Society stinks at keeping our kids safe
sexually. Abercrombie and Fitch marketed padded-top bikinis for eight-year-olds recently and a top morning news show asked
viewers to “weigh in on the debate.” There should be no debate. We cannot emphasize “good touches and bad
touches” with our children and then sexualize them in the next breath. How can we trust a society that even tolerates
marketing of children as sexual objects?
Schools aren’t the best at it either.
We don’t yet have a handle on what age to begin the conversation about sexual predators. Pre-teens giggle; are we only
titillating them? A large proportion of teens are already sexually active. Are we enabling them?
Religious institutions are bound by their
doctrines. Abstinence and absolute purity are the only discussions that fit into the pulpit, the Sunday school classroom or
the pew. And as a Christian fundamentalist, I understand that. But most kids are doodling while we talk to them about abstinence;
sometimes pictures of naked people.
No. The bottom line is that it is our
job as parents to teach our kids to keep their bodies safe. We have to draw a line in the sand for them. Where we draw it
depends upon our values and our boundaries, but it must be drawn. I used to think that if I taught morals in my home, the
school would teach the biology, and the kids would put the two together. But society with its mixed messages is a powerful
In a recent study, stats showed that
one out of three girls and one out of seven boys have been victims of sexual abuse by the age of eighteen. In more than eighty-five
percent of the cases, the victim knows his or her abuser. That means there are some real consequences to telling—and
as many as two-thirds of cases go unreported. Currently there are some 725,000 convicted sexual offenders in the country.
How do these people get access to our
One way is through our trust.
That’s right. We lead them to our children. Recently, many childcare facilities have unearthed sexual predators burrowed
into their confidences. Aides and teachers who routinely take advantage of their positions to molest young children. Consider
the aide who takes your preschooler to the dressing room on a trip to the pool…helping the child undress and put on
a suit. What about the person who lies next to a youngster at nap time to soothe her…with his back to the room? Or the
attendant who takes a child to a “quiet place to read.” According to Feather Berkower from the website “Parenting
Safe Children,” more than twenty percent of children who are abused are under eight years old. Up to fifty percent of
the abusers are juveniles themselves. The four most common places for a child to be abused are: schools, at sporting venues,
religious institutions and inside their own homes or the homes of their friends. But wait a moment…that’s pretty
much everywhere a young child goes, isn’t it?
And that’s the point. Kids can
be abused anywhere, so we must teach THEM to be safe.
A teen girl who was in our home as a
foster child once asked my husband if the shirt she wore made her ”boobs” look big. The first problem is that
the girl had NO idea of boundaries for sexual comments or behavior. BOUNDARIES can be lifesavers.
That’s why fences were invented. You don’t engage everyone in potentially sexual conversation, because some people
will take that as an open invitation to pursue sexual matters. TEACH CHILDREN WHAT IS AND ISN’T
APPROPRIATE IN PUBLIC CONVERSATION. You don’t have to be a prude…just prudent.
The second problem with the girl’s
comment is the slang word for a body part. That in itself often puts our attitude and behavior on another level. What if the
girl had approached my husband with the question, “Does this shirt make my breasts look too big?” Nothing. Absolutely
nothing would have happened. That’s because the girl would never have asked that question. The “cutesy”
version made it all right. The word “breast” is somehow offensive. But what if my husband had responded by asking
if his penis showed too much in his swimwear? I can tell you. There would have been an allegation made. But think of all the
euphemisms we have for male genitalia. At some point, the girl would have found a term she felt comfortable using and she
might even have initiated the conversation. Perhaps that's a far-fetched example, but I'm sure you can catch the point.
TEACH CHILDREN CORRECT ANATOMICAL TERMS.
This also would make it easier if the
child ever had to report that she or he had been molested because they could recount the crime to investigators in exact language
instead of slang, which might be hard to understand.
When my brother was a young child, he
came to me with the question, “What is sex?” I, being a dutiful older sister, told him everything I knew about
the subject (which probably took about ten seconds but seemed like two hours.) Turns out, all he wanted was to know what to
put in the blank beside his name on the summer recreation application form: name____
sex_____. The point is, a directed question or two would have told me how much to divulge. Kids are curious and we
have to respect that. But a three year old who asks how the baby got into Mommy’s belly doesn’t need a biology
lesson. He does need to know that baby grew from a seed Daddy planted inside Mommy. BE HONEST WITH KIDS,
BUT NOT ENCYCLOPEDIC.
And, teach kids that they own their bodies
and have the right to say what is NOT all right.
These are some “BODY SAFETY RULES” from “Parenting Safe Children."
No one (including siblings) is allowed to touch your private body parts except to help you clean them
or if the doctor or nurse needs to examine them.
You are not allowed to touch anyone else’s private body parts.
It’s okay to touch your own private body parts as long as you do it in private
No one ( adult or teenager) is allowed to take pictures of your private body parts or show you pictures
of naked people.
When playing with friends, play with your clothes on
You and all your family members are allowed to have privacy when bathing, dressing or using the toilet.
No one is allowed to make you kiss or touch him or her if you don’t want to. No one is allowed to
kiss or touch you if you don’t want them to. You are allowed to choose whom you kiss and touch and whom is allowed to
kiss and touch you.
You have permission to say “no” and get away of anyone tries to touch your private body parts
or tries to break any of your body safety rules. You NEVER have to do what an adult or anyone tells you to do if they are
breaking a body safety rule or making you unsafe.
If someone tries to touch your private body parts, try to get away and then go tell a trusted adult.
10) If someone tells you to keep a secret about touching private body parts, tell an adult.
The responsibility for
keeping our kids safe isn’t the school’s or the church’s or
our mother-in-law’s. It’s ours. We need to ask for background checks at preschools and church nurseries. We need
to be choosy about summer camps and sports programs. We need to know who our children’s friends are and where they live.
We need to be vigilant.
And a brief recap:
KIDS TO HAVE BOUNDARIES
TEACH CHILDREN CORRECT ANATOMICAL TERMS FOR THEIR BODY PARTS
RESPECT THEIR CURIOSITY
AND BE HONEST, BUT NOT ENCYCLOPEDIC.
Teach them the “ Body Safety Rules”
for the times when you can’t be with them.
And never, never never buy a padded bra
for an eight year old.