Protecting Your Child
A child molester is not someone you can pick out of a crowd.
He or she is not characterized by such things as social status, religious
or non-religious beliefs, physical traits, or economical status.
He can be a bum on skid row, or a CEO of a large corporation. He/she
can be someone as close to you as your own spouse, parent, child, friend
or neighbor, or your children's friends and their parents and siblings.
It can happen anywhere, anytime. It only takes a few moments, or
it can last for many years. No wonder we as parents and grandparents
feel the weight of this seemingly impossible task.
One father stated that he figured that since statistics indicate one
of three girls are molested, that one of his own three daughters will likely
be molested. What a tragedy that we live in a world where our most
precious treasures, our children, are most likely to be victimized by someone
before they reach 18. And it seems there is nothing we can do about
There are many circumstances that we have no power over. Our children
can't be in our care 24 hours a day until they reach adulthood. We
send them to school. We take them to church. Then there are
the summer camps, outings with friends, slumber parties, etc. How
do we protect them from someone we can't even identify as a danger.
Following, I will provide a list of things I've done with my own children
and others have done with theirs to at least decrease the danger to our
children. They may still be abused. Someone can still slip
through the cracks, but there are things we can watch for, prepare for,
warn our children about that can help. As you read through the list,
you may think of other ways to protect our children. I hope you will
send in your ideas so that others can glean from your experience and knowledge,
Know who your child is with: Get to know your child's baby-sitters,
teachers, pastors, friends, and their friends' parents especially if they
will be with them. It may sound paranoid and cruel, but my grand
kids don't go to anyone's house alone unless the parents are well known
and trusted. It would also be wise to tell the adults whose care
your child is in that they are not to be left alone with anyone else.
Even well-meaning people can leave your child with someone else while they
run an errand or allow someone else that stops by be alone with your child.
Listen to your gut or intuition: Many times we ignore those
nagging little feelings that we can't quite identify. But when it
involves your children, don't. If you need to, check it out.
Ask questions to people who know the person you are having a nagging feeling
about. I've gone to my pastor and simply asked, "Is this a safe person
for my child to be with?" when I knew he knew the person involved.
Without indulging any confidences, he was able to say, "No, probably not!"
I may never know what my children escaped by my listening, and there may
have been no danger to them at all. But when that's all you have,
you have to go with it for their sake.
Keep a watchful eye on them: I've watched two different men
with their own children and 'knew' they were abusing their daughters.
I can't even tell you what it was I saw or heard. But later, when
it was exposed (not my doing) that these men were abusing their daughters,
and one even his sons, I realized there are little signs that we may not
even realize are signs that can tip us off to a possible threat to our
children. (One of these men was a leader of a boys group.)
Make sure organizations involved with your children have done background
checks on all children's workers and leaders (even volunteers). This
is a must. As many of you know, there have been countless stories
of children abused at the hands of known and even prosecuted offenders.
You can also check with your state agencies to make sure prior reports
haven't been filed against them.
Keep updated on the known offenders in your area. But don't
feel safe just because there are no convicted offenders in your neighborhood.
I sometimes worry less about these guys because we know where they are
and can watch them and warn our kids. It's the ones who've never
been caught that I worry most about.
Be involved in your community. Get to know your neighbors.
Keep their numbers handy. Know each other's children so you know
when something doesn't look right or suspicious people are nearby.
We laugh at the stereotype, like old Gladys on Bewitched. But there
are probably some Gladys' out there who have been instrumental in saving
Talk to your children. It would be nice if we could let our
children continue being naive and innocent about abuse, but we can't afford
that luxury any more. Let your kids know there are people out there
that can hurt them, and that they aren't necessarily strangers. Tell
them about good touch and bad touch. Assure them that they can tell
you anything. Let them know that no matter what someone says to them
about keeping something secret from you, even threats, that you want them
to always come and tell you what is going on. I asked my granddaughter
one day what she would do if someone came to her at McDonald's and asked
her to help him find his cat. She said she would help him because
we are supposed to help people. I quickly told her that even then,
she has to say, "I have to ask my grandma first," and then run to me.
They had in their little minds that a stranger was someone who looked
mean and ugly, not someone nice and sweet. We've even let them know
to never go with someone they know without first asking us. There
are some good books out that are age-appropriate as well about good and
Know your child. This may seem silly, but it seems there are
too many parents that really don't know when their children are acting
differently, or if they are aware, they do nothing or think nothing about
it. When something bad is going on with or to your child, there is
going to be a change in their behavior, but after reading through this
page and the signs of child abuse, I hope you won't make the mistake many
of us do and simply focus on the behavior. Instead try to get to
the bottom of why this is going on. Sometimes we have to be detectives,
and any amount of time and effort you have to put into getting to the truth
will be worth it.
Deal with any after-effects caused by your own childhood abuse.
I don't know of anything more likely to put your child at risk than refusing
to deal with your own past abuse issues. This denial and repression
keep parents from seeing the pain in their own children and I believe paralyzes
them with feelings of helplessness stemming from the helplessness they
felt as a child in that same situation. Facing your own child's abuse
puts your own pain dangerously close to the surface, and I believe that
is why so many parents seem to know it is going on, yet don't consciously
accept it. I encourage you, if you are a survivor, to face it...the
fear, the pain, the anger, everything. Work on changing the way you
cope with life's circumstances, relationships, the way you numb out emotionally,
all of it. If not for you, then for your kids' sake.
I don't want you to be looking for a pervert around every corner, or cause
your child undue stress and trauma by making them scared of everyone.
I know that not everyone abuses children. Most people don't abuse.
But the more aware you are, the safer your child can be, and it'll allow
your child to feel safe and secure. It will also teach your children
by example how to trust discriminately. By talking openly (and
appropriate for age) with your children, it will also set the stage for
them to be open with you so that if something should happen to them, they
will have the freedom to tell you.
Protection Against Child Abuse
Interview with Marc Klaas
Internet Dangers to Children
If you have some other comments or suggestions on how to protect our
kids, please email them to us.