For years I have been THAT parent. You know the parent who is always around, runs complete background checks on the sitter, who rarely leaves their child alone with others, nixes them sleeping over their friend’s house and who constantly has the “talk” about their “private parts” and about who is not supposed to touch them and vice versa. People have laughed at me and called me “over protective” but I do not care. I am determined to protect my children from monsters that would exploit them.
A couple of weeks ago, when news broke that multiple boys had been raped, molested at the hands of a popular assistant coach from Penn State, I was sick to my stomach..literally. To make matters worse, recently there have been similar allegations from Syracuse University about another popular basketball couch. As I read all of the sordid details, I kept thinking to myself, “when will the foolishness end?”As I thought about these cases, I began to get “ticked off” again as I thought about the lifetime of hurt these young men are currently experiencing due in part to the “blind trust” some parents put into strangers with their kids. While I can not even fathom what the parents of these victims are going through, but there are lessons to be learned that every parent should take from this.
1. Be cautious of allowing your child to spend the night over people’s houses. I used to get a lot of “flack” about this one but my train of thought is that why would I leave my child ( my most prized possession) to spend the night at someone’s house where I can not protect them? It does not make sense. Pedophiles are very manipulitve with children and parents. They make the family “trust” them and when everyone feels comfrotable…they attack! According to the grand jury report, one of the victims of would regularly spend the night at Sandusky’s basement and this is where a lot of the abuse took place.
People like Sandusky knew to prey on children who came from “at risk” homes where parents would be eager for their children to have male mentors. They trusted that this man would be a “good influence” over their children but instead he scarred these boys for life. My oldest child used to always ask me to spend the night with others, but I always “nixed the idea”. I always told him not only would I have to trust them with his life but I would need to know sleeping arrangements, family members in the house, etc. Needless to say in his eleven years of life, he has only spent the night with one of his friends and just my immediate family members. Some parents look at my behavior as odd, but I am my child’s first protector and if I don’t do my all to protect him..who else will?
2. It’s NEVER too early to have the “talk” with your children. I have talked to all of my children (11, 3, 2) about their body parts. Unlike some, I decided to forgoe the “cutesy” names and instead they know all of their body parts actual names. I learned this from a friend of mine who worked for Juvenile Court in GA for years and she told me that many molestation cases are thrown out because children refer to their genitals with silly names that make cases against their accusers hard to prove. Not only do my children know the names of their body parts, but I always talk to them about who is supposed to touch them and what is inappropriate. I always remind them that they should tell me ANYTIME they feel uncomfortable about anyone touching them.
3. Let your child know that there is no shame in abuse. Many of the boys in the Penn State and Syracuse child abuse scandals, did not report the abuse because the abusers were prominent men in the community and they did not want to be subjected to the shame associated with abuse. I always tell my children that they should NEVER be ashamed to tell me anything..big or small. They trust me because they know I will not get mad. For example, my oldest son liked a girl in school. Instead of getting defensive and upset, I sat down and talked with him about appropriate behavior. Now he comes to me (or Dad) with other sensitive areas he may be experiencing. Hopefully as a teenager, he will continue with that trust we have built and will alert me if anything is wrong. I constantly remind my children that they should never be ashamed to tell me ANYTHING. Yes, they get tired of me telling them that but I know that they understand they can tell me anything.
4. Be leary of giving anyone constant acess to your child. One of the most glaring issues in the abuse is that parents gave these coaches constant access to their children in complete trust. The only people I completely trust with my children are my siblings and my mothers everyone else is looked at with a cautious “eye“ Of course these men seemed like they were caring and had the child’s best interest in heart but obviously they did not. Any adult who constantly wants your child in their presense you should be leary of. I don’t care if it is a teacher, coach or church member. Does this mean every person is attempting to abuse your child? No, of course not but I do not give people constant access to my children. Instead if he has an event where he is in direct contact with an adult I make sure to speak to the adult beforehand and many times I do not leave him alone with them. So while he is at an athletic event, I am hovering in the corner, reading a book…watching to make sure my child is safe.
As I write this, I am well aware that abuse can occur in the most “solid” families there are; however, we as parents have to be diligent in protecting our children. Some people may view my lessons as extreme but when dealing with my children I do not like to leave them to chance. Abuse to children is more common that people think and we have to prepare our children for abusers they may come in contact with. If not, cases like this will be more commonplace that we think.