What should parents do to protect their children?Parents who consider their children “safe” from sexual victimization live in false security and set a dangerous course for their families. If your children are between the ages of 3-5, they are old enough for you to begin to talk about pedophiles. Even if your child has passed this age, you still have the opportunity to talk to him/her. Make it your business to give your child the right sexual orientation. Avoid the temptation of lying about sexual organs or sexual activity when your child asks you about them.Let your child know that no one should touch their private parts. They should know that if anyone touches or asks them to see their private parts; or tries to show them pictures, makes them look at, touch anyone else’s private parts, or does anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell you. It’s important that you emphasize that you need to know, no matter who the person is or how much it seems the person can be trusted.
The person most likely to sexually abuse your child is a person your child knows – and trusts. The sex offender looks for a child who trusts him and can be convinced to stay quiet about inappropriate physical contact. It could be a family member, close relative, or neighbour. Discussing sexuality and/or sexual abuse with your child can be uncomfortable, but in today’s world responsible parents cannot afford to avoid the issue. Here are some practical suggestions:
1) Plan a specific time to sit down with your child to discuss sexual abuse.
2)Explain to your child that God made their body very special. Every part of their body is good, but some parts of their body are private.
3) Clearly identify for your child which parts of their body are private. If your child is young, consider teaching them during their bath time. Another idea is to have your child dress in a bathing suit, vest (for girls) or singlet and pants (for boys) and show them that all areas covered by what they are wearing are private.
4) Let your child know they must tell you if anyone touches them in the private areas. No matter who the person is, or what the person says to them. Assure your child they will not be in trouble if they tell you they’ve been touched inappropriately – rather, you will be proud of them, and help them through the situation.
5) Emphasize that some people have a “touching problem” and that this is not good. If anyone touches them accidentally or intentionally in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should feel comfortable to tell you about it. Explain to your child that someone with a “touching problem” needs to get some help just like someone with a problem with stealing might. If the person doesn’t get help, they could get into a lot of trouble in the future. Children have been saved from abuse by just knowing this.
6) Warn your child specifically that there are people with “looking problems” on the Internet. These days that children are exposed to the internet from very early stages in life (Blackberry, Whatsapp, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc.), it is important that they are educated on how to respond to people that they meet online. What is appropriate or inappropriate to share with others (there have been cases of underage children sending semi nude pictures online). If someone they have been interacting with online asks the child to meet them, what do they do? One out of five children using chat rooms have been approached by paedophiles. Only 25 percent of them ever tell someone. Tell them that it’s as inappropriate to look at someone’s private parts, or to let someone look at theirs, as it is to touch them.
7) Be sure that your child knows that someone with a “touching” or “looking” problem will often try to trick them into not telling. Give specific examples. Sometimes a pedophile will buy gifts, candy, or offer special privileges to keep a child’s silence. This is called grooming. Child grooming comprises actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, to lower the child’s inhibitions in order to sexually abuse the child. Some pedophiles groom children, i.e. they pretend to be nice to them and give them all sorts of privileges so that the child will trust them and become comfortable with them. It is important that you warn your children about such people. Let your child know that they are not to accept any gift or favours from anyone no matter who or the circumstance without your permission. Another thing a pedophile is known to do is make threats. Make sure your child knows that you are more powerful than anyone who would threaten his you like this. And that’s true.
8)One thing you shouldn’t do is respond in fear. As 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” To become overprotective would be an ungodly response. He gives us a much better weapon to protect our children: prayer. And we need to exercise that tool at a time like this.
It is possible that when you have this conversation with your child, he or she may reveal inappropriate contact someone has had with them in the past. Listen closely to what your child says, but avoid asking a lot of questions. Young children are sometimes quick to affirm information that may or may not be true. Instead, let your child know you believe them and love them. Report suspected sexual abuse to the police or the ministry of women affairs in your state. DO NOT CONFRONT THE PERPETUATOR AS THIS MAY CAUSE HIM/HER TO FURTHER THREATEN YOUR CHILD. As a parent, you may never completely remove the possibility of your child being sexually abused – there are simply too many factors outside of our control but you can empower your child/children through simple conversation and love. A conversation with your child could save them, and you, a lifetime of pain. Also, it not only gives your child confidence with you; it may also grant them confidence in the presence of a potential abuser. Remind your children that they can always tell you if someone makes them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable—that you won’t be angry with them. Communicate respect for their bodies and help them feel comfortable and articulate about themselves by calling private parts by their proper names.
9) Pray for your children: Pray for their protection according to God’s will, and for the healthy development of their sexuality. Pray for increasing wisdom as you teach and guard them. Pray also that your children will not harm others and will enjoy the freedom God intends within the purity of a marriage relationship. Pray that if your children are in a dangerous situation, they will have wisdom beyond their years, that a predator will be quickly discovered, and that healing and God’s best will flow from even the worst of situations (see Genesis 50:20).
10) Be alert to signals or changes in behaviour: Does a child demonstrate strange conduct or resist spending time with a particular person? Is he suddenly withdrawn or performing poorly in school?
11) Be careful not to discourage open communication: Try to figure out why a child asks certain questions. After you answer the question honestly, you might say, “That’s an interesting question. What made you want to ask that? I like to hear how you process things and how you think.”
A child’s artwork or premature knowledge of sexual terms may act as clues to their sexual experiences. They may also tip you off to someone who has been introducing inappropriate television programs or magazines to your child.
12) Know the patterns of a perpetrator: Many abusers begin by giving their potential victims unique privileges, gentle touch, or special gifts. This creates a sense of affection, making the victim feel set apart or special. As stated before, it also desensitize them to further advances. Ask your children to tell you if they receive special gifts or attention.
13) “I believe you”: This is a crucial message to communicate. Imagine, for example, that your son or daughter is in a conflict, and you find another adult chastening your child. Rather than asking for the child’s version of the story, you proceed to punish her. Now imagine that your child did nothing wrong in that situation and was mistakenly accused. Your child thinks, If they believed another adult when I didn’t do anything wrong, what will happen when I think something is wrong? What if it was my fault that this person touched me––or what if I misunderstood what just happened?
Children are far from innocent, and they often try to manipulate us. But they also must feel they will be heard and trusted. Early in life you can try to instill honesty and accuracy in their speech in the smallest communication, so that when it matters, the relationship is there. They can be trusted to tell the truth and you can be trusted to listen.
14) “You can believe me.” Jesus describes Himself as Truth (John 14:6) and Satan as the father of lies. Even simple, understandable, truthful explanations about the world establish a relationship of trust. When your children ask questions about sex, for example, do you pretend you don’t know what they’re talking about? Or, do you communicate that this is an embarrassing topic? If authenticity is the policy, your children will feel more comfortable approaching you sooner should abuse take place. If you can’t talk about sex without looking ashamed or evasive, you can’t expect children to feel comfortable approaching you about questionable sexual activity.