Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's about to get real in here

About a month ago I was helping my sister plan a Family Home Evening on how to keep her children safe.  She had received a letter stating that a sexual predator in her community had been hiding out in bathrooms at public parks.  Parents were encouraged to accompany their children.

Since then, I have had three conversations with friends where in one way or another childhood sexual abuse was brought up.  None of them had thought to talk to their kids about it.  I feel like with my knowledge and experience I'm being pushed to share.

I am what you might call hyper vigilant regarding my own kids and this topic.  EVERY TIME Parker is out of my care for any amount of time, I ask him a series of questions.

Did anyone touch your penis?
Did they touch your booty?
Did they show you their penis?
Did they ask you touch their body?
Did they offer to give you a bath?
Did anyone watch you go potty?
Did anyone show you pictures or ask you to watch movies of other people's bodies?

And then I ask him, the same questions about his little brother.

Obviously, I trust the people that I leave my kids in the care of.  If I thought something was going to happen, I wouldn't leave them there.  I don't ask because I think it happened, I ask because I want him to know that I care if it did.  I've asked him after he's spent time with his grandparents, even when I leave them with his own Dad, I ask.  He knows that I want to know.

Most perpetrators tell kids things like:

 "If you tell your Mom, she is going to blame you and you'll be in trouble."
"This is our little secret."
"If you tell, I'll kill your brother (or I'll kill you)." 

I know the expression on Parker's face when he says, "no, no one touched me".  I know the look in his eyes, I know his body language.  If he's lying, I'm going to know it.

This is also why we don't keep secrets in our house.  We have "surprises" but not secrets. For example,  Daddy's birthday present is a surprise, not a secret.  I tell Parker, if someone tells you a secret, you better tell me.

93% of childhood sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator.  That means only 7% of the time it's that "chester molester" in the public bathroom.  It's usually someone who has frequent contact with your children.

As many as ONE in THREE girls are sexualized in childhood.  And as many as ONE in SEVEN boys.  It is all around you.  Do not teach your kids that their genitals are a "pee pee" or "hoo ha".  Childhood sexual predators are so hard to prosecute because kids are not good witnesses.  Terms like "va j j" are ambiguous in a courtroom. Kids need to be able to describe in anatomically correct terms what happened.  Parker knows that he has a penis and an anus.  He knows that I have a vagina, an anus, and breasts.  He learned those terms when he was a little bitty toddler learning where his nose was.

Statistics show that REPORTED childhood sexual abuse has dropped 30% in the last 5 years or so.  I can guarantee to you that this does not mean childhood sexual abuse has dropped by 30%.  This means people are not reporting.  Laws and punishments have gotten really tough for sexual predators.  Because 93% of childhood sexual abuse occurs with someone you're close to, parents, teachers, etc. are choosing not to turn in the perpetrators.  This has devastating effects on the child.

The single most protective outcome for kids who have been sexualized, is the reaction they receive when they tell someone.  Kids who have parents who believe them and take action are ridiculously more resilient to the abuse.  Kids who have parents who don't believe them, or who believe them but still don't take action, are taught that their bodies and their safety, do not matter.  Inevitably, these are the kids who are promiscuous teens that struggle with addictions.

I know this is heavy, but I want people to be informed.  Keep your kids safe.  Teach them how to respond if a friend shares with them that they have been sexualized.


The Higham Family said...

Thank you for sharing. This is really important stuff, and it's a good reminder to me to talk to my kids about it.

April Hardy said...

When the stake came to talk to us about addictions, they said what ever the age you think you need to talk to your child about any sensitive issue (sex, puberty, pornography, sexual abuse, etc..), what ever that age is, subtract 3 years, and you're already a year too late. Here I thought at 8/9 I could discuss anatomy, subtract 3 years, that puts her at 5- and I'm already a year late? That means I should've talked to her at 4. Which I should've. Here I was leaving her every day at preshool, where parents volunteer- anyways! Live and learn. Thanks for the reminder.

Breanne said...

Critical post. Thank you for taking the time to write this & share it Christy. I'll take the reminder to increase my open communication with my girls. I have had the conversations, maybe not quite as detailed, or as often though. So it's time to step it up.


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