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As you might imagine, our prevention strategy for keeping kids safe is pretty complicated by the fact that we don’t want to talk about this topic. First of all, lots of us are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We blame ourselves and we certainly don't want to discuss childhood sexual abuse because it triggers all sorts of discomfort. Second, we are confused by the fact that sexual abuse perpetrators lie about their actions. We don't want to falsely accuse anyone, and so we are timid when it comes to addressing this issue. Third, we don't trust kids to tell us the truth. And fourth, we don't want to talk to our kids about this at all because we want to preserve their innocence.

But even if we get past these blocks to good communication, our prevention strategy has some significant gaps. One big strategy is don’t talk to strangers (!). You might have heard of this. The trouble with it is that most sexual predators are known to their victims. By most I mean over 75%. So they aren’t strangers at all. They are known to their victims because they spend time currying favor with the parents to get access to the kids.

The first thing I would do to change our strategy of prevention is that I would empower kids to throw fits if they feel threatened. Lots of adults feel kids should never throw fits. Consequently kids throw fits for a short period of time and then even if they are in a situation where a fit might save their lives they don’t do it.  This is a mistake. If predators think a kid is going to draw attention to them, they pick another child.

The second thing I would do is let kids know there are bad adults out there. Teach them what dangerous adults act like.

Predators act friendly at first. Their ability to access kids depends on their skill in charming the parents. They use tricks to lure the kids away from the group. They offer to babysit.  They might engage in tickling or roughhousing around the adults. They are helpful. They might buy expensive presents for the kid.

This is tricky, because people who are not predators might do some of these behaviors. The best way to tell is that the child the predator is targeting will feel yucky at some point around this person. It is vital that we empower our kids to decide whom they trust. If our kids don’t want to hug someone or be alone with them, those requests must be honored. Our kids need to understand that they have the right to say no to any touch that is uncomfortable and to any association that feels unsafe.

Will the kids test these boundaries? Of course they will. Maybe sometimes they will even say they don't want to be around an adult and it won't be because that adult is untrustworthy. In the long run though, these kids will have a sense of their boundaries which will give them the ability to keep themselves safer than if we teach them to be nice to all the adults.

We need to change our understanding of how to care for children too. If we insist on babysitting teams and don't leave a child alone with a babysitter the predators can't use that method to abuse kids. If we learn to trust our kids and to let them set their own boundaries they will not feel that they have to accept sexual abuse if it happens to them.

This method of prevention is culture changing. It has to be, because we have a culture in which far too many children are being sexually abused.

Originally posted to Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS and Street Prophets .

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Comment Preferences

  •  Sadly, many of those predators are the children's (8+ / 0-)

    own parents.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:11:00 PM PDT

    •  Yes, or grandparents. But if we change the (7+ / 0-)

      culture, even those kids start to understand that they don't have to take it.

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:21:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it can be any relative or step relative (6+ / 0-)

        for that matter; the main thing to remember most of these violators are serial violators.  Many of them have years or decades of experience while most parents do not.  Therefore the predators start the "game" with an  advantage that is hard to overcome.

        Other thing is most violators were violated.  Violation is a self perpetuating phenomenon.  The other thing is many violators can be dangerous, ready and willing to do physical violence to any rescuer.  Then, with years of experience, they know how to manipulate the system.

        Leave a man because he molests your daughter?  Get to court and he can claim that your attorney is using this as a ploy (and in some cases this is true) and point out that you abandoned the home and so should not have such an equitable division of property.

        Predators are good because it is what predators do.  The inept ones, the clumsy ones, the obvious ones are quickly caught but the ones who are adept, adapt and learn and pass on their sickness through the generations  

      •  One of the really important things: (7+ / 0-)

        Never say a kid has to hug a relative "because s/he loves you". Or insinuate a touch the kid didn't want is something that must be endured for the same reason, even if it seems harmless to the other adults.

