Child sex abuse is far more common than most people think. By age 20, 30 percent of girls have experienced it and 16 percent of boys. It is 75 percent more common than cancer and 167 times more common than autism. Given this startling prevalence of child sex abuse, who would not want to build a bubble around their child?
Nothing is 100% effective and if child sex abuse happens it is not your fault. And it is not the child’s fault. It is always the fault of the perpetrator. And it is sometimes the fault of institutions that provide access to children to perpetrators.
But by becoming over-protective can create its own problems. There are reasonable steps you can take to reduce the risks for your child without locking them in the house.
The three steps to keep in mind are:
- Be observant. Child sex abuse rarely leaves physical signs on the child. Changes in behavior may occur. Anxiety and depression, social withdraw, anger and rebellion are common. But sometimes children who have been sexually abuse show no signs at all. Being observant extends beyond your child to the environment that they are in and other people in that environment. Abusers are usually not strangers but are people you already know. Watch for people who make themselves enticing – free trips, unusual gifts, spending time with kids to free up parents. Abusers may be boundary violators – ignoring rules, personal space, or social cues. Abusers may test the water by sharing pornography, talking about sexual subjects, or too much touching (hugs, wrestling, putting their arms around children).
- Communicate with your child. Starting at a very early age, teach your children that their body belongs to them. Gnarly Uncle Joe does not have a right to a kiss. As they are growing up, be open children about their bodies and child sex abuse. Children need to know that anytime an adult does something sexual with a child it is criminal. Teach your children that they can talk to you. Do not make them afraid to tell you their problems.
- Take action if you have suspicion. Sometimes this is about trusting your gut. Do not wait until you have confirmation. If something does not feel right, take action. This may be as simple as staying with your child where you would normally just drop them off. Or more difficult like changing classes or teams or churches. Remember that child sex abuse can have lifetime consequences so an ounce of prevention is worth it.
Two books that I have found helpful in this area are:
- The Well-Armored Child by Joelle Castix. Joelle is a survivor and an advocate for child safety.
- The Safe Child Book by Dr. Sherryll Kraizer. Dr. Kraizer once worked at Tulsa’s Parent and Child Center and has traveled the world working on safety programs for kids.
You can’t go wrong with either of these.
If you suspect your child may have been abused, or if you were abused as a child, find out about your rights in the civil justice system. Our first meeting is at no cost to you. Contact Koller Trial Law today.