SEXUAL ABUSE – How Schools and Parents Make Our Children Vulnerable to Child Predators
There are few things more disturbing than the issue of child sexual abuse. Outside the despicable act itself which physically violates children and defiles their innocence, the crime is one that continues to destroy the victim’s life long after the final attack.
Crippled self-esteem and shame result in incalculable losses to our society due to poor school performance and dropouts, the likelihood of alcoholism, drug abuse, and related crime, as well as a tendency toward sexual promiscuity; which can result in prostitution, disease, and unwanted pregnancies. Sexually abused boys are more likely to become predators themselves, as well as having a fourteen times greater risk of committing SUICIDE than boys who were not molested. Victims’ lives can spiral downward into welfare dependency, incarceration or utter ruin. It’s reasonable to suggest the psychological and long term economic damage definitely outlasts and far outweighs the physical assault. Unfortunately, society as a whole is unknowingly complicit in this widespread tragedy.
Let’s focus on two resources that offer the greatest opportunity to protect our children but who bear tremendous responsibility for not providing kids the most effective tool needed to counter sexual abuse. I’m speaking of Schools and Parents—the tool being withheld is namely useful information.
An Ineffective Layer of Protection
If the information provided to our children about Predators was sunscreen it would boast a SPF of around 4. That’s enough to make us feel like we’ve done something, but totally ineffective against preventing them from getting burned. Now in candid defense of parents and teachers, I have yet to see any Predator Protection Program with a level greater than 4. Why not?
I have three assumptions:
- The inherent sexuality involved makes parents squeamish and is a political nightmare for schools to tackle. The compromised work-around to this “sexual icky-ness” begets watered-down programs like “Good Touch Bad Touch” or abduction-centered education like “Stranger Danger.”
- Parents who are open to sharing greater information with their children are typically unfamiliar with the schemes and methods used by predators and thus have no new information to pass on (or any child-friendly format in which to convey it.)
- Responsibility is easily shifted. Schools will claim it’s the parent’s responsibility, parents defer to law enforcement.
In the end our children are left with minimal protection against an adversary who is consistently refining their own battle plan. As we prefer to think about more pleasant topics and rest easy knowing we warned our children never to talk to strangers, predators are networking, gaining insights, sharing legal advice and refining tactics to ultimately destroy our innocent child’s life. Predators are getting smarter, better organized, and now (thanks to the internet) they can find moral support in like-minded monsters who reassure them their twisted ways are not abnormal. They’re reinforced that it’s perfectly normal to want to abuse children; they shouldn’t be ashamed of these natural feelings.
What MUST happen to defeat these monsters
- Children rely on adults to protect them and if we are truly serious about servicing our responsibility, we must show continual vigilance against a despicable, stealthy enemy.
- We must realize the shortcomings of what we’re currently providing and work to patch the tremendous gaps these Predators waltz through.
- We must acknowledge that our children are the front-line of defense and that they should be armed with as much information as is necessary to defend themselves.
- We must get over the sexual icky-ness and drag this issue out of the closet like was done with date rape and anorexia.
- We must realize that statistically our child will not tell us of an attack and thus we must use every psychological tool possible to facilitate their reporting.
- And finally we need to arm ourselves with as much information as is available so we might recognize the subtle signs of abuse that emanate from our child’s demeanor, as well as the clues a predator drops right beneath our noses.
The First 3 Steps To Increasing Your Child’s Predator Prevention Factor
The goal is to assist you in applying a level 60 PPF (Predator Prevention Factor) on your child… one that won’t wash off but will continually empower them against getting burned. Although these steps are by no means a complete program, they are the initial absolutes needed to be covered, and require little time, money, and study.
1. GET OVER THE ICKY-NESS
Most parents are uncomfortable discussing The Birds and The Bees with their child let alone molestation and rape! As a parent, I understand this. However, you child’s entire life could be ruined because of a discussion you’d rather avoid. I remember being taught in an Abnormal Psychology course the importance of teaching children the proper medical terms for their genitals. Should they ever be called to testify in court, it is nearly impossible for a defense attorney to distort the meaning of the terms Penis, Vagina, and Anus – versus Wee-wee, Cha-Cha and Booty. As adults we need to get over the fact certain anatomical parts are SEX organs. Even Oprah Winfrey cannot bring herself to say vagina. She unfortunately influences her fans and guests to refer to it as “Va-jay-jay.” As parents and ADULTS, please call genitalia by its proper name and remove the associated caddy-ness when speaking of it. If you’re too embarrassed to talk about it, how will your child ever find the comfort to report someone abusing those areas?
2. REPLACE FEAR WITH EMPOWERMENT
There are certain tactics a Predator uses to silence children that can be extremely upsetting for a child to hear. But unless they hear them they’ll never know it’s a trick, and consider how much more upsetting it will be if they first hear them from a violent, threatening abuser. You should always filter what your child is exposed to, but understand that, like a vaccine, sometimes exposing them to a tiny amount of the sickness may save them from contracting the full blown disease. Would you really consider it “too much information for a child that age” if that very information could help save their life? The prime ages for molestation are 6-12 years old. Predators are banking on the fact you think your child is too young to hear about their tricks. Danger is only scary if there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. Over-censoring may seem like you’re being a good parent and protecting their innocence. Truth is, you may be putting them at greater risk.
3. MAKE IT CHILD FRIENDLY
Advertising employs a variable called “frequency” to ensure a message is properly absorbed into the audience’s sub/conscious. The strategy is quite literally “frequent exposure to the message.” Repetition begets familiarity. A one time discussion does little to provide long-term protection for your child. Like first aid skills, the information needs to be periodically refreshed in their minds. The problem is nobody—not you, not your kids—wants to discuss and revisit abuse.
“Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths pure theater.” ~Gail Godwin
The key to imparting this information to your child while also side-stepping the sexual icky-ness is to do so with child-friendly stories that engage their fascination. Like ghost stories that arouse their full attention, we offer children books that discuss Predators in the same thrilling format. These books simultaneously entertain, educate, and empower your child and were written specifically to arm them against becoming victims. They focus on identifying, thwarting, and reporting child predators and facilitate an empowering paradigm shift from potential victim to potential hero.
The DANGER in keeping the Status Quo
- 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 14. 1
- 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 16. 1
- Child molestation is one of the most underreported crimes: only 1-10% are ever disclosed. 2
- An average serial child molester has between 360-380 victims in his lifetime. 3
- The most common ages of children when sexual abuse occurs are between the ages of 8 and 12. 4
The definition of insanity is often quoted as “doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Until schools and parents understand the current programs aren’t protecting our children, the above statistics have no reason to diminish. As loving parents and reasonable adults, we must all make ourselves part of the solution and not the problem. As political philosopher Edmund Burke forewarned over 200 years ago, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
1 Source: Hopper, J. (1998). Child Sexual Abuse: Statistics, Research, Resources. Boston, MA Boston University School of Medicine.
2 Source: FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
3 Source: South Carolina Forcible Sex Crimes (1999). Summary, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Columbia, SC.
4 Source: David Finkelhor et al, A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse, Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1986