Top 5 lessons parents should learn from the Sandusky Case to protect their children
1. Child sex abuse is more prevalent than you think. The statistics are staggering:
· 44 percent of sexual assault or rape victims are under the age of 18.
· 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before they are 18.
· Every two minutes, someone in America is sexually assaulted and almost half of those are children.
Don’t avoid talking to your child about abuse because you are afraid to scare them or don’t know how to address it — that is exactly what predators count upon. Instead, arm your child with protective strategies: Teach them about body boundaries, safe vs. unsafe secrets, and that they don’t have to show affection in ways that make them feel uncomfortable. By having an open and honest relationship with your children, they will know you are there to protect them no matter what.
2. Anyone can be a perpetrator – or a victim. Most people think that sex abusers are visibly ‘creepy’ and fit a certain stereotype. Parents warn their children about ‘stranger danger’ and not to trust people they don’t know, but 90 percent of child sex abuse is committed by someone the child knows and trusts, such as a parent, relative, family friend or other caregiver. Only 10 percent of sex abuse is committed by a true ‘stranger.’
There is also an incorrect perception that victims of abuse are usually girls and that they come from low-income families. Boys are almost as likely to be abused as girls and victims of child sex abuse come from all races, family groups and socioeconomic status.
3. Know the warning signs. Child predators control their victims by using threats, bribery and embarrassment to force them to maintain silence. While a child may not tell you outright that abuse is occurring, there are warning signs that everyone should be aware of:
· Frequent visible bruises or sprained/broken bones
· Sudden emotional withdrawal
· Frequent urinary infections
· Sudden aggressive behaviors
· Trouble sleeping/nightmares
· Regression to an earlier stage of development
· Social isolation
· Inadequate personal hygiene
Act upon your suspicions as soon as you have them by asking your child how they feel and if anyone has hurt their feelings or made them feel uncomfortable at all recently.
4. Listen to your children. Children may try to hint to you that something is wrong. Listen carefully when a child says they have to speak to you about something. It will be difficult for them to talk about a situation that they probably already feel ‘icky’ about and if they don’t have your undivided attention, it may prevent them from sharing.
5. Don’t be afraid to investigate and talk with your child. If you see warnings signs of abuse from your child, don’t be afraid to look into it. You are the first line of defense for your child. Don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt when it comes to your child’s safety because you think they are a ‘good person’ or you think you know them well enough. Be your child’s own advocate and follow-up about their concerns.
If your child does disclose abuse, remember to remain calm, listen, and don’t make promises that you can’t keep like i.e. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone about this.” Call your state’s local child abuse hotline and make a report.
Talk to your child TODAY about abuse. Ask your children about their bodies, if they feel safe, safe vs. unsafe secrets, personal space and the buddy system. For help with this conversation, use the Lauren’s Kids’ Safer, Smarter Kids parent toolkit at https://laurens.wpengine.com/curriculum/safer-smarter-kids/
Lauren Book, M.S. Ed. is a child sexual abuse survivor and advocate who founded Lauren’s Kids, a foundation that works to end the sexual abuse of children help survivors heal. Book is also an accomplished author and educator whose kindergarten prevention education curriculum, Safer, Smarter Kids, is in all public schools across Florida.