Recently, I shared on facebook an article by a mom who discovered her child had been a victim sexually of a person they trusted to care for him. Since posting that article, a lot, of people have told me thank you for sharing it and for speaking out about a topic that is often taboo.
I have been pondering this sad statistic, 1 in five people are sexually molested as a child. Yes, you read that right. So, why are we not talking about this problem? Why are we not being honest with each other about this?
I grew up in a home where my parents took in more than 300 hundred foster children, I have 16 siblings, I have fostered more than 30 children with my husband, I have 15 children, I am a registered respite care provider for special needs children. So, yeah, I know about childhood sexual abuse. I will not be giving any personal details in this post for the sake of those whom I know. (I will make one thing clear, I personally have been blessed to never have been a victim of sexual abuse of any kind.) But, I want to share what I have learned over the years.
Let’s be honest.
Let’s learn together.
Parents it is never too early to start teaching your children about their right to keep their body to themselves. Don’t beat around the bush. Speak plainly. Teach your child the names of their body parts, and which ones should be covered and private. In our house we say things like, ” if your bathing suit covers it then no one should see it or touch it.” “where your underwear go, is a no no to others.” If your child is learning to say, eyes, ears, nose, then teach him penis, too. If your child is learning to dress himself, then teach him why we put on clothes. By four years old, your child should understand privacy of his/her body. Keep the conversation going. Sooner than you realize your child is going to find his or her body fascinating. Tell them that is normal, and that God created them so wonderfully. By age six your child should have an understanding that it is ok to look at his own body. But it is not ok to look at someone else, or for someone too look at his. Even on a screen. And by age six, your child should know that no one should touch his body with or without his clothes on. No one should lay on his body. No one should ever do something that makes him feel uncomfortable. And he should not do these things to others either.
These conversations should be a normal part of your family life. Your children should understand that if anyone ever asks them to keep a secret from you, no matter who they are, their other parent, their sibling, their best friend, their best friend’s dad, their aunt, etc, that is NOT ok. There should not be secrets about touching, laying down, and looking at private body parts.
DON’T THINK THAT HAVING THIS CONVERSATION ONCE IS ENOUGH. KEEP HAVING IT OVER AND OVER.
As your children get older ask the hard questions, and make it clear that you love them no matter what the answers are.
Ask them: Has anyone asked you to keep a secret from me? Has anyone asked you to take off your clothes in front of them? Has anyone laid on top of you? Has anyone shown you inappropriate things on a computer? and the really hard ones: Have you touch anyone else’s private areas? Have you laid on anyone? Have you been looking at inappropriate things on a computer or phone?
Don’t assume your child is going to always do what is right. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone is scared to tell someone a shameful truth. So, build a relationship of trust with your child early and keep the conversation open always.
NOW, what do you do if your child says yes.
Here are some things I have learned from others and personally in dealing with children of abuse.
First, let’s talk about that thing that no one ever talks about.
A lot of children are victims of other children.
Often times children are curious or have experienced a sexual sensation and want to recreate it. This can happen as young as three years of age. There is a huge difference between this curious activity and knowingly victimizing a child. I am not excusing this type of activity. In fact, what I am trying to say, is start teaching your children young, so that your child does not victimize or become a victim of this type of activity. Often if this type of curious behavior is not recognized and dealt with in a loving and clear way these children continue in this behavior, and as they get older they have no self control, shame, guilt, and continue in this behavior feeling they have no hope of change.
If we, as parents, teach our children that it is ok to feel sexual sensations as long as we do not SIN, then our children will not feel dirty and shameful and will not desire to keep their actions a secret from us. There is no sin in being sexually aroused. There is SIN if you are lusting after someone, there is sin if you are fantasizing about someone, there is sin if you touch, molest, or use someone in anyway to create a sexual sensation.
As we grow and develop, as our brains grow and develop we understand things differently. So, there is a big difference between a child who is 8 or younger, a child who is between 8 and 12 is greatly different than a 12 to fifteen year old, and lastly a young adult of sixteen and older is a lot different than all these previous groups. These numbers are just suggested ages not an exact science, know your child and their development.
