Childhood sexual abuse ranks right up there for the top fears of parents. There are many ways that we can love our children. Protecting them from harm should be one of our expressions of love. Sexual abuse is a violation of boundaries and a ripping away of innocence. Here are several ways that you can reduce the risk of someone sexually violating the children in your life.
1. Minimize and monitor who your child is with at ALL TIMES. They should never be alone with those you do not know well. Schools and sports teams take measures to prevent authority figures from being alone with children, but this cannot be counted on completely.
2. Be VERY wary of sleepovers! Many adults state that they were sexually abused during a sleepover. I reserve this occasion for families that I completely trust. I explain to the parents what I am comfortable with and offer to pick my children up late.
3. Perpetrators are known to target children in unhappy and disconnected families. Be involved in your children’s relationships, activities, and interests. Being an involved parent has many rewards!
4. Have periodic discussions about boundaries with our bodies, sex, and appropriate touching. Talk naturally and without embarrassment or shame. Let them know that they can ask you any question or tell you anything.
5. My personal opinion is that we need to be even more diligent with children that have vulnerable, trusting, and compassionate personalities. This also applies to children with disabilities.
6. Do not assume that strangers or acquaintances are the only people you need to shelter your children from. Close friends and family are most likely to be the perpetrators.
7. Single parents need to be “on guard” with the people around your children. If you are single and dating, be very careful who you date and expose your children to. Without any objective data in front of me, I have many clients that have been abused by a step-parent. Do not ignore ANY questionable feelings and situations that occur. Take your time in dating and making marriage decisions!
8. Sexual abuse happens to boys as well as girls. Protect your sons, too!
9. ALWAYS go with your gut! Teach your children how to discern healthy people and those that they “feel a little funny around.” I have regular conversations with my children about those we come into contact with. This goes for both those I consider trustworthy and those that I feel may be dangerous or unhealthy. This teaches them in the moment and builds their “gut skills”. If you are not naturally discerning, have someone that you know well come in and teach your child those skills.
10. Pray. I pray often for God to protect each member of my family.
I pray that for you, also!