        Not only does it empower familial predators the kid might encounter, but there's a better than 99% percent chance that kid is going to want to be in a romantic or sexual relationship at some point in adulthood (asexuality is often guesstimated at 1% of the population, and many asexuals are interested in romantic relationships).

        Going into a romantic relationship primed to allow unwanted things local society expects (and local society can mean 'the other kids at school') "because s/he loves me" is a VERY BAD position to be in.

        My relatives still don't get that the reason I didn't tell them about emotional abuse and physical boundary-pushing in high school is because they'd taught me that "I Love You" was magic words when I was 5.

        Prayers and best wishes to those in Japan.

        by Cassandra Waites on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:14:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Good touch/Bad touch" education (8+ / 0-)

    combined with each child having three trusted adults in his/her life at all times to report "bad touch" to.

    •  Yes, that is important. Giving kids the language (7+ / 0-)

      to talk about this stuff also gives them permission to discuss it.

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:22:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  problem is that there is nuance involved and many (7+ / 0-)

        predators are very aware of this; they realize that a touch or caress can be misinterpreted and bank upon it; the really good ones can convince  a potential rescuer that what he thought he saw was an optical illusion

        •  That is the problem. (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SallyCat, 2thanks, entlord, G2geek, mapamp

          The more we depersonalize and stop access to kids, without ascribing guilt, the more clear eyed we can be about this… you know, IMO.

          Poverty = politics.

          by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:19:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  "team babysitting": brilliant idea! (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mapamp, SallyCat, Renee

            As long as the babysitters can be rotated at random to prevent creeps conspiring as a "team," that could put a stop to one avenue of abuse.

            But to that I would also add "team parenting," for example the Israeli "kibbutz" model, where kids are raised more or less communally.  That makes it difficult for abusive parents to get away with it.  

            Bottom line is, to the extent possible, all interactions between children and adults should occur in a manner that is accessible to observation by other adults who can call for help if needed.

            To this let's add a requirement that could be enforced by law, that "confessionals" in churches be designed in such a manner that a molester can't reach through a curtain or whatever: for example, solid partition, 6" air gap between confessor's compartment and priest/pastor compartment, connecting opening at adult head height for communication.  And if a grownup wants to reach out to hold the hand of their priest or pastor, that opening should be quite sufficient, without permitting something awful to occur.  After all there is no justification whatsoever, for the physical construction of confessionals to remain in a manner that is susceptible to abuse.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 12:54:52 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Just as an FYI/FWIW (5+ / 0-)

    This woman has a book coming out on this topic.  I don't know her at all.  Since the article is very recent, I thought this info might be relevant.

    "Go well through life"-Me (As far as I know)

    by MTmofo on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:16:08 PM PDT

    •  That is full of solid information. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SallyCat, MTmofo, mapamp, 2thanks

      If a person is angling to be useful and popular in a community that is a warning sign.

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:26:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  "helpful" isn't the problem, "charming" is. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mapamp, Cassandra Waites, SallyCat, Renee

        If a person is trying to be useful & popular in a community, they may not be "angling," only trying too hard to fit in.

        If they're paying undue attention to children, that's a warning sign.  And the simple way to prevent it is to make and keep rules that limit the interactions in various ways, such as always having a parent present, never letting any other adults spend time alone with others' kids, etc.  

        The "charm" factor is a common denominator with molesters and sociopaths.  And the truly insidious thing is, whatever clever defenses we come up with to avoid being "charmed," the intrinsic nature of sociopaths (and molesters) is to figure out the system and find cracks in the armor via which to manipulate their victims.  

        We all have images in our minds of how a "dangerous charmer" acts, but the problem is that real ones don't act that way.  Real ones cleverly insinuate themselves into others' lives in a calculated manner, testing what works and what doesn't, until they get through.  Speaking from experience having dealt with sociopaths a few times, they always manage to find a way to compromise their victims' objectivity just enough to take advantage.  

