Protect Your Kids
What do you do to protect them now? Do you only send them to schools and extracurricular activities with good reputations? Do you check references? Do you check the sex offender registry every so often?
Those are great ideas, but they don’t work too well, since 9 out of 10 people who sexually abuse children never see a day behind bars or make their way onto the sex offender registry you review when doing background checks. They are protected by statutes of limitations. Your children are not.
Think about that. Most of the people who commit the most heinous crimes against children that you can imagine never see a day behind bars. That’s unfair. It’s also unsafe, because it means the obvious steps you can take to protect your children can’t work very well.
Here Are Some Things You Can Do To Protect Your Kids
Know the Facts: One out of five children can expect to be sexually abused before they reach adulthood. And most of them had family who believed it would never happen to them. Research shows that the demographics of sex offenders perfectly mirror the demographics of America. That means sex offenders are in every neighborhood, no matter how “good”, “traditional”, or “close”. Sex offenders want to work with kids. They are often very “nice”, and are easy for kids, and parents, to trust. They usually form a significant relationship with their victims and their victims’ families. Parents must remember there is no title or label someone can have that means they won’t sexually abuse a child.
An Ounce of Prevention: About 80% of child sexual abuse happens when a child is alone, behind a closed door, with an adult or much older child. If you can keep your child out of those situations, you can stack the odds in their favor. This is simple, but hard to execute. You’ll need to explain this to your kid’s friend’s parents and your family. Always be on the lookout for someone who repeatedly tries to violate this rule, especially if they insist on wanting “alone” time with a child.
It Takes A Village: Ask your child’s school, church, daycare, and all extra-curricular activities to show you their child sexual abuse prevention policy. If they don’t have one, insist that they start, or take your child elsewhere. A good prevention policy will include a zero-tolerance policy for one-child, one adult situations behind closed doors. It will include a zero-tolerance policy for teachers/ youth workers interacting with kids outside of work or sanctioned trips, and a zero-tolerance policy for electronic communication outside of proper channels. Ask what kinds of background checks and reference checks they perform with staff and volunteers. Minimally, they should check the sex offender registry, run a criminal background check and ideally they also check the State Central Registry for reports of abuse that have been documented by CPS but not by the police. Background checks aren’t all that good, but they are a bare minimum that institutions that work with kids can do.
Listen Up: Learn the signs of child sexual abuse- dramatic behavior changes (more aggressive, more withdrawn, more fearful), precocious sexual knowledge, language or behavior, bedwetting in a child who has long since given it up, or injury to anal/ genital areas. Most of these are pretty non-descript, and it’s easy to assume significant behavioral changes are caused by things other than sexual abuse. Be aware that sexually abused children seldom disclose their entire experience, and my “test” an adult they trust by describing part of what happened, often the least upsetting part. Believe children who disclose abuse, and keep in mind their tendency to minimize, rather than exaggerate. Listen to the going-on in your community, too. If there are rumors that someone has sexually abused kids, even if there is no proof, don’t take the chance of letting them around your child. Also, if someone is fired or transferred for “improprieties” involving children, don’t trust your children around them. Your job is not to act like juror or police investigator; your job is to protect your child from a lifetime of pain.
Change the World: Statute of Limitation reform is the biggest single legislative solution to the problem of child sexual abuse. It will ensure that sex offenders never get to say “I got away with it” on their victim’s 23rd birthday. You can read about Statute of Limitations reform here.