Sexual molestation of children is absolutely THE most vile thing in the world to me. When I hear stories of child sex offenders being “dealt with” by other inmates in prison, honestly, it pleases me. They are monsters and they deserve it.
What doesn’t please me is that for every abhorrent child molester in prison, hundreds more are lurking around us, and among us, looking for opportunities to do unspeakable acts to our children that will result in them being emotionally and psychologically scarred for life.
As parents, it’s our job to protect our children from these sexual predators. Unfortunately, many parents think that if they do the basics like keep a close watch over their children in parks and other public places, and don’t let them wander the streets alone, their children will be safe from falling prey to paedophiles. Sure, doing these things is a good start, but there is more to protecting our children from predators than this.
Why? Because (as discussed in this myth-busting article about child sex offenders) the majority of child sex offenders aren’t strangers lurking in the bushes or driving around in cars looking to kidnap an unsupervised child.
They are people you know. And they are not always adults.
They are people who regularly spend time with your child.
They are people your children have a trusting relationship with.
They master manipulators who know exactly what to say and do to charm your child into becoming a victim of their depravity.
Keeping a close eye on your kids at the park is not going to protect them from these types of sexual predators.
What can you do to protect them?
Discuss it with them at an age-appropriate level. Knowledge is power. Giving your child knowledge about the kinds of things paedophiles typically do and say to children during the “grooming” process is giving them the power to identify, resist and protect themselves against becoming a victim of abuse.
But therein lies the controversy. How much is too much to tell your child about sexual predators at certain ages? At what point does telling them enough to protect themselves cross the line to scaring the hell out of them?
Without providing any graphic details to her, I started discussing these issues with my daughter at the age of 4 – regularly. First saying simple things like: “Only YOU are aloud to touch your private parts.” Then stepping it up to things like: “No matter what anyone says to you, even if they say don’t tell mommy, it’s very important to tell me if anyone tries to touch your private parts.” Along with things like: “Sometimes bad men and bad ladies (emphasis on it’s not always men) try and steal kids away, so don’t go close to strangers in cars because they might try to pull you in and take you away.”
If ever she put herself in vulnerable positions, I would re-iterate these warnings in an effort to get my “be careful” message through loud and clear. The most extreme step I’ve taken to get the safety message through to her was the day I discovered her sitting at the end of our driveway busily building a pretend campfire – with her back to the somewhat busy road we lived on at the time. It would have been incredibly easy for someone to grab her. And I decided to prove this to her.
I snuck around the other side of the house onto the sidewalk and approached her from behind. In a matter of seconds I bent down, spiraled one arm around her waist, covered her mouth with my other hand, hauled her up off the ground, took three steps backward, and then released her.
It all happened so quickly that she didn’t even have time to be scared. The look on her face read pure shock. All I said to her was: “You’re very lucky it was me who did that to you, not somebody else.” Then I took her hand and led her inside the house.
This got the message through loud and clear. Fast forward 4 years and I know that now more than ever….
Last weekend, my 9 year-old daughter and her friend were happily playing school teachers out the front of our house at the top of our driveway. All of a sudden my daughter came tearing inside the open garage door, up the hallway and breathlessly informed me that a car had pulled up out the front. “Yeah, and…” I said as her bewildered looking friend caught up with her. “It’s weird, come on!” she said dragging me up the hallway by the wrist to go and suss it out.
As we walked back out through the garage (my daughter hiding behind me, clinging to me) I saw a car with the rear passenger door closest to our driveway open, and man lurch back into the driver’s seat and speed off without bothering to close the back door. Very suspicious.
My daughter’s friend still didn’t have a clue what all the fuss was about.
I asked the girls if he had said anything to them, to which my daughter replied: “Noooo, we were already inside.” Which I could tell by the tone of her voice and the expression on her face really meant: “I wasn’t sticking around to see what the possible child abductor had to say… What planet are you on woman!”
“Well, he could have been just visiting the neighbor or something, what made you come running inside?” I asked.
“He drove around the court once and then came back and stopped.” she replied.
I was so proud of her at that moment for being aware enough to notice this, and for acting on instinct that something was amiss.
To those naysayers who would admonish me for being too profuse in the warnings I have given my daughter about child predators, I say this:
I truly believe that had my daughter’s friend been playing alone outside that day, she would not have gone home safely to her parents that afternoon.
Parents, please take a moment to consider whether your child is informed enough to protect themselves against child predators. In the same situation as above, would your child end up inside with you, or in the back seat of a child predator’s car?
Do you think discussing the risks associated with child sex offenders does a young child more harm than good? At what age do you think it is appropriate to begin having these types of discussions with your child?