What We Need to KNow & Do To Protect Children
This may seem shocking, but the particulars of this case are not out of the realm of how easily and often children are being sexually abused (an estimated rate of 1:4 girls and 1:6 boys.)
- It occurred in the basement of the home where they supposedly were playing XBOX games. Although in most cases of abuse the perpetrator and victim are often alone - it doesn't mean that they are completely isolated from other people.
- It was a large gathering of people. Especially when children are old enough to roam the house - parents and family member easily lose track of their children and don't put much thought into where they are or who they're with. The idea that they are surrounded by people they know - rather than being in a mall or amusement park, the "stranger danger" misconception kicks in, and people feel safe leaving their children on their own. Statistically, however, 90% or more of abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the victim and their family.
- The perpetrator threatened to hurt the victim if he told. In this case - the abuser physically restrained the child - it would seem he spent no time trying to groom the child to submit to the sexual acts, but rather, saw an opportunity to abuse and acted. (Learn more about abusers here.)
- The child did not tell his parents until after the abuse happened a second time, and he told his parents he did not want to go to this man's home. In most cases, children will not tell for at least a year, and in many cases children never tell.
How Can We Protect Our CHildren
- Remember, your child is much more likely to be sexually abused by a family member or family friend, than a stranger. Most abusers take advantage or seek opportunities where they will be trusted by parents with their children. Be vigilant of warning signs of potentially abusive behavior.
- Talk early and often to your children, openly and honestly about their bodies, their rights, and appropriate behavior. (Read more here about talking to children.) Know the symptoms that a child may exhibit if he/she has been sexually abused.
- At family gatherings, parties, and holidays - check in on your children from time to time, a basement/kid's bedroom, or outdoor club house may seem like the ideal place for the kids to play while the adults have quiet time, but it's important to make your presence known and unpredictable. Secondly, do not force children to hug or kiss anyone that they do not feel comfortable with - they have the right to avoid physical contact with someone if they wish.
- Create a "Safe Word" - a word or phrase they can use to communicate to you that they need your help. If they're at a sleepover, or a party and need you but don't want to call attention to their situation in front of others, a safe word can give them the freedom to let you know they need your private attention or help, when it may be difficult or uncomfortable to explain in detail.