Prevention. Intervention. Recovery – the keys to stopping child sexual abuse and its lifelong effects. Most of us would agree that preventing a problem before it starts is a good idea, but when we talk about child sexual abuse, do we know how to do that exactly?
What can we do to prevent abuse before it happens and before one more child becomes an unfortunate tally mark on an unforgiving table of data?
We talk a lot about minimizing opportunity, because 80% of child sexual abuse happens in isolated, one on one situations. Making sure that every interaction with the children in our lives is observable and interruptable goes a long way in protecting them. We can set a good example to children and to other adults by making sure we set the precedent for safety by not doing things that make children unsure of what the rules should be. It means if we don’t want children to do something with a predator, then we shouldn’t ask them to do it with us. It means not putting ourselves in one on one isolated situations with children in our charge. It means making sure every situation can be observed and interrupted by another adult.
What do you do if you find yourself stuck at practice waiting for a late parent to pick up his or her son or daughter? Get that parent on the phone and keep him on the phone until he arrives. What if we are asked to take a child to the bathroom at Sunday school? Take another child along, preferably a talkative child who would be comfortable speaking up about inappropriate actions. What if we need to talk to a child privately? Sit on a bench in an open space where everyone can see you.
Most steps of preventing abuse are just common sense, being able to think on our feet, and really there is not a list of rules we can apply to every situation. We just have to realize that our comfort or convenience is not what matters. What does matter is keeping children safe from sexual predators and empowering our littles to say no to inappropriate situations.
Protecting our children consistently means thinking on our feet, it means being creative, and it means empowering our children to say no, while keeping the responsibility of prevention where it belongs – with responsible adults. Next up – intervention and recovery! Stay tuned.
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