Even the children of the most cautious and watchful parents fall victim to sexual molestation. Although there is no infallible way to ensure your children’s safety and protection from sexual predators, we have created a guide to help you build
boundaries and provide additional security.
Child sexual abuse comes in many forms – it is not only physical manipulation, but it can be non-contact mental and emotional abuse. Though there is no universal definition of sexual abuse, the American Psychological Association has outlined common forms that it can take:
Understand the startling statistics. Every parent needs to recognize that this very well could happen to their children, even when they take vast strides to ensure that it won’t.
We all have a friend or family member who was raised to be afraid of strangers, and now has an unhealthy fear of interpersonal relationships and the unknown. You want your child to be aware of warning signs, not to blindly fear certain types of people.
At the same time, refrain from teaching your children to always be welcoming to strangers. Telling your child to always “give him a hug” can instill false trust. Instead, allow your child to express emotions on his or her own terms.
Be aware of the warning signs.
Educate your child about basic sexual education. Helping your child understand his or her own body will give them the power to embrace and protect it. Teach them that no one should touch their private parts. If you are uncomfortable having "the talk", a healthcare professional can be available to assist you.
TRUST YOUR GUT. Don’t write off your suspicions as you being an overprotective parent. If something isn’t sitting well with you, it isn’t likely that you are overreacting or reading too much into behavior. If you get a bad vibe from an adult that your child is spending time with, monitor that time spent and delicately ask your child questions about their relationship in a non-accusatory manner.
While your child is bound to build meaningful relationships with teachers, coaches and neighbors, it is important to recognize when a line has been crossed. Take note of excessive time an adult spends with your child - This is typically the first step in the process of manipulation.
If your child tells you about a “special friend” with whom he or she keeps secrets, alarms should go off in your head. Beware of your child receiving money or gifts from an adult, or getting personal calls or text messages. Predators often integrate themselves into the lives of a target’s family in order to become a trusted member with easy access to the child. The perpetrator will groom the entire family, gain their trust and then begin to push boundaries.
CHECK YOURSELF. The following is a list of rules that you can live by to protect your children from sexual predators:
The following are common indications of sexual abuse:
HAVE A PLAN for the dreadful scenario in which your child goes missing. According to the Department of Justice 74% of children murdered by non-family members are killed within the first 3 hours of abduction, and it generally takes about two hours for parents to gather all the information law enforcement officials need to head up a successful search. Always carry up-to-date photos of your child that accurately depict his or her appearance. Get your child fingerprinted. Many police departments offer this service free of charge.
GET HELP if your child has been sexually abused. Long-term effects of sexual abuse include depression, guilt, fear, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, anorexia, substance abuse, destructive behavior, sexual dysfunction and criminality in adulthood. To prevent a devastating future, parents of victims are urged to engage their child in some type of therapy.
There are various different types of counseling victims can seek. They include:
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Child Help USA
In today’s world with global communication available at the fingertips of anyone who has access to a computer, it is especially important to understand how to spot and stop predators. Sexual perpetrators use the perceived anonymity of the Internet as a playground for picking up underage boys and girls.
They use the computer screen as a cushion that makes children more open and less apprehensive about forming new relationships with strangers. They trick young minds into sharing secrets about themselves, with the ultimate goal of becoming intimate with them.
Startling statistics: One in five American teens that regularly use the Internet has received unwanted sexual solicitation. One quarter of children have been exposed to unwanted online pornographic material.
Only 25% of children who receive unwanted online sexual advances tell an adult.
Parental Controls: Currently, only one-third of households with Internet access are actively using software to protect their children and teens from predators. Filtering and blocking software like Net Nanny, CYBERsitter and Cyberpatrol allow parents to decide who is appropriate for their kids to talk to online. Games: There are dozens of web sites dedicated to finding fun ways to educate children and teenagers about the dangers of sexual predators.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) offers online safety quizzes at www.missingkids.com.
McGruff.org and IDthecreep.com have games to teach kids how to identify online predators.
Wiredkids.com uses superheroes and cartoons to keep the attention of kids while teaching them about online predators.
Rules to Establish Child-Computer Safety:
1/3of households with internet access are using software to protect their children from predators.
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