Protecting Your Child

by annie

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 it.

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, too.

  • 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 a child.
  • 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 bad touch.
  • 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

also view:

Sexual Predators

Internet Pornography

Internet Dangers to Children

Megan's Law

Human Trafficing

If you have some other comments or suggestions on how to protect our kids, please email them to us.