Are we equipped to combat the threats against the innocence of our children’s minds, bodies and spirits? Everywhere we turn there is toxic sexual content in our media, music, gaming and advertisements, and yet we are oblivious to the messaging our youth receive on a consistent basis. This is not a message of respect, of boundaries, of strong moral and ethical values but just the opposite. It is a constant message that steals the innocence of our children and sexualizes them at a very young age. It is a message that desensitizes them to the destruction of their innocence and the threat of sexual abuse. It is a message that tells them it is okay to engage is sexual activity at any age with anyone. We have lost the moral compass that protects the innocence of our children.
So how do we combat the ocean of sexual perversion and the risk of sexual abuse? Here are some tips that may help you in the challenge to keep your child safe in 2014.
- Acknowledge that your child is at risk of sexual abuse. The CDC reports 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday and only 1 in 10 children ever tell.
- We must talk to our children about sex and sexual abuse. These difficult conversations need to begin at an early age, teaching children that their private parts are only to be touched for health and hygiene and with permission from you. Share with your child that they must filter out content and use self -control to walk away, turn off and unplug from sexual content that is unhealthy, conversations that are sexual and circumstances that are uncomfortable. Use examples of content that is appropriate and inappropriate to view, affection that crosses the line and actions that violate their boundaries and make them feel uncomfortable.
- Open up a dialogue so your child can ask you, share with you, and be comfortable to come to you if they are ever threatened with sexual abuse. Secrecy is the most powerful arsenal to keep a child silenced and powerless. Express the importance of honesty and openness so that you can always protect them.
- Explain to your child the definition of child sexual abuse. The American Psychological Association defines sexual abuse in these terms: “Child sexual abuse is any interaction between a child and adult (or other child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or observer. A central characteristic of abuse is the domination of a child by the perpetrator through deception, force, or coercion into sexual activity. Children, due to their age, cannot give meaningful consent to sexual activity. Child sexual abuse includes touching and non-touching behaviors like sexual kissing; inappropriate touching or fondling of the child’s genitals, beasts or buttocks; masturbation; oral-genital contact; sexual or digital (with fingers) penetration; pornography (forcing the child to view or use of the child in); child prostitution; exposure or flashing of body parts to a child, voyeurism (ogling a child) or verbal pressure for sex. Use your discretion in sharing this definition and put into terms your child will best understand.
- Make sure your child understands that not every adult or older youth in their life may be safe. It is critical that you always monitor one-on-one interactions between an adult or older youth and your child. Drop in unexpected. Ask how the time together was spent and pay close attention to body language and their ability to recount the visit.
- You must explain that sexual abuse is a crime and those that would take advantage of a child need to be stopped and need help. Their silence may put other children at risk.
- If your child discloses that they have been sexually abused, it will be a shocking and painful revelation and may even be difficult to accept. Research shows that 93% of abuse is by someone your child knows, loves and trusts and subsequently you may know, love and trust the abuser. Your focus must be the safety, affirmation and support of your child. You need to respond with, “I believe you, this is not your fault, and it is my job to protect you.” You must reassure your child that they have done the right thing by telling you and call child protective services or 911 immediately. Tell your child that they must recount every detail of the abuse that they can remember in order to seek justice. Unfortunately, children are easily discredited in our legal system and every detail is important.
- The internet is a dangerous playground for our children, exposing them to two great risks: 1) pornography is easily accessible, addictive and your child can be exposed to the most perverted content by navigating through thousands of pornography sites free of charge; 2) predators are searching for children online and may easily communicate with them under the guise of another child. They can access information that will quickly lead to your child’s location. Monitor all of your child’s activity online. Make sure you are on every social networking and chat site and monitor all communications and have strict rules of engagement online, gaming sites and cell phones. Make sure you have parental controls and monitoring software so you will be notified if they visit risky sites.
- Child sexual abuse is a profound wound. There are 42 million reported survivors of child sexual abuse, which is grossly under reported. If you are a survivor, it is important that you break your silence and be diligent in getting the professional help you need to heal. If your abuser is a member of your family or extended family, they have not stopped their pursuit of children and your child is at risk. If you have not dealt with your own trauma of sexual abuse, it will be challenging to give your child the power to face the risk of sexual abuse.
- Be vigilant to not only protect your child but all the children in your life. Pay attention to drastic changes in behavior. There are many signs of child sexual abuse and there may be no sign at all. It is important not to ignore signs and even more important to keep a constant line of conversation about the issue of sex and sexual abuse so your child will feel comfortable to come to you with any questions or disclosures.
Thank you for learning more about the issue of child sexual abuse and for becoming vigilant about protecting the innocence of our children. Please visit VOICE Today at www.voicetoday.org to learn how you can join THE VOICE MOVEMENT to help keep the next generation of children safe and help those wounded by sexual abuse heal.
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11 Year Old Survivor Speaks Part 1
11 Year Old Survivor Speaks Part 2