        I really don't know of any good solution for that, when it comes to sociopaths manipulating adults.  An objective adult can tell from a distance if another adult is attempting to manipulate a parent or a kid.  But when the manipulator turns the "charm spotlight" on the objective adult, their objectivity is put at risk.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 01:31:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Not all sexual abusers of children are adults (7+ / 0-)

    A lot of sexual abuse can occur between minors.  We should remind children that if they feel someone is "yucky" or makes them uncomfortable, then tell a trusted adult, no matter the perpetrator's age..

    "To me, women and avocados are evidence that there might be intelligent design in the universe". Jlukes on DK

    by TX Freethinker on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:28:06 PM PDT

    •  excellent point; frequently nascent molesters (6+ / 0-)

      begin plying their trade as early as preteen since this is learned behavior.  Problem arises that some sexual exploration and play is normal and natural and to be expected.  Attempting to satisfy sexual curiosity is a part of growing up.

      Problem is to identify when behavior crosses the line.  As an arbitrary warning flag, I would suggest when there is 3 or more years age difference in the children, it crosses the line from curiosity to nascent predator behavior but I have no citations to back up this rough rule of thumb

      Anyone else have any ideas on how to separate the two behaviors?

      •  Funny thing (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        2thanks, G2geek, SallyCat

        Without getting too much into it, when I was a kid, there was a group of us who used to go camping in the area behind our houses. Not all that far away, understand, but certainly out of site and private. We're talking all preteens, here, and we did a certain amount of sexual experimenting. This one fellow - several years older than us - his parents moved into town and became friends with our group of parents and he came along on one of these camping trips. He certainly had no idea some of the things we did on our camping trips. He was also a bit socially award (plus, we lived in a VERY small town - not a lot of kids to choose from to be friends with).
        Anyway, the bottom line is that despite the fact that he was several years older than us - and had started puberty - we peer-pressured him into participating in our sexual experimentation. I can only imagine now if something like that had happened and come to the notice of the wrong person, that poor guy would have been raked over the coals and probably been labeled a sexual deviant or something.
        With kids, I feel very strongly that it would be better to err on the side of caution when labeling a child a molester. At the very least, I would think repeated behavior with different children should be something you'd need to see before making such a charge.

        •  Definition of Pedophile - as it relates to kids (4+ / 0-)

          The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (APA 1994: 572) uses the following criteria to diagnose paedophilia:

          A. Over a period of at least 6 months, [the person has had] recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviours involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally aged 13 years or younger);

          B. The person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty; and

          C. The person is at least 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

          "...I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul" Invictus - William Ernest Henley

          by Roxine on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 04:20:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  The best rule of thumb I know (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Renee, SallyCat, 2thanks, G2geek, mapamp

        is whether or not both children are willing participants.

        "To me, women and avocados are evidence that there might be intelligent design in the universe". Jlukes on DK

        by TX Freethinker on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:25:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  For me, the important thing to do is empower (6+ / 0-)

        the kids to stop it if it feels wrong to them. And to let them know if a secret makes them feel bad then it is a mistake to keep it. And to give them tools to protect themselves and be able to tell.

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:25:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good communication is important (10+ / 0-)

    The situation we are dealing with is my son-in-law sending a single explicitly sexual email to his 15 year old daughter's best friend. The girl told her mother, charges were filed and a conviction followed. This all happened in the past year.

    The fallout inside the family and among friends has been fast and furious, and does not yet end. Appropriate community actions - he is no longer allowed around the children and their classmates at their school unless his wife (a teacher) is there. No teenage girls go to the house - they go somewhere else. I am totally in favor of this - which makes me evil. So be it, I speak for the children and I own it and proudly.

    Talk to your kids, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Listen to them, really listen to them.

    Nothing astonishes men so much as common sense and plain dealing.Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841

    by SallyCat on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 08:40:31 PM PDT

  •  A couple of thoughts (8+ / 0-)

    We teach children the difference between " yes" touches and "no" touches, rather than good or bad. Why? The words good and bad have a subjective meaning--sometimes a touch feels good.

