When big celebrations bring family and friends together, the last thing anyone may be thinking is, “How will I keep my child safe?” We find ourselves far more concerned with what we need to buy, travel arrangements, or what to wear. But during the holiday season, three out of four children will be molested/assaulted by someone they not only knew, but knew well. We have to ask ourselves, “How can this happen?”
Easily, actually. Our guards are let down because the familiar gives us a false sense of safety and as such our children are left unguarded. Let me illustrate how this can happen in terms of driving. The Telegraph reported on accidents that happened in closer proximity to our homes and here is what they found:
“…according to a poll commissioned by insurance company elephant.co.uk … The survey of 3,800 people found that 3 out of 10 crashes happened less than a mile from home, with more than a third between 1 and 5 miles.
‘Our research suggests that many drivers appear to be in a comfort zone when driving close to home on familiar roads, hence why such a large proportion of accidents occur there,’ said Brian Martin, managing director of Elephant.co.uk.
‘It’s vital people stay alert and avoid complacency when driving close to home.'”
It’s vital people stay alert and avoid complacency when their children are exposed to other people. Now, by exposed I mean allowing someone to access our children when we aren’t looking.
For any of this to make sense I need to share with you some of my past experiences.
When I was a little girl my family got together to celebrate a very joyous occasion. Everyone was there. There may have only been a handful of faces that were new to me, but known to others. My cousins and I were playing hide-and-seek when one of those semi-new faces, much older than me, came to “hide” with me. I may never forget what he did to me or remember all that was done—I can only see bits and pieces— but what I can recall is horrifying and it only took minutes.
The door was ajar, I could hear my family just down the hall laughing and having a great time, but no one could hear me. That was probably because I was in Freeze mode. If you do not know the science behind this, I strongly recommend reading, Fight-Flight-Freeze.
So, why am I sharing this? Why would I put such private matters out there?
Because our children cannot continue to be left vulnerable just because we don’t want to talk about what could happen to them. We cannot afford to stay silent anymore. The #MeToo campaign is personal to me and so many others.
But it doesn’t have to be for your daughters or your sons.
There is plenty you can do, and I am here to help you make the transition from Head-In-The-Sand to an Educated Advocate. Some of you know your own version of my struggle, but for others, this may be new. No matter your position, this does not discriminate. The statistics include all races, all religions, ages up to 18, and children of all income levels.
Here is how you can prepare yourself and your children:
Read up on it
There are authors out there, some from personal experience, who have written children’s books on body safety, awareness, using powerful words, and more. A few of my favorites are: Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman, Do You Have a Secret? by Jennifer Moore-Mallinos, and My Body Belongs to Me from My Head to My Toes by Pro Familia. I find that reading books about honesty, truth, and bravery are encouraging and empowering as well. There are videos from Care Bears to those catered to teens also available.
Begin a relationship of trust
It is vital that we raise children who feel safe coming to us. If your child feels too scared to come to you, they won’t. Then there’s our reaction to things. Will we believe them? Unfortunately, research shows that most of you will not believe your child and this is dangerous for two reasons: 1.) the alleged abuse may continue not only to your child(ren) but to others and 2.) it delays the help your child needs to heal. Neither are good and both will lead to a lifetime of challenges.
Teach proper language
Does your child know their body parts by the appropriate name? If not, it may be time to start. In court, proper usage is vital. If something were to happen to your child, you would want them well-equipped if they are asked to speak out against an offender.
Work on coping mechanisms
For me, I “coped” with boyfriends. I always had a boyfriend. Others turn to drugs, the streets, or they end up being trafficked. Some end up incarcerated, while another percentage will become the perpetrator themselves. And then there’s depression and all that entails.
No one wants this for their child, so please, try to avoid this altogether by staying vigilant and avoiding complacency, empowering your little one to say, “Stop it! I don’t like it!” It starts with family functions. Girl Scouts recently asked their parents to address their families and give a voice to their daughters. It’s a great read and you can find it here: Reminder: She Doesn’t Owe Anyone a Hug. Not Even at the Holidays.