Parents - the danger to
your children is now
WARNING! THIS VIDEO CONTAINS DISTURBING CONTENT, BASED ON A TRUE STORY...
This is Kayleighs "love story". It is a true account and, while it may have occurred in Great Britain, it is a story that is being played out all across our country.
It is estimated that 1 in 4 children online or on social media will be approached sexually by a stranger. These abusers are adept at manipulation and grooming, and take time to win a child's confidence before commiting the abuse.
What can you do to prevent your child from becoming a victim?
Most online activity is harmless or even positive for young people. But adults who want to exploit them can use the Internet to try to locate and "groom" potential victims. You can minimize the risk of a young person meeting an online predator with some simple steps:
Consider When Your Child Can Go Online.
If you decide to let your child have an online profile or personal web page, your decision should be based on their age and maturity. Keep in mind that Facebook and Twitter don't accept members under the age of 13.
Utilize Privacy Settings.
One of the best ways to protect your child and their privacy is to use a website's privacy settings to control access to their profile page. Social networking sites often make changes to their privacy settings, so check frequently for changes or updates to the settings.
Monitor and Guide Online Behavior.
An adult who is looking for a young person to exploit will be drawn to a profile with entries or photos that show an interest in sex. A sexy profile and a willingness to talk about sex online with strangers are warning signs that require parental action. These online behaviors are much more likely to lead to sexual solicitation than posting personal information online.
Email, instant messages, texts... all of these can be used by young people to communicate immediately and secretly. Youngsters also use abbreviations to save keystrokes and keep parents in the dark.
Take Care of Photographs and Cameras.
Computers make it easy to send and share photographs, but it should be done carefully. Parents should monitor the use of digital cameras, cameraphones and webcams, which can be misused by young people.
Place Computer in a Common Area.
Place your computer in a central room of the house with the screen facing out so you can see it easily. Develop a list of family rules for using the Internet and post it next to the computer.
Keep Screen Names Anonymous.
Information in a screen names can be used to identify a child. Make sure that your child's screen name does not include personal information such as real name, home address or school name.
Access Your Child's Email.
Experts recommend that parents share an email account with their young child or maintain access to their child's email account and check it frequently.
Remind Kids that Computer Use is Not Confidential.
Young people want to be treated as adults and may feel entitled to privacy. But they shouldn’t expect that everything they do on a computer is personal and confidential. And computers aren't the only way kids go online. You'll also need to keep an eye on how they use mobile devices such as phones and gaming systems.
Some parents might feel that it is intrusive to monitor their child's online activities, but a computer is different from a diary or a journal. A journal contains private thoughts that aren’t communicated to others. But emails, Facebook posts, Tweets, You Tube videos, online journals and instant messaging are an open window to your child's life, carrying information to and from your home.
It's not about "Stranger Danger"!
How To Protect Your Child From Predators
Depending on your child's developmental stage, you'll need to focus on specific issues and address (or avoid) certain topics.
Use the right language. "Skip the euphemisms," says Robin Sax. "Call a vagina a vagina and a penis a penis." This decreases potential confusion and improves your child's ability to discuss sexual situations.
Explain what's private. Tell her that besides herself, her parents, and her doctor (and caregiver if your child's still in diapers), no one should touch her private parts. If anyone does, she can tell you and you won't be mad.
Give him ownership of his body. Has a stranger ever ruffled your child's hair, telling you how cute he is? Your tendency may be to politely tolerate the behavior. But it's a great teachable moment. Saying "I don't feel comfortable having someone we don't know touching my kids" models to your child that it's okay to say "no" to touch—even from outwardly "nice" people.
Be a safe refuge. You may think this is obvious to your child, but explicitly state that she can tell you if she ever feels confused or scared about anything and that you'll help and love her no matter what has happened.
Break the taboo around sexuality. If your 4-year-old asks where babies come from, for instance, give her a brief, honest, and age-appropriate answer. "If we tell a child she's not old enough to know, or to not ask such questions, then we've given the message that this subject is off-limits," says Robin Castle.
Reinforce boundaries. Support your child if he wants to say "No, thank you" to hugs or kisses from relatives. If your son is squirming away as Grandma leans in give him a kiss, you can say, "Vincent isn't really in the mood for a kiss right now, and that's okay, isn't it, Grandma?" suggests Linda E. Johnson.
Head off guilty feelings. Don't wait until you suspect something is wrong. "Kids need to hear that it is never their fault if someone behaves sexually with them and that they can always come to you," says Jolie Logan, CEO of Darkness to Light. In doing so, you help take away the perpetrator's most powerful weapons—shame and fear. Bathtime is one opportunity to talk about bodies and boundaries, says Logan ("I want you to understand that people shouldn't touch your private parts, or ask you to touch theirs"). Or use current events: "There are grown-ups who like to do inappropriate things with children, and it's my job as a parent to keep you safe. You can always come to me if you feel uncomfortable."
Teach Internet safety. Many experts consider kids this age too young to be online by themselves. Use parental controls to limit her access, and explain that people are not always who they claim to be online. Insist your child never disclose personal information, and ask her to tell you if she ever feels uncomfortable about messages she receives.
Ages 9 and up
Continue the conversation. As children near adolescence, their peers could sexually threaten them. Indeed, your child's own budding sexuality may get him into situations that offenders may readily take advantage of. Look for chances to talk about this; it can include brainstorming ways for your child to avoid or get out of uncomfortable situations with peers. Reinforce that it is never a child's fault when someone mistreats her.