    Yes and no are more clear and seem to give children a better understanding of their control. It's OK to say " no" to touches--even hugs from Grandma. If someone does not listen to that "no" and touches anyway, then a child is taught to tell.

    We teach children to tell again to someone else, if the first person does not listen. Tell, tell, then tell again.

    Young children understand that body parts that are covered by your swimsuit are special. If someone touches those parts, it is a "no" touch. Yell at the person loudly--NO!!! And run away, if you can. Practice this with your children. Praise them for doing well during practice.

    Watch young children's play. Children play what they know. They may not be able to verbalize, but they may be acting/pretending things far beyond their years.

    When checking preschools, find out their rules regarding toileting. Are there times when a child would be alone with an adult? If so, why? What is the routine around nap time? Observe the other children at play. Observe the teachers and other staff. Pay unexpected visits. Ask questions.

    Children are precious gifts.

    Peace, Hope, Faith, Love

    by mapamp on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:05:33 PM PDT

    •  This is great advice. It is much the same as (6+ / 0-)

      what we teach in radKIDS. We have a talk about good and bad touch, but what you are doing with yes and no touches is a good way to go about it.

      Yes, preschools are an important place to monitor. I see no reason to trust that this won't happen. Our vigilance prevents it, or at the very least makes it more difficult.

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:29:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The preschool my daughter went to was designed (5+ / 0-)

      with an observation area that overlooked all the areas where children played, slept, and toileted.

      Parents were encouraged to observe from behind the one-way glass. You could get up there without being seen by the teachers or children. The children never even knew the observation area was there.

      That observation chamber was always deserted, but we did go up there on occasion to observe. The teachers knew it was there, and it could have acted as a deterrent. I sure got peace of mind about having it there.

      Please sign angelajean's petition to FLUSH RUSH from AFN (Armed Forces Network).

      by 2thanks on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:43:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wait... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        2thanks, G2geek, mapamp

        There was one way glass so you could watch the children in the bathroom??? Please tell me I read that wrong.

        •  You read that right, Zornorph. (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Renee, G2geek, mapamp, kishik, SallyCat, Catte Nappe

          This was a pre-K institution for kids 2-5 years old.

          The kids "bathrooms" consisted of 6 little toilets, and I mean little. They were working toilets about 10 inches high. 3 toilets on each side of a 10 foot x 10 foot low-walled (maybe 5 feet high) area in the big room. The big room  was about 15 feet high, from floor to ceiling.

          The kids learned how to use the toilets by watching other children use them. From the observation room, you could look down on the toilet area from maybe 12-15 feet above and to the side. The one-way glass was actually set into the corner of the wall and the ceiling at 45 degrees. The mirrored surface allowed other teachers in the big room to potentially see if anything bad was going on in the toilet area. Being in the observation area was kind of like looking down from a balcony.

          I never felt that I was imposing on the privacy of a child sitting on the toilet, and I did not feel that my daughter's privacy would be compromised by having an adult observing from above. The manager or supervisor could see parents coming and going to and from the observation area, and the manager would stop by and visit with us while we were in the observation area.

          Not to worry, Zornorph. At first I thought it was weird, but then I realized it was an excellent architectural-design solution for the problem of prevention of child abuse while dealing with the needs of the kids.

          During nap time, all the little cots would be brought out, and the teachers would rub the backs of the little kids to help them fall asleep. From the observation deck, you could be darn sure there was no hanky-panky going on.

          One of the best things I learned there was they taught the kids to say, loudly, "I don't like that," when another child was invading their space or hurting them or taking something they were using.  Nobody ever taught me that when I was a kid. I thought it was great!

          Please sign angelajean's petition to FLUSH RUSH from AFN (Armed Forces Network).

          by 2thanks on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 10:34:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Babysitting teams? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, marsanges, mapamp

    Most people have trouble to pay for one baby-sitter, much less two. Get a nannycam if you are that suspicious of your baby-sitter.

