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Ideas for How to Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse

A Pediatrician Just Laid Out How to Protect Your Child From Sexual Abuse—And She’s Begging You to Listen

This pediatrician just laid out when, where, and by whom our kids are most likely to suffer sexual abuse, and gave us all the tools to prevent it.

By Jenny Rapson

 

Recently, a good friend of mine shared a Facebook post by one of her friends, who happens to be a pediatrician. The post was on something that should be of interest to ALL parents: child sexual abuse; specifically, when it happens, where it happens, and WHO victimizes our kids and how to talk to your kids about it and PREVENT it.

I was immediately moved by the excellence of this information and asked if I could re-publish it here. The author, Dr. Tobi Adeyeye Amosun, replied: PLEASE republish this. Her invaluable post is below, and I urge you moms and dads: take it to heart. Follow the good doctor’s advice and talk with your kids, too.

Without going into graphic details, I probably get about 1-2 kids a month in my office who have been sexually abused or molested. I will address each of the things that I mentioned above in light of the most common scenarios I’ve seen.

  1. The location of an incident [of sexual abuse] is likely to be at a place where you are familiar.

Places where I’ve heard of this happening: known family members and friends are far and away the most common. Perpetrators ages ranging from young teens to adults. It is almost always a male cousin, known neighbor, friend’s older brother/cousin, babysitter, father/stepfather, uncle or mom’s boyfriend. Occasionally it is a female, but that’s rare unless she is grooming the kids to have access to someone else. Church youth group is the number two location, usually because there is less supervision. School, camp and sports are the other locations, but less likely unless there are kids allowed to be alone with teachers and coaches. Ask the schools and coaches and churches what their safety plans are to protect kids. It’s never perfect, but I feel at least they know there are aware parents and it helps keep everyone accountable.

  1. Slumber parties: I wanted to address this separately because of it being a sensitive subject.

My daughter is allowed to go to a select few friends’ homes (like five families) for sleepovers. Never parents that I don’t know extremely well, which means she doesn’t get to sleep over at school friends’ homes. Never large groups of kids, where one kid being separated might not be noticed. That said, I can’t tell you how many times patients tell me the first time they were touched inappropriately or the first time they saw pornography was during a sleepover. I only get one chance to raise my kids and I’d rather be a mean parent who is no fun than have the other possibility.

  1. Please use appropriate anatomical terms for body parts.

Eyes are eyes, knees are knees and penises are penises (proceed with the pearl clutching). Don’t use cutesy names or vague names like booty or wee wee or cookie or treasure. It confuses the matter in case something needs to be reported. It also destigmatizes those body parts.

  1. “Safe touch” vs. “bad touch”: make sure kids know which is which.

Safe touches I usually teach are the ones that are in areas not covered by your bathing suit, like shoulders, head and feet. Safe touches are also those that make you feel calm and safe, like a hug from your mom. Bad touches are those in the areas that are covered up by underwear. They are also the ones that make you feel nervous, scared or worried. If a bigger person is touching you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, that is a bad touch. Always tell your parents or other adult about bad touches. And let kids know there should never be secrets between kids and adults and that they will NEVER get in trouble for telling someone.

  1. “Stranger danger” is a fallacy.

The vast majority of the time someone who molests a child is known to the family. Beware of so-called “grooming behaviors”. This is usually from an adult male (or female) who ingratiates themselves to the child and family to lower their defenses. Usually they will try to establish a trusting relationship with the family and seek opportunities to be alone with kids. They do this so that any accusations from the child will seem made up. This has happened in almost every situation I have seen.

  1. Be aware of what kids are looking at on smartphones and tablets.

Especially from their friends whose parents may not monitor things so closely. I usually tell parents at every preteen and above well check that as long as they are paying for the phone and the kid is under 18, it is their responsibility to monitor their child’s activities in social media, texting, etc. There are so many really clever ways for kids to hide their activity online and parents are almost always behind the 8 ball on this.

