The following is a guest post by Kimberly King, author of the children’s book, I SAID NO!
As I picked my 5-year-old up at the neighbor’s house I realized that something terribly wrong had happened. My son was exhausted, teary eyed, and literally collapsed in my arms.
My son shared with me the story of his night. His friend tried to get him to “do things,” and do things to him. My son knew to tell this child’s mom about the problem. However, the mom just told them to stop “messing around” and go to bed!
The other child tried manipulation techniques on my child – “If you do what I want you to do… I will give you $50.00!” He also tried a little peer pressure. “All the really cool kids do this.” Then he said, “If you don’t do this I won’t be your friend.”
My son decided he had to figure out how to get away from this situation. He tried to leave the house. But, he could not figure out the deadbolt. He ended up locking himself in a bathroom and told everyone he was sick. He slept on the bathroom floor! This was not an ideal solution but it was his way of keeping himself safe.
Sometimes, no matter how safe you think your friends are, there really is no way to know how other parents will handle these types of situations. It is impossible to know what type of parents they might be behind closed doors. I blamed myself for this night because I left my two children in the care of a good friend.
My choices were limited as I tried to handle an emergency with my new baby. I assumed my friend would take care of my children in the same manner that I had cared for hers. As a result, my child was traumatized by a very long and unpleasant night. I realized that morning that a sexual abuse attempt had knocked at my door and I let it in. I felt so guilty and angry.
Nevertheless, I was so proud and amazed by my son and the safety plan he developed during that night. I hadn’t prepared him for the exact situation; I never warned him that this type of thing could happen with a friend. And I hadn’t yet explained the techniques sexual abusers use to get their victims to cooperate. Honestly, I didn’t think I needed to explain to my 5-year-old what threats, bribes, blackmail, peer pressure and manipulation were. Sadly, this is our new reality.
We cannot prevent everything from happening in our world. We can’t roll them up in bubble wrap and keep them in the house. (Although sometimes, I really wish I could because this would eliminate all of my various panics and trips to the doctor’s office and ER.) What we can do is limit the chances our children will experience something like a very bad sleepover by studying up on this topic with our children.
So what can you do right now, aside from bubble wrap?
1. Limit the exposure that your child has to other children or adults without your presence.
2. Think carefully about the safety of any one-adult/one-child situations. And not only do you need to prepare you children for the possible dangers of adults, but they need to know that this type of thing can happen with friends, at school, on the bus, at a team sport event, or day car. Even more scary, chances are it will be a friend or somebody they know and trust.
3. Choose group situations when possible. This goes for tweens and teens. Your children are always safer with a buddy or a group. Remember to think carefully about the safety of situations in which older children have access to younger children. Make sure that multiple adults are present who can supervise.
5. Set an example by personally avoiding one-adult/one-child situations with children other than your own. If you do have a play date or sleepover keep a constant eye on all children and do not allow play behind closed doors.
6. Accept your child will be curious and that is healthy and normal. Encourage your child to ask questions and teach your child age appropriate lessons on the body and human sexuality. By accepting that children’s natural curiosity about sexuality and gender differences as normal and healthy, parents build a basis for positive attitudes toward sexuality. Parents can then teach their children how to recognize real danger.
7. Use scenario discussions and role-playing to clarify what is appropriate and with whom. BE SPECIFIC!
Together with my son we started keeping a journal to recover from this bad night. We soon realized that our story needed to be told to help other kids. As a result, “I Said No”, a kid-to-kid guide to keeping your private parts was born.
Our book defines the safe boundaries of private parts in a non- icky way. We discuss various scenarios that a child might encounter. We talk about how to deal with inappropriate behavior, bribes, and threats. Children learn that sexual abuse is NEVER their fault.
I encourage all parents, educators, coaches, day care providers, babysitters, or anybody that cares for children to take the “STEWARDS FOR CHILDREN” training offered on the darkness to light website. It is a powerful training tool.
Education and awareness are key for parents as they attempt to keep their children safe. Please visit the non-profit organization “Darkness 2 Light” and read about the seven steps for parents on preventing sexual abuse at www.d2l.org. And check out our new blog: www.sexualabuseprevention.blogspot.com
Kimberly King lives in Virginia beach with her three children. She is a mom on a mission to spread the message of sexual abuse prevention to families. Together with her son, Zack, they wrote a book called, “I Said No! A kid- to -kid guide to keeping private parts private. She is a certified “Steward of Children” through the Darkness 2 Light non-profit organization. Kimberly has a Master’s Degree in Education from Wheelock College and writes self help books for kids, with kids, presented from a child’s perspective. Follow her on Twitter – Kimberlyfking