I don’t trust easily these days. Life has been blinding, littered with betrayal from the last place I would have ever suspected it, and life has been steeped in emotional trauma.
How does a parent trust this world where danger and sexual addictions abound? How do we safeguard our children?
Hindsight has been beneficial for planning how to protect but there is no full proof way to keep child predators at bay.
I’ve had a couple of occasions the last few years where my, ‘Abuser Radar Alert,’ made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
The first: When a man I met for the first time asked if he could sit in my house and watch my daughter, whom he had never met, play the piano since he, 1) Heard me say she plays the piano and 2) He enjoys listening to piano music. Seriously…NO! The man may have been innocent in his asking but for this momma it came across as CREEPY.
The second: When a man I had never met, but who had met my boys at an extra-curricular activity, invited my boys to his house. He was an older man with no children left at home. He told my boys that the next time their mom needed to go shopping or the next time their parents needed to go out, they could stay at his house with him to play and swim.
Since my history includes once upon a time being married to a pedophile pastor who used the ministry to gain employment granting him immediate leadership access to potential victims, my radar is at high alert over such propositions.
My boys thrilled at the prospect of swimming; what a fun invitation to receive!
It never happened.
I’m all about having fun, in fact; one of the questions I always have when my kids are through with an activity, or are finished visiting with a friend, is if they had fun. Fun is important to me; always has been. But fun doesn’t necessarily equate with safe or beneficial.
Here are a few questions I have learned to ask over the years. I’ve been known to ask these questions after play dates, youth group, extracurricular outings and even after church on Sundays. I don’t ask every question after each encounter and I don’t question each activity. I ask these questions so casually that I don’t know if my kids are aware of my motives. New people, places and activities are held to a higher level of interest while family, friends and regularly scheduled activities are randomly questioned. This is where the greatest vulnerability can lie; most molestation acts do not involve stranger danger, they are the result of a close family member or friend who gained trust and access to the child. Single moms’ children tend to be the biggest targets for such predators; but not the only targets.
I do not ask my children questions in the presence of other people. This ensures my children feel secure in speaking their heart and mind.
QUESTIONS FOR CONVERSATION:
What did you do at the event?
What was your favorite activity or part of your visit?
Was there anything you didn’t like or anything that made you feel uncomfortable? (This is a good time to reinforce that children do not have to obey everything an adult tells them to do.)
Did you feel safe? (I’ve been asking this questions since my boys were wee little things.)
Tell me something you liked about the adult/s in charge? Was there anything you disliked?
Is there anything interesting about a helper or kid that you can tell me?
Is there any reason you would not want to go back there again?
Did anyone ask you to keep a secret today?
Did anyone show you something on their iPhone or iTouch that was inappropriate?
Do you have questions about anything that happened?
Did you understand everything that was said or that was asked of you?
Is there anything you want to tell me about your visit today?
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The next 2 questions I reserve for stranger danger and body/health educational teaching at home:
Has anyone ever touched you in your private places or asked to touch you in your private places?
Has anyone ever shown you their private places or asked you to show them your private places?
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When at a private residence or at public places with public restrooms my kids know the rule: 1 person per bathroom/stall, and to never hesitate screaming for help if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
You never know who has an attraction to children or who has a sick abusive desire on which they plan to act. It could be a trusted adult or it could be a close friend. Sadly, we never know if a friend, cousin or relative has abused or taught a child something they should not know that could be passed on to your child.
If your child has an answer that concerns you or startles you; always believe the child! Children rarely lie about childhood victimization.
DO NOT approach or question the accused and keep your child out of the accused’s presence. Call the child abuse hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD) or call your local authorities. Professionals will know how to legally investigate your child’s allegations. You would not want to jeopardize the case being thrown out of court due to leading the witness with wrong lines of questioning.
Seek medical attention from the child’s doctor or at the emergency room to find out if he or she was physically harmed. Creating a paper trail will be very important in seeking justice.
Find a licensed counselor to guide your child through the psychological trauma of abuse and victimization which will continue beyond the physical trauma. Ongoing therapy for coping and healing is a must.
There is wisdom in asking questions at the right time.
Listen and learn from your children.