  1. Most importantly, trust your gut.

If someone seems a little off or a little too nice to your kids, trust yourself and keep your kids out of any situations where they would be alone with that person. We have all been in situations where you just want to be polite, even when someone is giving you the heebie jeebies. There is a great book called “The Gift of Fear” that talks about people forgetting to trust their intuition in potentially dangerous situations and why there are times when you need to listen to that spirit of discernment.

I don’t lock my kids up and throw away the key, as much as I would love to protect them forever. But these are hopefully some practical tips as a mom and pediatrician to make your kids feel safe and to highlight some potentially dangerous situations. By the way, we start this conversation around 3 or 4 years old in our house.

***Read this next: Protect Your Kids With a “Sexual Abuse Fire Drill”

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Don’t let me forget their littleness

It must be the timing of my oldest granddaughter finishing her first year of college and my youngest granddaughter’s 4-month wellness check that made this piece written by Rasha Rushdy so touching but man, did this tug at my heart. It goes by so incredibly fast.

 

Here I sit, between them on my bed, the toddler on my left and the baby on my right. They’re fast asleep, peacefully dreaming of the things little ones dream about. If I listen closely, I can hear their steady, soft breaths and see their little chests rising and falling almost in unison.

In this still, quiet moment, I beg the universe:

Don’t let me forget.

Don’t let me forget the way her fine, silky baby hairs tickle the tip of my nose as I breathe in her perfection or the way she giggles as I bury my head into the cushiony folds of her chubby neck. She smells like milk, soap and baby powder, even though I didn’t put any baby powder on her. She smells like love and hope and some magical, mysterious ingredient that only babies possess.

Don’t let me forget the gentleness of those soft, spongy, warm little hands. The little hands that clutch me like I am everything she needs. The little hands that graze and bat at me when she wakes up too early and I put her in the bed next to me and try to steal a few more minutes of sleep. The little hands that reach up and trace the outline of my face while I nurse her. The little hands that linger and hold onto me for that tiny bit longer, reluctant to release their grasp, as I place her into her cot at night.

Don’t let me forget my superpowers. My power to kiss away an ouchie, hug away sadness, hum away a bad dream and soothe any and every fear or worry. My power to know exactly what she needs when even she doesn’t really know. My power to calm her by simply being close by.

Don’t let me forget the heaviness of a drowsy head dozing off in the crook of my arm while she nurses or the weight of a warm, tousled, freshly bathed head on my shoulder with little arms wrapped snugly around my neck.

Don’t let me forget the sound of little feet on my floor. Little feet running while she delightedly waits for me to chase her. Little feet treading slowly into my room in the middle of the night when she’s frightened by the thunder. Little feet squeaking on the tiles as she follows me around the house, wanting to do nothing more than whatever it is that I’m doing.

Don’t let me forget the way she fits perfectly onto the curve of my hip, as if it was designed just for her or the way her strong, chubby legs kick excitedly as she watches what I’m doing while I sway her gently, or the way her warm little hand rests on my back.

Don’t let me forget the way she pronounces certain words in her own unique way or the way she imitates my intonation or the sound of her singsong voice as she narrates one of her brilliant made-up stories.

Don’t let me forget the way everything seems to glow as we lay in bed together on lazy mornings, while they roll around with each other and giggle and squeal, and I watch them, tiredly, proudly, gratefully, wondering by what stroke of luck these two were chosen to be mine.

Don’t let me forget their littleness. Because sometimes, that littleness is what makes me wish they would just grow up faster, sleep for longer, be more independent, give me more personal space, give me some freedom and let me just do what I want to do, for once.

But it is that littleness–that precious, fleeting littleness–for which I will one day ache and yearn and desperately, dearly miss.

So while I have it now, let me bask in it that little bit longer, breathe them in that little bit deeper and hold onto them that little bit tighter, because who knows how quickly this sweet, sweet littleness will pass.

Don’t let me forget.

Don’t let me forget.

Please, don’t let me forget.

 

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