As a parent of four children, I am deeply concerned about their safety in this increasingly crazy world. There are so many things to protect them from, and unfortunately there are only so many things I can do to keep them out of harm’s way. At best, I can diligently work to educate them about how to interact with people, whether they are peers or authority figures or family members or strangers. I’ve given them warning signs to look for. I teach them right and wrong. I teach them to be courteous, sincere and nurture their compassionate humanity and quiet strength. I do my best to get them to look for their best.
I want to shelter my little humans from all that’s horrible in the world, but that is absolutely unreal. And we need a little adversity to build stronger characters, but I don’t ever want abuse to be one of those hurdles to overcome. Sexual abuse is one of my biggest fears for my children. One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthday according to the American Society for the Positive and Care of Children.
My Biggest Fear
Although, I was never molested, I have personal relationships with people who have been violated. I have seen firsthand how it has affected their lives and influenced some of the decisions they have made. And it is not something that I would ever wish for anyone to have to experience. Not anyone. Not ever.
I know of a young man who was molested by his female baby sitter as a preteen. Unfortunately this same young man was also groomed and victimized by a male peer in high school. He now has a sex addiction and chronic depression. When he told his story, it upset a lot of people. I couldn’t understand why so many people were so upset. Although, he did put real names into the Internet-verse, he was telling his story. And I had no problem with that. And I had no problem with him publicly shaming persons who took advantage of him or anyone else. I truly hoped that he was speaking up to facilitate his own healing and to warn others.
As I talked with a close friend about it, I expressed my disappointment in people’s reactions. I wondered why people blamed him and why they thought that he should have kept that information to himself. Isn’t there power in owning and telling your story? Isn’t there a freedom and a release that washes over you when you speak up for yourself? I know I have found this to be true in my own life.
I am not the biggest fan of secrets. Of course there are some secrets that are not detrimental to our spirit to keep, but I have found that most secrets burden us and cause us hardship. And secrets of this magnitude definitely fit this description. My children know that we don’t keep secrets. I have explained and reinforced time and time again with my children that there is no such thing a secret between them and an adult. That even secrets between friends can cause trouble.
Here’s a scenario. Brianna and Tameka are very good friends. They walk home from school together, their parents allow them to get together on the weekends and the two girls are even enrolled in some of the same extracurricular activities together. One day as they’re walking home, Brianna tells Tameka that she doesn’t want to go home today because she knows that her uncle is going to be there and that he is going to make her take off her panties. Brianna also asks Tameka not to tell because she’s afraid she’ll get in trouble. Is this the kind of secret Tameka should keep? Or should she tell her parents?
I find that giving my children real life scenarios when approaching the subject of personal space, privacy and sexual abuse is very helpful. It allows them to think and process a situation and more fully digest the concept of being taken advantage of. I even do this with my younger children.
Another scenario. If the babysitter tried to touch you where your swimsuit covers, and tells you not to tell anyone; are you going to keep that secret, or are you going to tell someone?
You can make the story as simple or as intricate as you want. But the goal is always to get them to think and learn a valuable lesson about their safety and their boundaries. I like to reinforce safety rules and give them options for getting away and retaliation.
I talk to my children about all sorts of things. I’m sure most parents do the same. Sometimes we touch on what many people consider sensitive topics. I find that bathroom time is a good time to talk about these types of things. My children know the anatomical names for many of their body parts. Vagina, vulva, penis, scrotum, trachea, breasts, uvula. The list goes on. (Little known fact: I used to want to be a pediatrician when I was a child. My mom would buy me all kinds of medical related things, like a real stethoscope and an anatomical coloring book.) I’ve told them these things so that they have the language to explain the things they see and experience.
I talk to them about anything and everything. I listen to them even when I don’t feel like it. We don’t always share interests, so it’s not always easy to be a good listener, but I get through it. Why? Because I want to know what’s going on with them. I want to learn the way they think. And more importantly, I want them to know that I will always listen. As they get older, this line of communication can narrow, but they won’t forget that mom’s ears are always there for them.
I cannot stress the importance of communication enough. I think this is is our children’s best defense against sexual predators. Communication is education in many respects and giving them the scoop on the predator’s game is vital. Letting them know that all people are not holding their best interests at heart and that although they may enjoy the attention, it can be dangerous. Talking with them about trusting their gut and listening to their inner voice, I hope, will encourage them to be more aware and reduce their chances of being targeted.
My oldest daughter will often come to me out of nowhere and say something like, “Mommy, if someone tried to talk to me while we’re in the store and I’m not near you, I’m just going to roll my eyes and take off running to find you! And if they follow me I’m going to start yelling and calling you.” As ridiculous as some of her scenarios can get, I’m glad that she is thinking ahead. She is prepared to kick, scream, bite and hit her way to freedom. She’s got all these hacks for getting free and I hope she never has to use them.
My mother gave me permission to do what I needed to do to feel safe and stay safe when I was a young child. She told me that she would always believe me, and I knew that she would. She prepared me for the fact that this world is crazy and that all people are not safe to be around. I used to watch Unsolved Mysteries and Rescue 9-1-1. If you’re interested in hearing my story about keeping my younger self safe, have a listen.
Children deserve respect, after all, they are humans. They also are allowed to have boundaries. They can choose when they want to share, be hugged, speak to someone, and more. Much to the dismay of other people, I allow my children to draw their own boundaries. If my method doesn’t work for other adults or children, that’s unfortunate. I allow the offended party to express their displeasure, that I don’t force hugs, high fives, greetings or anything else. I shrug my shoulders and say kindly, “Maybe next time.”
One of my girls is not fond of touching. She doesn’t care for hugs and kisses and the rest, except for when she initiates it and she’s in control of it. Her hugs are brief and lack pressure, and that’s fine with me. But often family members will “go all over me,” which means they hug her too tight and nestle their faces and try to pick her up and swing her–you know, try to get her more invested in the greeting. She will screech and scream and push away. She’s such a petite little somebody to see standing in front of whoever just went all over her, growling with her brow knitted and fists clenched. “I don’t like that,” she will shout as she stands her ground. I support her.
I have had to step in on many occasions to save my baby, because I know how she feels. She has created her boundaries, and those she knows will attempt to disrespect her boundaries, she stays away from. And if they ask why she won’t talk to them or hug them, she will firmly and factually state, “Because you go all over me. I don’t like that.” Boundaries. My 6 year old has clear boundaries that she has no problem enforcing. I am so proud and I aspire to be more like her in that area.
My youngest son is also creating clear and lasting boundaries even though he is only 2 years old. He will attach himself to me or his father like a third lung when we are out or when someone comes into our home. He will only allow people to touch him if they are also touching me. And even that is shaky, because he is quick to stiff arm someone with a firm, “No.” I make no apologies about it most times. He is who he is, and as much as it drives me crazy not to have full use of my body when we are out, I know he is creating boundaries and attempting to preserve his safe space.
It is my sincere hope that all of you reading this will continue to raise safe and beautiful children who will never have to endure the trauma, shame and anger that comes with sexual abuse. I sometimes feel like I am hyper-aware, but I’d rather be a little over the top than not at all worried. There are so many dangers in this world and I want them to evade each and every one.
I want my little humans to be so rooted in who they are that taking advantage of them or leading them into destruction is a very difficult order. I want them to recognize all the many aspects of Spirit within themselves, and to honor themselves. It is my hope that their self awareness and their knowledge of right truth will keep them safe, helping them to make righteous decisions that impact the way the world works for them. Our children hold the legacy, strength and wisdom of our ancestors. They have come from the Morning Star to us and as a keeper of stars, we have to do our part to help them steer clear from the dangers that lie.