Typing the title of this post pains me. It breaks my heart that this is the world we live in. About a year and a half ago, my husband went to a conference for his work related to counseling and supporting people through different types of suffering. One afternoon they spent the entire session teaching us about the prevalance of sexual abuse and how to prevent it.
I had no idea. I was so broken that day for the pain and hurt so many experience because of sexual abuse. I wanted to cry and as soon as the speaker was done, I wanted to run home and hold my three babies in my arms and never let them go.
Before this conference, I had no idea the prevalence of sexual abuse in our society. According to studies retrieved from the Darkness to Light website:
- 1 in 7 girls will be a victim of sexual abuse by their 18th birthday.
- 1 in 25 boys will be a victim of sexual abuse by their 18th birthday.
- About 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their first birthday.
This is not a fun topic to talk about ever, but it feels especially weighty on a blog for moms. I would rather write a post about exercise or play dates or any other topic really, but I strongly believe that even though it breaks our hearts, as moms we must learn about sexual abuse in our society. Our mom instinct wants to close the window and pretend that this doesn’t happen and that it won’t happen to our kids. The scary thing is that is exact opposite response we NEED to have. As awful and as hard as it is, we need to read these stats, we need to learn about the reality of what we are facing as moms raising our babies, and we need to learn how to do what we can to prevent sexual abuse.
- 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member.
- 51% are abused by someone outside the family, who the family knows and trusts.
- Only 9% of victims are abused by strangers.
Kathy Delgado Chatterton gives us these stats in her book, Don’t Be Scared To Tell. At first glance, I read these stats and thought, “well, I guess my kids never get to leave home without me!” Of course that is not possible and ultimately not in their best interest, but it sure sounds good when the fear becomes overwhelming. An antonym of fear is bravery. I can’t live in fear of what might happen to my kids. Instead I need to empower them and give them the tools they need to be safe. The tools they need to act brave in an unbelievably horrifying situation. Chatterton’s book teaches kids how to react to an abuser in a way that takes the power away from the sexual abuser , gives them permission to flee, and the safety to tell.
Earlier this year I wrote about protecting our kids from strangers, and Vanessa wrote a helpful post on talking with your kids about private parts – both of which are a VERY important part of this discussion. But, it’s not enough. The stats show that over 85% of abusers are not strangers to us or our children. Our family has used Chatterton’s book to teach our four-year-old son about how to protect himself. We talk frankly but not fearfully. We ask questions. And we remind our son that he can always tell us anything. That we will always love him no matter what.
Here are tips for parents and caregivers on protecting your children:
- Talk to your child frankly but not fearfully.
- Never let your child play at the house of someone you don’t know.
- Avoid sleepovers unless you know who is in charge and have spent enough time with them to have total confidence in your child’s safety.
- When your kids have friends over or you have guests visiting, keep a rule that all doors stay open.
- Regularly check in on the kids even if they are just in the other room. This lets guests and your child know that you are keeping watch.
- Before you enroll your child in a school, inquire about criminal background checks on teacher and staff. This also goes for childcare offered at churches, meetings, extracurricular activities and sports as well.
For more information, check out the resources below.
- Childhelp’s National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-4-A-Child (800-422-4453)
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (800-799-7233)
I deeply wish that children didn’t need to be empowered on this topic; that we didn’t need the list of advice from above or these numbers for help. Prevention is the key to seeing these numbers decrease, which means less children are living in fear, guilt and shame.
This year, there will be 400,000 babies born who will be victims of sexual abuse if we don’t do something to stop it. As moms, we can rally together and do all we can to protect our babies and prevent these numbers from rising.