Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What can I do so that my child is never sexually abused?

I am not going to lie, the whole Penn State scandal has deeply saddened this Pennsylvania girl.

I love Penn State because so many of my friends went there for college.
I love Penn State because it produces excellent  teachers and doers and givers.
I love Penn State because it is a great University that deeply cares about it's student body and faculty.
I don't know the first thing about football...but I know that every Saturday in the fall for as long as I can remember,
my Daddy has been rooting for Penn State.
We love Joe Pa around here.

Now, that said, I am a social worker.
I hate child abuse.
I freaking HATE child abuse.
Sexual abuse makes me want to throw up.
I can not fathom it.

I have no idea how this man was allowed to walk freely anywhere in Pennsylvania (or any other state) after the findings in that report.
My heart breaks for the victims.
I heard Mr. Sandusky's radio interview and I grimaced.
So very, very sad.

I am going to share some tips with you to make sure your child is not sexually abused.

1. Tell your child the proper names for their body parts. 
Vagina and Penis and Breast.
I know. I know. I don't love saying those words either.
It is important though.
Make them aware from the very beginning that these are their private body parts and no one should be touching them.
My parents thought I was CRAZY when Kaish was a baby and I taught him the word 'penis' during diaper changes. 
I had gone to a workshop about sexual abuse, and I never forgot the teacher saying, "If you teach your kids the correct name for their body parts, you are doing a big part in deterring abuse."
It makes sense if you think about it. 
Think about it. Then go ahead and talk about those things that make you uncomfortable. 
It won't kill you. Trust me.
Penis. Vagina. Breast.
See, I am still alive!

2. Talk to your child frequently about who they are spending time with.
If your child is going to be abused it will likely be by someone you know.
Someone you know and trust.
Someone you think the world of.
They will help you.
You will think they are so good for your child.
You will be thankful for them...but they might abuse your child.
Anyone can be an abuser. There is no special necklace or bracelet that will give it away.
Let the people that are spending time with your child know that you are vigilant about making sure your child is safe at all times.

3. Ask your child questions. I ask Kaishon all the time if anyone made him uncomfortable. I let him know that it is ok to feel uncomfortable around some people. I tell him that he can always, always GO AWAY from them. It is ok to walk away from anyone that makes you uncomfortable. You have the right to feel the way you feel and get away. It doesn't matter if everyone loves that person, if you have a bad feeling, you can walk away. 

4. Talk, talk, talk to your child day in and day out. They will eye roll. They will say, "MOM!" and they will definitely be annoyed. Talk anyway. You can pretty much ask any child that has ever come into our home if we have talked about sexual abuse and they will say yes. I think being aware and talking about it is a big part of deterring it. We have to make sure that our children know that sexual abuse is not a secret. 

This is a great book that I read to Kaishon when he was old enough to understand:

(The book features a little girl, but it is easy to understand for boys or girls)

It is heartbreaking to know we have to tell our children about things like this, but we do. Any parent that is sending their child out into the world needs to make sure they are able to protect themselves from sexual predators. 

Children that are sexually abused are most often between the ages of 7 and 13. 
They are typically girls, but it does happen to boys.
It often happens in homes where one parent is absent.
It often happens to children that are lonely or depressed.
Be on the lookout for these kind of children.
Show them love.
Show them compassion.
And most definitely, let them know you are a safe person they can share with.
If we all do our part to let children know we are listening, hopefully, one day soon, we can obliterate this horrible thing.


Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

Thank you so much for putting this out there. What you said about abuse often coming from people we know and trust? Truth.

Thank you for breaking the silence on things that make us uncomfortable to say.

Kim said...

I also grew up in PA. I've been a bit obsessed about this whole Penn State thing (if you can be a bit obsessed).

Nobody should touch a child on the parts of the body covered by a bathing suit, unless it's a doctor, and mom or dad are there.

Never make your child hug or kiss someone they don't know, or feel icky about, or sit on Santa's lap if they don't want to.

If someone does touch them in an inappropriate manner, don't yell "HELP" - yell "FIRE". People always come when you yell "FIRE".

Tell your kids that bad secrets must never be kept. You won't get mad if they tell you - you'll help to make sure stuff like that never happens again.

Angela@the crazyness that is me said...

My heart just broke reading this. How terrible for those young boys. You make such a valid point about children knowing the correct terms for their body parts. My son at 6 did a keep yourself safe course at school and was one of the only ones to know the real names. My niece still calls her vagina her "China" !

Kristin said...

As a Family Support Counsellor (and mom) with lots of training in this area as well, I am so glad to read this. Thank you for using your knowledge to educate others and reach such a large number of people though your blog. This learning is so very important.
P.S. My daughter has been saying vulva and vagina since she was old enough to learn and I am so proud of her for knowing her body parts so well. Such a protective factor!

Sue said...

Good advice. It's just too bad we need it.


About Aisha said...

