News stories about children and teens being sexually abused by adults and people with positions of power are becoming more common these days. Whether people are more likely to step forward now than before could be a factor, but it does not make the nightmare any less revolting. Stories of people misusing their positions are not uncommon, and many parents should take the precautions necessary to protect their children.
So what can you do to protect your children from these acts?
Put safety first.
Safety and self-esteem are among the most important things when it comes to children. Once attacked or abused by someone, they tend to feel embarrassment and feel that they are an inconvenience to others. Protecting children is a constant responsibility that could be helped if only their safety—not only from physical harm but emotional ones as well—is monitored all the time.
Of course, this is easier said than done, parents can’t watch over their kids 24/7. However, if you suspect that safety is a concern, take the responsibility to address it by talking to them about problems and being open to their experiences, even when sometimes you don’t agree with their logic and reason. Hold on to the trust that they put in you and follow up with them with their daily lives as much as necessary. The important thing is that once they do so, you respond accordingly and find a way to get the abuses to stop.
Make sure that you know what adults are doing with your kids.
Whether they are teachers, house helpers, parents, uncles, even cousins, it is important that you know your children are safe with them. Children who are abused are being taken advantage of by people they know, so it may be hard for them to open up in case they are having problems. Make sure that you have rules in the home regarding company, for instance, no closed and locked doors, and no one-on-one time with people of the opposite sex or people of the same sex that they do not feel comfortable with.
There are some people who do great things for the better, and those who truly want to help children go through the trauma of being abused. Look for the right mentor, church leader, or child therapist to help you go through the trauma with your child. Check their reputation and their background before letting your child deal with them. However, the vulnerability of children going through trauma from abuse may make it more difficult for them to put their trust in people who could help, which is why as a parent, you should put your child’s needs in these circumstances and not let them deal with adults they feel uneasy with—even when these adults only want to help.
Listen to your children, talk to them, and teach them which secrets are not supposed to be kept.
Abusers are usually people that children know and trust. In a chilling book called Conversations with a Pedophile, the abuser interviewed by the writer described how he tests boundaries with children and how he manipulates them into keeping secrets to their parents. For instance, he uses swearwords and asks the children not to tell their parents because they “would not have fun together anymore.” He then targets those he is confident would keep their mouths shut.
The pedophile said that for parents to protect their children, they should learn how to listen. Getting kids in the habit of talking can be developed if they feel that they are supported and are actually heard, as opposed to being lectured. Paying attention to what children say lets them know that you care about them and are interested in what they do and what is happening to them.
Once in a while it would also help to start a conversation calmly by asking them about things they’re “wondering about” but haven’t opened up to yet. Don’t wave away their worries, even though it seems trivial, and don’t tease them even though they think they are being silly. Most of all, give them the safe space they need and avoid lecturing or scolding them then and there. The safer they feel with you, the more likely they are to open up about bigger things.
Be clear about their limitations. From the problems they need to discuss, to the places people can touch them, to favors they are and are not allowed to give, even the gifts, photos, videos, and privileges they have with people. Teach them which games are safe and which ones are dangerous. Make sure you establish a circle of trust sot that you will be better equipped at handling their safety and security.
Sexual abusers also take advantage of drugs and alcohol to get children to lower their inhibitions, and some molest them while they are unconscious or asleep. Then they threaten to get children in trouble with their parents and make them think the attacks are their own fault. To avoid this, make sure that your children know that you are on their side and that you will love them no matter the mistakes or wrongs they think they made.
Prepare children to take charge of their safety.
For most people, a firm “no” could do the trick, but there are other ways to stop people from taking advantage of your children. For instance, pushing someone’s hand away, ordering them to stop and leaving as soon as possible, even telling their parents could raise attention that abusers want to avoid.
To teach them about these things, use non-sexual examples like tickling or roughhousing to role-play and set the boundaries on touch and teasing with people they know or even care about. Also teach them how to interrupt busy adults when informing them of safety problems and relay their experience properly to get adults to understand that there is a real problem that needs to be addressed.
Use technology for their protective features.
Children these days are always on their phones and tabs, which may be good thing because you can always keep track of each other that way. You can call them if they miss curfew, and better yet, they can call you when they run into trouble. Unfortunately, phones and tabs are the first ones that abusers will ask them to turn off or throw away, leaving them with no way to cry for help. Because of this, it is important that there is always a GPS tracker in your child’s possession at all times.
GPS trackers for kids these days are small and compact, so it won’t be much of a problem for them to wear.
Many GPS devices have features such as SOS buttons, geo-fence alerts, and even speed limits that could warn you of trouble as soon as they are triggered. This way, you know right away when your child is not in one place for too long, or when he’s somewhere he is not allowed to go to in the first place. For trouble that brews in familiar areas, he can also contact you with just a touch of a button and not waste time in texting or looking for his phone to make a call.