When our local amusement park was the scene of an assault on a young boy, more than one family member called to remind me to be careful in sending my older girls there. I was told I should remind them to stick together, especially when they go to the restrooms. I appreciated the heartfelt advice because I knew these people truly had my children’s best interest in mind. Parents must be diligent at protecting their children in every situation.
What is really mind boggling, though, are the statistics on childhood assault and sexual abuse. My family was worried about my children in a public place, but did you know that most incidents are not initiated by a stranger at the park? 90 percent of offenders are someone the child knows, trusts and loves! 40 percent of offenders are older youths that come in contact with the child.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a facilitated workshop called “Stewards of Light,” which is a child sexual abuse prevention and response program for adults. These workshops, offered nationwide and often for free, arm adults with the ammunition they need to confront the issue of child sexual abuse. We can stop this crime on our children, and it starts with how we talk about it. Talk openly with your children about their bodies and questions about sex. Teach them to set boundaries. Learn the signs of sexual abuse. Believe the child that tells you! Report it to your local Child Protective Services agency and local police. Don’t let these children fall through the cracks.
My younger daughter confessed to me the other day that she was “uncomfortable” about what someone had posted to her Facebook. She mentioned Justin Bieber’s song, “One Less Lonely Girl,” and the commenter responded with the lyrics to a ‘60s tune, “Hey there, lonely girl.” I had to giggle because karaoke buff that I am, I knew that song! But for my daughter, this was serious. She felt violated. I was so proud of her that she had the sense and the courage to TELL me about what made her uncomfortable and we actually had a discussion about it. She wasn’t going to let something like this happen again, and I had the opportunity to be her advocate and just LISTEN. Developing these kinds of relationships with your children is a good first step to protecting them.