Learn from the mistakes of others and save yourself and your children a lifetime of sorrow. No one can guarantee 100% safety, but when you learn how predators work, you can significantly reduce the chances that your child will be one of their victims.
I remember the day I realized that I had in fact been molested. I was watching a news show and they were interviewing child molesters. Each one of them admitted that there was a pattern to their choosing a victim and that if parents were aware of their pattern, they could protect their child. So what, exactly, is the grooming pattern used by molesters, and how can I protect my child?
There is nothing that will guarantee your child's safety, short of making them the next "Bubble Boy" and keeping them from the outside world. And we all know that would cause significant emotional damage as well. But you can take some simple steps that will take the odds WAY down and allow them to function in a normal world, without excess fear.
- The first thing a child molester must have to harm your child is trust. Stop thinking that a molester will somehow look sinister. Chances are, they have been teacher of the year...are the school's favorite. They are the person you would leave your child with if you went on vacation. This does not mean that every decorated or favorite teacher is a child molester. Remember, the vast majority of teachers are amazing teachers that you should be grateful to have teaching your child. But you cannot tell one from another by appearances. Use the same common-sense boundaries with all teachers and you won't have to figure out which ones are which.
- Child molesters need a group of children to choose from. Unfortunately, schools are a prime hunting ground.
- Like a lion picking its prey, molesters look for students who are in need. Those who need attention, praise, self-worth are prime targets. They pick out those who don't feel a part of the group. Then they single them out and make them feel special.
- Sometimes a molester will be so brazen as to abuse their victim in the open. But more often than not, abusers need privacy. A locked door. Late notes to the following class. Time alone before or after school. Late night texts. Watch for these things. Teach your children to take a friend with them before or after school if they need to be in a classroom before or after school hours. If they cannot find a friend, they should wait or you can go with them.
- Molesters will take a very long time to "groom" their victims. This is a process by which they "test the waters" to see how much the student will let them do without getting alarmed.
- Initial advances will seem harmless. An "accidental" brush against their body. A flirtatious compliment. Teach your child that if anything makes them feel uncomfortable they should talk to you about it immediately. Teach them to listen to their instincts and avoid those who make them feel uncomfortable. Students who back away from these initial advances will never give the molester an opportunity to inflict harm.
- Parents should monitor electronic devices of their children to see what calls or texts are coming in at 3:00 am. Let your children know that part of the condition for having these devices is that you have free access to them when you want. It isn't that you don't trust them, but that it is a safeguard that all parents should employ and because you love them, you will be using it.
- Often times the perpetrator will give gifts. These may be physical gifts, or they could be gifts such as special opportunities not given to other students.
- Once a significant amount of trust exists, predators know that students will not tell on the predator for fear of getting them in trouble.
- There is also a huge amount of shame with children who have been victimized. Abusers are masters at making the child feel as if they "wanted it" and are just as guilty as the adult. Most children who have been molested feel that they can never tell anyone or they will no longer be loved. The average time it takes a victim to come forward is twenty years!
What should you do if you believer your child has been a victim of sexual abuse?
- Make sure your child is confident in your unconditional love and acceptance of them, regardless of what they have or have not done, or what has been done to them.
- Report the incident to police immediately and press charges, no matter how difficult or socially awkward it may seem.
- Report the incident to local, district and state school employees if applicable.
- Do whatever it takes to keep your child safe. If that means they must move classes, schools or towns, do it.
- NEVER blame your child. Make sure they know that you do not blame them for anything that happened.
- Get professional counseling from a trusted source for your child and for yourself so that you can handle the situation properly.
No doubt about it. Having your child victimized is one of the toughest situations a parent can face. But it can be faced and there are professionals who can face it with you. Do not turn away in silence, hoping that it will just go away. Even if you get your child out of the situation, there are other children left at risk. Remember, the average pedophile has 70 victims! With plenty of love and support, you and your child can come out of the situation even stronger than before.