Monitor devices. Kids can easily, and often accidentally, access porn through smartphones and gaming systems such as Nintendo Wii and Sony PSP that can be connected to the Internet. "We're seeing a record- high number of these cases in our practice," says Dr. Julie Medlin. "Most parents have no idea that their kids can access porn so easily in this way, nor do they understand just how much of a negative impact such exposure can have on the child's sexuality." Consult your device's user guide to enable parental controls and limit access to certain games with mature content and to manage Web browsing, chat features, and purchases.
Help identify trusted adults. Many children cannot bring themselves to disclose sexual abuse directly to parents, Sax says. So she encourages teaching kids to seek out adults whom they feel comfortable turning to when something is bothering them. She adds that they should continue to tell until someone acts on the issue. By law, teachers and school counselors must report suspected abuse to authorities, and in Florida, all adults who suspect abuse are required to report.
What do you do if a child comes to you and says they've been abused?
The child will look to you for cues that they will be okay. Unquestionably, sexual abuse can change a child’s view of the world. Yet, regardless of how devastated you are, they need to believe that they will be alright, that they are not “damaged goods.” As is true for other severe traumatic events, with protection, support and specialized treatment, children can - and do - recover. Children can - and do - go on to live full, happy, productive lives. Lots of successful people, including many famous figures, are survivors of sexual abuse. Breaking the silence is the first step.
Believe what they say
Thank the child for telling you. Let them know you love them. If the disclosure is hard to believe, keep reminding yourself that false disclosures are rare. If you absolutely feel you need more information, think of the first step: stay calm. Ask clarifying questions in a matter-of-fact way. Be very, very careful to avoid questions that suggest you expect or want a specific answer (for example, stay away from leading questions such as “Did somebody touch you right here?”).
Try not to show relief or disapproval to the answers your child gives. When children detect in others pain and upset resulting from their disclosure, they will sometimes try to take back or “recant” the disclosure. This is common and is not necessarily an indication that the abuse really didn’t happen.
Restoring safety is crucial and should be considered a priority. Sexual abuse takes away a child’s sense of control over his or her surroundings and can lessen the faith that adults will protect them. Immediately establish a plan with other adults so that unsupervised contact with the person who has abused is eliminated. Help the child understand that the person who abused them did something wrong, and that this person needs help to stop hurting others.
Pay close attention to the child’s cues about what he or she may need to feel safe. What the child needs may be different from what you may expect. And what the child may say they want may not actually keep them safe, such as spending time alone with the abusive person. That said, it’s always best to take the extra step to give the child a greater sense of safety. Even if the requests the child makes seem irrational, (“I want to wear two pairs of pajamas tonight”), building up their sense of confidence and security is crucial.
You can also help the child feel safe by demonstrating your willingness to protect their privacy. The sexually abusive behavior may feel extremely personal to the child. Be careful not to talk about the abuse with anyone who does not need to know. Depending on the age of the child, overhearing others speaking about the abuse can cause embarrassment and an increased sense of feeling exposed.
Free them of self-blame
A child disclosing sexual abuse needs to be reassured that they are not to blame in any way. They are not to blame for causing it. They are not to blame for not stopping it. They are not to blame for not telling about it. Though it may seem unimaginable to the outsider, shame and self-blame are some of the most common responses to sexual abuse, and some of the most difficult to overcome. Some adults may find themselves privately blaming the child for not telling sooner.
Sometimes, as an adaptive measure, children take responsibility for the abuse rather than acknowledge how out of control they feel. It is natural for children to feel they are the cause of the behaviors and feelings of those around them.
Remember, even if a child gives permission or acts willingly, this never implies consent. A child’s permission or even request to play a sexual touching game never excuses the adult (or teen) from taking full responsibility for the interaction. It is always the adult’s responsibility to set the limit or say “no.” The child is never accountable. Stressing to the child that the person who abused them did something wrong, and that this person needs help from other grownups to get better. This can help free the child from feelings of self-blame.
Express your rage to appropriate people
Anger or outrage is a normal and appropriate response when we are deceived or when someone violates our sense of safety, or when someone harms our own children. Be aware that a child may believe that they are the cause of the rage they see around them. Choose friends and professionals who can support you in expressing your reactions. Find someplace away from the child to express you anger and grief.
Some adults may mistakenly assume that a child will feel better if they hear that the person who abused them will be severely punished or harmed. Even if the child is also angry, threats of violence or punishment may frighten a child even more, especially if the child still has positive feelings toward the person who abused them.
Many people are tempted to handle a disclosure of sexual abuse privately on their own, especially when the abuse happens among family or friends. But that can be a mistake and can further isolate those who need support.
Recognize that all family members are affected when a child has been abused and each one may need special help. Typically, these kinds of family conflicts do not get better without help from an outside specialist who can assist in the healing process.
It is in the whole family’s best interest for an adult within that family to be the one to reach out for help first. Waiting for a community member to recognize the problem from the outside, and then file reports on suspicions of abuse, can result in more damage to the family. Sexual abuse of children is against the law in all 50 states. By taking action, you may reduce the risk of others in your family or community from being sexually abused.
Many people who sexually abuse children are relieved to be stopped and are good candidates for specialized treatment to help manage abusive impulses. Secrets support everybody’s shame. By getting effective outside help, everyone involved has an opportunity to begin the journey towards recovery.