Thanks for the informative post. Please watch this video that I put on my blog some days ago.

*Jess* said...

So well-written! I think its so scary that the truth about sexual predators is that they are often a close friend or family member. There was one little girl I knew who was exhibiting signs of sexual abuse. Her mom was baffled about how she could have been alone with someone. "But she only goes to school, church, girl scouts, her best friend's house, and her grandparents house without me!" It was too much for her to think that one of those trusted families could have been involved.

April said...

In light of what's happening at Penn State, I think it's of utmost importance to talk to our kids even more about sexual predators. The day is gone when you could sidestep around the issue. We have to have frank and open disussions with our children about the differences between good and bad forms of touching. It just makes my skin crawl every time I hear Sandusky's interview about how he engaged in "horseplay" with young boys and how he showered with them. I feel like he's trying to normalize what happened and make it sound like he's the one who's been victimized. Just so very sad.

Mari said...

This is so sad. Thanks for a great post.

lifebythecreek said...

I read that report, too. And Becky, what hurt my heart most of all was that everybody.. EVERYBODY.. failed those boys. I'm so glad you wrote this post. I will link to it on Facebook and tell my friends about it. And I will make sure, yet again, that Adam knows that if anyone does anything to make him uncomfortable, that it is NOT his fault, that he will NOT get in trouble for telling me, and that I WILL stand up for him. And you're right; it's not usually some scary stranger; it's normally someone you know. My mom called me last night; a guy that she works with was just arrested for taking nude photos of and having sex with 14 and 15 year old girls. I know this man; I've talked to him numerous times when I visit my mom. I would never have guessed. ugh.

Allison Hoffman said...

Thank you so much for sharing and taking a taboo topic and making it real. My husband was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and even today as adults we deal with the consequences of the choices his abusers as well as the other adults and the "system" who failed to intervene.

I so appreciated your point about giving children the power and respect that they have the ability to feel uncomfortable around people. Esp for younger children, they might not even know why their "radar" is going off, but they do have that ability to sense when something is off. We handicap them when we fail to empower them to respond and get away and tell an adult.

Can I ask for another post on the topic? what about other children in our lives that aren't our own children. One of the reasons this predator was able to persist for as long was the failure of responsible adults to be responsible. As a social worker, what should be red flags to us as adults with the children around us? What would be the steps to take in these situations? I think most adults 1. are appalled that someone they know may be involved in this 2. we don't want to be wrong and ruin someone's reputation 3. we don't know what to do, who to call, ect.

Thanks again!!

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is such a scary thing to think someone could hurt your child.

Marjorie said...

thanks for these facts/tips. i'm terrified of my children getting abused.

Farmgirl Paints said...

great post becky! this happens all the time. i was even abused by my uncle when i was little. these tips will help someone. love ya girlie.

Lisa said...

You ARE brilliant!

One thing that I have been very adamant about with my children is NEVER! letting my older children help the younger ones with anything potty. None of my kids have ever given their little sister a bath or ever changed a diaper. My thinking is Why set anyone of my kids up...anything could happen.

Anyway ~ This sad story is such a nightmare for these moms. It's so sad that some men can't handle power ~ We live in a crazy world were we as mothers and a community have to be diligent and watch everyone with our children and teach, teach, teach them that NO ONE does this to them. NO ONE! Thank you Becky for such a brave post!

Gillian said...

Thank you for this post. As my little grows i will be sure to implement these.

stephanie garcia said...

Thank you, Becky, for sharing these great points. You are so right, it is one of those conversations I despise having to have with my innocent children but we have done so and will continue to do so. Because I know so many adult MK's who were victims in their childhood, I am burdened to protect my own. It is my constant prayer.

Jim said...

Excellent advice Becky! And it does makes sense! I remember when I was about 11 or 12 years old I was approached a couple of times by men. I don't know why I knew what THEY were up to, but I did.It just didn't feel right to me and I told them so. I wasn't bothered by them again.
Yes, keep talking and asking your kids what they are up to.......a few 'eye rolls' is the least of your problems.

Debby said...

What a great post. Sometimes when these awful things happen others can learn from them. I have reaised a child that had been many ways. We adopted him when he was 4. Because of being an early childhood educator I have had many hours of child abuse training. Mostly on the physical part......not the sexual part.
My 5 year old grandson asked me last week if I had a VaJJ. Oh my.......I wasn't expecting that. I let his dad take over after he asked me that, hah.

Ness said...

Beck, I am so proud to know you. You are without question one of the best people I have ever known. You are using the beautiful platform you built to speak wisdom. You are a champion for the weak. Do you see me waving my arms and jumping up and down saying "BRAVO!" "AMEN" "PREACH IT, SISTER!"

Julie Anne said...

thank you for this post... I have been soo afraid to teach my kids the real words for body parts in fear they will say them at the wrong time. I don't even like to say them!
thanks for showing me the importance of that and other things in this post!!

Tracy P. said...

