There are plenty of news stories circulating around the Internet and television about child abuse today. We feel pain and compassion for the victim and anger at the abuser, but all too often we go on thinking that this could never happen in my community, or to my child.
The harsh reality is that it could happen to anyone at any time.
Identifying sexual abusers
Sexual abusers look and act just like everyone else. Statistically speaking, there are people that you and your family know (possibly someone at church, your child’s school or daycare, or a regular at the park) who is a child abuser.
After all, 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused by the age of 18. About 90% of children who are sexually abused already know their abuser. And the younger the child, the more likely it is that an abuser will be a family member.
Be on guard for grooming behaviors
Abusers usually “groom” victims, families, and communities before the sexual abuse takes place. This builds trust and allows the abuser to hide in plain sight.
Common grooming behaviors include: finding reasons to spend time alone with a child; giving special, unique attention to one child out of a group; treating a child as older than they really are, and gradually becoming more intimate with physical contact.
Ways you can protect your child
- Explain to your children that their bodies are their own. Nobody should touch their private parts (make sure they know the correct names!) unless it’s a safe adult helping them to be clean and healthy. Give them a list of situations that fit that criteria, like applying medicine, diaper changes, and helping with the toilet.
- Monitor who spends time around your children. If an adult consistently only wants to spend time with children, that’s a red flag. Ensure that your child’s school and daycare have up-to-date trainings and background checks, and a policy against adults spending time alone with children.
- Listen to what your child has to say. If they feel uncomfortable around a person, they don’t have to be around that person. If you feel uncomfortable around a person or in a situation, you are free to take your child away. Trust your intuition.
If you have questions about how you can prevent sexual abuse, give our office a call at (405) 232-8226 or email Desiree Melkovitz at email@example.com. We have trainings for parents and teachers to help them protect the children they care about.