I don’t trust easily these days. Life has been blinding, littered with betrayal from the last place I would have ever suspected it, and has been steeped in emotional trauma.
How does a parent trust this world where danger and sexual addictions abound? How do we safeguard our children?
As I stated in my 3 part series on Abusers; having the hair stand up on the back or our neck, or getting a vibe are not common occurrences and are not good indicators that we are in the presence of a molester or pedophile. These are more likely to happen though if we know signs of grooming. Abusers can groom children, and they can groom the adults they will have to deceive to gain opportunity/access to the children.
I had a couple of occasions the last few years where my, ‘Abuser Radar Alert,’ went off because I knew about grooming.
The first occasion: When a man I met for the first time asked if he could sit in my house and watch my daughter, whom he had never met, play the piano since he: 1) Heard me say she plays the piano and 2) He enjoys listening to piano music. Seriously…NO! The man may have been innocent in his asking but for this momma it came across as creepy and inappropriate.
The second: When a man I had never met, but who had met my boys at an extra-curricular activity, invited my boys to his house. He was an older man with no children left at home. He told my boys that the next time their mom needed to go shopping or the next time their parents needed to go out, they could stay at his house with him to play and swim. To me, this came across as a grooming technique of an abuser looking for an opportunity to molest children. See: Protecting Children from Predators part 2 for signs that an adult is using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons, along with other warning signs and how to be alert.
Since my history includes once upon a time being married to a pedophilic offender, pastor who used the ministry to gain employment granting him immediate leadership access to potential victims, my radar is at high alert over such propositions.
My boys thrilled at the prospect of swimming; what a fun invitation to receive!
It never happened.
I’m all about having fun, in fact; one of the questions I always have when my kids are through with an activity, or are finished visiting with a friend, is if they had fun. Fun is important to me; always has been. But fun doesn’t necessarily equate with safe or beneficial.
Here are a few questions I have learned to ask over the years. I’ve been known to ask these questions after play dates, youth group, extra-curricular outings, and even after church on Sundays. I don’t ask every question after each encounter and I don’t question each activity. I ask these questions so casually that I don’t know if my kids are aware of my motives. All activities are randomly questioned: new people, places, and activities; as well as, friends and regularly scheduled activities. This is where the greatest vulnerability can enter; most molestation acts do not involve stranger danger, they are the result of a close family member or friend who gained trust and access to the child. Single moms’ children tend to be the biggest targets for such predators; but not the only targets.
I do not ask my children questions in the presence of other people. This ensures my kids feel secure in speaking their heart and mind.
QUESTIONS FOR CONVERSATION:
What did you do at the event?
What was your favorite activity or part of your visit?
Was there anything you didn’t like or anything that made you feel uncomfortable? (This is a good time to reinforce that children do not have to obey everything an adult tells them to do.)
Did anyone insist on, or try to, tickle, hug, massage, wrestle or touch you in unwanted ways or without your consent?
Did you feel safe? (I’ve been asking this questions since my boys were wee little things.)
Tell me something you liked about the adult/s in charge? Was there anything you disliked?
Is there anything interesting about a helper or kid that you can tell me?
Is there any reason you would not want to go back there again?
Did anyone ask you to keep a secret today?
Did anyone show you something on their cell phone or computer that was inappropriate, or pornogrpahy?
Do you have questions about anything that happened?
Did you understand everything that was said or that was asked of you?
Is there anything you want to tell me about your visit today?
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The next 2 questions I reserve for stranger danger and body/health educational teaching at home:
Has anyone ever touched you, or asked to touch you in your private places (penis, testicles, or bottom/butt for boys), (breasts, vagina, bottom/butt for girls)?
Has anyone ever shown you their private places (name them so there is no confusion or exclusion) or asked you to show them your private places?
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When at a private residence or at public places with public restrooms my kids know the rule: 1 person per bathroom/stall, and to never hesitate screaming for help if someone makes them feel uncomfortable.
You never know who has an attraction to children or who has a sick abusive desire on which they plan to act. It could be a trusted adult or it could be a close friend. Sadly, we never know if a friend, cousin, or relative has abused or taught a child something they should not know that could be passed on to your child.
If your child has an answer that concerns you or startles you; always believe the child! Children rarely lie about childhood victimization.
DO NOT approach or question the accused and keep your child out of the accused’s presence. Call the child abuse hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD) or call your local authorities. Professionals will know how to legally investigate your child’s allegations. You would not want to jeopardize the case being thrown out of court due to leading the witness with questions.
Seek medical attention from the child’s doctor or at the emergency room to find out if he or she was physically harmed. Creating a paper trail will be very important in seeking protection and justice.
Find a licensed counselor to guide your child through the psychological trauma of abuse and victimization which will continue beyond the physical trauma. Ongoing therapy for coping and healing is a must. (I highly recommend E.M.D.R. therapy) Read about E.M.D.R. here…
There is wisdom in asking questions at the right time.
Listen and learn from your children.
Read: How Sexual Predators Choose Child Victims Part 1
Protecting Children from Predators: Childhood Sexual Abuse part 2
Childhood Sexual Abuse: Symptoms part 3