When a child is under 8, if they are acting out in a sexual way there is usually one of two reasons. The first is the more obvious one, they have seen sexual things either in person or on an electronic device, or they have been sexually assaulted. The second is, they just have discovered their own body and it intrigues them. This is not gross or bad. If you have a child that is self stimulating don’t yell at them and don’t shame them. Teach them privacy and appropriate behavior with others. This is important. Don’t start a cycle of shame. If your child has been victimized in anyway as a small child, you can turn this around quickly. Deal with the incident quickly, remind them to always tell you right away if someone shows them something inappropriate or does something inappropriate. Tell them they are ok, and that what happened to them was NOT ok. Then let them move on. Even if you have to deal with the predator, try and do it in a way that allows your child to move on. Don’t be angry if your child forgives and loves their predator. Just keep them safe. IF your young child is a predator, this may be your fault. But don’t sit in guilt over it, learn from it. A young child who hasn’t been taught privacy and appropriateness that acts out is truly just that, uneducated. So educate your children early. But if you missed the boat, deal with it immediately, and forgive yourself, forgive your child, and make it clear to your child it should never ever happen again.
Children who are starting to become more aware of right and wrong, around the age of 9 or 10, this is a different situation. This is a critical time to talk to them often. This is often the most common age that children experience with each other. Often siblings in closets. So, know where your children are, know who their with. Remind your children of your family rules and expectations.
As children swing into puberty, ages 11 to fifteenish, their bodies do crazy things and make them feel overly aware of their sexual organs and urges. This is NOT the time to start letting your children start watching adult television shows or movies. This is NOT the time to let them get on social media without supervision. Their impulse control is not developed. Their mind is quickly stimulated by violence, sexy things, and even conversation. Everything arouses them. Keep your young teenagers close and talk often, asking those hard questions often. The girl in the store with the short shorts just made your son feel sexually aroused. So, make sure he knows how to handle that feeling. He shouldn’t feel guilty. He should quickly take that thought captive and turn and think on something pure. But sometimes that is harder than it sounds. Remind your child that to feel aroused is not a sin, to be tempted is not a sin. But if they allow those temptations to turn to lust then sin has arrived and will turn into more sin. This is the perfect age to have your child memorize lots of verses and to copy God’s Word daily. If your child is victimized or victimizes someone at this age, the guilt and shame will result in anger and acting out in very mean, and sometimes irrational behavior.
If your child is extremely angry all the time, then you may need to deal with sexual sin. Guilt and shame produce some of the most irrational anger and fear.
The ages of a child from birth to about sixteen are so fragile, yet so able to heal and overcome things as well. If your child acts out during these young years, just keep training them and forgiving them. If your child is victimized during these young years, forgive yourself, and keep learning and protecting them. The most important thing you can do is to prepare early, and protect them. You decide who your child should spend time with. You decide what is best. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR CHILD EVEN IF THEY ARE A TEENAGER!!!!
Now, there is a huge difference when a person is victimized as a young adult or victimizes someone as a young adult. At this age, a child knows what they are doing is wrong. There is no room at this age for neglect. A person who is 16 or older must be held accountable for his or her actions as a predator. It does not matter if it is a one time situation or a recurring situation that is discovered. Repentance and accountability is in order. Consequences should be serious in this situation. As a victim at this age, the awareness of what has happened to your child is overwhelming to you and them. Continuous reminders that it was not their fault for years to come may be necessary. This child is going to feel guilt, shame, lose, anger, fear, and more. Cry with them. Be strong when they need your strength too.
No matter how old your child is it is your responsibility to keep him/her safe and others safe from him/her. NO child is innocent. All children are human and capable of sin. NO matter what type of sin your child is a part of always be ready to forgive, comfort, and encourage in righteousness.
Be real! If you expose your child to sexual content in television or movies, even if it is only in conversation or implied then you better have talked to them about what is right and what is wrong. Sex is everywhere. On billboards, on ads on the internet. Sexually dressed people are everywhere, at the store, at school. Sex is in the music your kids are listening too.
DON’T KID YOURSELF INTO BELIEVING YOU HAVE PROTECTED YOUR CHILDREN.
If you have more than one child, than your child is at risk even if they never leave your home until they turn 20.
I wrote this in response to all those people who thanked me for posting about child molestation. It is real. It is tragic. Let’s deal with it!!!!