  •  I love my children (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Renee, SallyCat, 2thanks, mapamp

    They are special to me. I love to hug them and give them gifts.

    But why would someone else love them like that?
    If another adult was paying special attention to my kids when they were little it would have rang all kinds of alarm bells in my head.

    I love MY kids. Yours may be fine and all but I probably would not be able to remember their names, much less pay attention to them.

    Constitution and Bill of rights available for use from 6AM till 10PM Monday through Friday. At all other times the rules are made up for the convenience of the local police/politicians.

    by J Rae on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:32:21 PM PDT

    •  Exactly. But there are parents who are so (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SallyCat, 2thanks, mapamp

      vulnerable to predators coming in and "being helpful". Chances are they don't have the greatest boundaries themselves and they only see someone who is so great with their kids.

      The more we talk about this, the harder it gets for this behavior to fly under the radar.

      Poverty = politics.

      by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:37:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jesus (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      2thanks, mapamp, TX Freethinker

      Believe it or not, there are some people who actually do like kids. Often it's because they don't have any of their own.

      •  Yes, there are. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        2thanks, Zornorph, G2geek, mapamp

        But those people do not object to safety measures like team babysitting.

        Poverty = politics.

        by Renee on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 10:21:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I don't dislike kids (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        but I would never have singled out any child for special attention except my children.
        I lived through having a houseful of my kids friends. They returned over and over. I wasn't their best friend, I didn't pay special attention to them (except to point out that there were x# of beers in the fridge now and better be the same when they left).
        I never heard any complaints from them or my kids and as far as I could tell their parents were pretty much the same.

        Constitution and Bill of rights available for use from 6AM till 10PM Monday through Friday. At all other times the rules are made up for the convenience of the local police/politicians.

        by J Rae on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 12:40:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Misconceptions about CSA - (5+ / 0-)

          Although parents often fear that strangers will abuse their children, it has been well-documented that most child sex offenders are known to their victims.

          For nonparental incest and nonviolent incidences of pedophilia, the child knows the offender (eg, neighbor, relative, family friend, or local individual with authority) an estimated 60% to 70% of the time.  

          Pedophiles often intentionally try to place themselves in a position where they can meet children and have the opportunity to interact with children in an unsupervised way, such as when babysitting, doing volunteer work, doing hobbies, or coaching sports.

          Pedophiles usually obtain access to children through means of persuasion, friendship, and behavior designed to gain the trust of the child and parent.

          My abuser was my grandfather.  Who would have paid special attention to his grandaughters without anyone blinking an eye.   Who would have had access (overnight stays, camping trips, etc).  The problem with child sexual abuse is the predator is often within the walls of our home - and how hard is it for you to imagine YOUR father abusing YOUR child?  Instead people make excuses for behaviors that should raise red flags.

          Thank you for taking the time to read Renee's important post.  And for educating yourself further about child sexual abuse.  It is the only way we can stop it is through continuing this national conversation.

          References.Hall, R. W., & Hall, R. W. (2007). A Profile of Pedophilia: Definition, Characteristics of Offenders, Recidivism, Treatment Outcomes, and Forensic Issues. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 82(4), 457-471.

          "...I am the master of my fate/I am the captain of my soul" Invictus - William Ernest Henley

          by Roxine on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 04:50:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  This is an excellent diary, Renee. Thanks! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Renee, mapamp, TX Freethinker, kishik, SallyCat

    You have given us simple and powerful methods to use to help our kids recognize problems and defend themselves to prevent abuse.

    Your diary answers the question, "What can I do?" with simple and effective strategies.

    Very very good.

    Please sign angelajean's petition to FLUSH RUSH from AFN (Armed Forces Network).

    by 2thanks on Mon Apr 16, 2012 at 09:51:03 PM PDT

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