new allegations seem to come up daily. We may not want to face it, but child sexual abuse is rampant. According to www.childwatch.org, 1 out of every 5 girls and 1 out of every 10 boys will be sexually abused before they reach the age of 18. And while logic tells me that not everyone is a pedophile, the protective mama in me has me giving everyone in my child’s sphere the side-eye.
But besides worrying and trying to hide our precious babies from the world, what can we do to keep them protected? One thing that we can do is get educated and educate other kids. Here are several tips to keep your child safe:
- Think beyond stranger danger. David Finkelhor, Ph.D., director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire says that less than 10 percent of sexual abuse of children under age 12 is done by strangers. Most abusers are known and trusted by the child they victimize. They are babysitters, counselors, teachers and even family members.
- Forget the dirty old man image. You can’t tell a pedophile by the way that they look. They often seem nice and trustworthy so that they can gain the trust of your child. And men aren’t the only abusers. The website www.child-safety-for-parents.com estimated that about 5% of female children and 20% of male children exposed to sexual predators were abused by women. Simply put, anyone could be a pedophile.
- Create a “no secrets” policy. One of the main strategies of child predators is to gain the child’s trust by making them feel special with treats and toys and telling the child secrets about their lives. Once they gain the child’s trust, the abuse begins. The predator then convinces the child that it is just their “secret.” As parents we can combat this by telling our children that adults and teens should never ask them to keep a secret from their parents. “If a predator realizes a child won’t keep a secret, sexual abuse won’t happen,” says Dr. Nancy Kellogg, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.
- Talk to your kids. Let your children know that they don’t ever have to hug, kiss or touch anyone if they don’t want to. And make sure that they know that body parts that are covered by bathing suits should always be kept private and are not to be shown, touched or seen. Also tell them that an adult should never show them their private parts to them.
- Listen to your kids. Have conversations with your children, and be on the lookout for any red flags such as an adult who is overly-attentive to your child.
It’s a scary world. Getting the facts and being vigilant can help us protect our children from danger.
Mamas, what strategies do you use to keep your children safe from predators?
Yolanda Darville is a mom, writer, communications strategist and blogger focusing on philanthropy and empowering women. Learn more about her on her blog http://bahamamommyinc.com/ .