This hurts my heart, Becky, but it is a wonderful post. Thank you so much!!

Valeria said...

Becky, when did you start talking about sex/sexual abuses to Kaish? my eldest boy is 7, do you think he is too young? he is still in his "dream world" he has no idea about this things....well, I guess he is starting to have an idea about sex/love (he still like "ewwww" when two are kissing) but none ever talk to him properly. even less about abuses. What do you think?

Kari said...

excellent. I to talk with my kids about it quite frequently. so important.

Elizabeth Mae said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I've been teaching my daughter this. Her dad no longer is in our life except when he gets her for his court appointed time. I worry about her over there.

mommy of Five said...

SO true! thank you for being so blunt! i was one who was abused. we are constantly telling our children it's okay to tell us if someone has touched their penis or vagina or butt. Being abused for years myself i know the signs to look for and I know NOT to doubt ANY "feelings" I have when it comes to my children. it came out a few years ago that their could have been abuse in the family but before that all came out i was very hesitant in letting any uncles watch our children. There is a reason for what i knew i should do. and to this day i am very careful in who stays with our kids. My kids know that no one is to touch them in their"Private" spots and if someone tell them a secret, they tell mommy and daddy( makes it hard to keep secrets when they are to really be secrets ect birthday or Christmas presents) but if it's going to keep them from being abused o=well!
thank yo so mush for shairing this today

Valeria said...

Thanks Becky for your reply. you are right, we should start with that. Niki is still little but he knows what is it "private" and what is not, we will reinforce that for sure. said...

Thank you for the information.

Andrea said...

Great post! So good of you to share this information! Thank you. I'm a worrier - about ALL things regarding my child (crazy how becoming a parent will do that to you!) - and the Penn State issue has made me even more anxious and worried about someone doing something to my son. I try not to think about it too much. But I appreciate you sharing this info! I need to get that book! Thank YOU! :)

Diana...aka...MeMe said...

Great post Becky... Thank you! It is awful that so many are involved in keeping this quiet. Shame on all of them. I am saddened for the wonderful students at Penn,and the football players, who are dealing with this scandal at no fault of their own.

Tamar SB said...

Amen, amen, Becky!! As a mandated reporter, I agree that it's so important to let children know everything you mentioned. We had a few weeks of wondering if a student in our class was being physical abused, it was scary trying to figure out if he was telling the truth (6 + a child with a social learning disability) or not. Thankfully it all has been worked out and it wasn't true, but for many kids it's not the case. I feel for these children and this whole scandal sickens me!

Anita Johnson said...

This was excellent. Thank you.

Busy Bee Suz said...

YOU have given such wonderful advice. SO sad that you even had to go there....but that is the world we live in.

Formerly known as Frau said...

Great post Becky and awesome tips....I hate the whole idea of what has happen those poor boys...I also read the grand jury report and the cover up that has gone on it so wrong. Sick individuals out there...

H.K. said...

Great informative piece on sexual abuse-it makes me really sick. I really love football since my son started playing, but its too bad that the coaches thought the game was more important than justice.

M said...

It is just disgusting :( And then to deny it is worse.

Let's focus on what you have posted...for everyone's sake!

Between You and Me said...

I was a social worker before I had children....actually, even though I'm not doing it "professionally" anymore, I think I'll always be a social worker...God made me to be an advocate for the helpless....

this touched a heart string tonight...I was abused by a neighbor when I was four, and even though the Lord has done a genuine healing in my own life, It is something that will be with me forever.

My heart breaks for the children affected by the situation at Penn State...praying God's comfort and healing and wholeness for those that were victims.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

What wise, wise advice! I agree the whole scandal is sick. Those who did it, those who didn't say anything, anyone involved. Listening to the news reports has been awful! I'm sorry this institution you've all had such pride in is going through a scandal like this. They've since done the right thing in my eyes, and that's something to be proud of.

Shey said...

Hi Becky! Before I became a teacher I was a social worker for Child Protective Services, I hated it! It was so stressful that I barely lasted a year, I love children and so I hate seeing them suffer and sometimes you can't do anything to help, the trauma and the abuse and neglect that some children suffer just breaks my heart completely, I admire those case workers who have the passion and the courage to be out there, on the Penn State situation I'm not very familiar, we don't watch TV so Im not up to date with the news but I'm definitely going to read about it, thanks for the link!

Sarah Robertson said...

Bravo! and thanks for this. :)

Rachel said...

Thank you for posting this.

I think we'd like to assume this is rarer than it is. I HATE the numbers... the ones that say just how many kids have experienced this.

I look at my son and I wonder WHO would think to do something like this to him. I look at my best friend and I wonder why someone DID do something like that to her.

It needs to be talked about - needs to be destigmatized so that kids know they'll be believed.

I am still just so heartbroken - and the domino reports of other abuse scandals that came after Penn State's broke the news? Makes me scared for the kind of world we live in.