So we have been chatting over the course of a few months now and I have been answering the questions you asked me to delve into.
Last blog, I spoke about “Grooming” and what to look for with grooming behaviour. While the list is not exhaustive, we can be sure that when we are connected and communicating with our kids, and they feel safe, they are more likely to tell us when something’s not right. In the same way, as I have shared the physical, behavioural and Psychological signs of sexual abuse, understanding and being aware of these things will help you to know whether the child, or children in your life may be being targeted.
So how do you prevent the children in your life from being targeted by a predator?
I’m not sure you can completely create a zero risk environment, besides locking your child away, which we know is not realistic… but there are some things that you could do that may minimise the risk. Of course there may be other things I have missed, but here are 10 key strategies that come to mind.
- Create a habit of sharing your day with your kids and family members. It may be that you set aside a time each day, each week to just get things off your chest, but foster an environment where your family feels able to communicate what is going on in their lives, free from judgement. Besides helping them feel more confident, you are more likely to know when things are off, or don’t seem right. Create a culture of openness in your home- not secrecy. The agenda for a paedophile includes the ability to groom a child unknowingly, so it is in these types of conversations that you are most likely to pick up cues.
- Ensure that you know the people in your children’s lives. I cannot tell you the number of kids I have spoken to who have stayed at friends and their parents don’t know the other parents name, address or even have a phone number, much less know the people who are involved with the family. Make sure you be annoying enough to gather that information, set this as a consistent rule for ‘sleep overs’. (some people don’t even allow sleep overs at all until a certain age)
- Create safe boundaries and stick to them– i.e. the bedroom is for sleeping- not playing (or perhaps the door should stay open) whatever you think is right but the child’s bed should be a safe place. Adult conversations are for adults. 15+ movies are for when you’re 15, not 10 or at least create a culture of your child asking first and being supervised.) Age appropriate video games should be considered…. Children exposed to sexual concepts too young become more sexualised beings at a younger age- it opens the door for a predator to have those same conversations with the child and conditioning a child to believe that this is acceptable and ‘normal’.
- Be mindful of your child’s behaviour around adults and how they sit, speak, move, act and communicate. Changes in your child’s behaviour could be an indicator that something has happened, is happening, or your child has already been targeted. Be in tune… with how a predator grooms– and know your child’s “normal” behaviour. With this in mind, be brave with your child, and other adults in their life. i.e. (if they are older than 3 or 4, make a rule that your sons/daughters don’t sit on peoples laps.- at all) make it clear to people if you need to that you are teaching your children safe boundaries… and they can sit next to them, not on them…(just an example)
- Consider changing the password regularly on your Wi-Fi and putting safeguards on your Internet usage. You can find information on parental controls at this link. Think U know also have heaps of online material you can review about cyber safety. https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/articles/Parental-controls/
- Become knowledgeable about what apps your kids are using and how they work. It may the most boring thing you do, but it is worth it, not only to connect with your child, but to ensure their online use is safe. For tips on online usage head to #TheCarlyRyanFoundation. The link is below at the end.
- Have conversations, which teach your child that their body belongs to them. So any victims who are groomed realise what is happening is wrong when its too late and they are stuck in the cycle. That is what happened to me and why I spend this time writing these blogs. Don’t let it be too late for your kids. I would recommend having these conversations as soon as your child can say their words. If you aren’t sure how, maybe you could try one of these two great resources from the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and use them to base a conversation around. (I can’t get that Pantosaurus song out of my head! It it will certainly remind kids what is okay and what is not) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lL07JOGU5o (Pantosaurus) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGC0cbB0NAM (My Body Song)
- Make sure your child is aware of their body parts and the names of them. While it sounds a little forward and slightly uncomfortable, teach your kids that a penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina. It is much easier for them to say what is happening by using the appropriate language then to have the language or slanguage given to the child. It may mean we miss something vital our kids are telling us as well. Not only that but in the unfortunate event something happens to a child in your care, the disclosure will be much more clear and concise if the child is not embarrassed of their body parts and can actually tell police where they were touched, how and not be ashamed.
- Teach your child prevention and safety tools: Teach your child a safety plan, and ways they can say no if someone was to approach them. For example, some families have a password they use. If a strange person attempts to pick up your child from school they can ask- what’s the password… Ensure that your child knows at least 5 safe, and capable people they can talk to at any time to ask for help. Make sure they are never walking to and from school alone.
- Trust your gut: You will know when something is not right with your child. Be engaged and connected. Have open communication and encourage conversations about hard things. Even a child with a special need will have their own ‘normal’, so whatever their normal, when things are off- investigate. Ask questions and encourage conversations.. #TalkingFamilies
Consider this also, sometimes hard as it is we don’t want to know what’s happening. I know this sounds ridiculous, because what parent or carer wouldn’t want to know if ‘that’ was happening, right? See here lies the problem that we face- most parents are really good, most families are really good. As a society however we are changing… Social media, conversations about sex and some of these tough things are talked about as if they are normal now. This pushes parents into a position of relaxing the boundaries… Young people are becoming older, faster… Not many people raise eyebrows at awful things… maybe it is simply because no one knows what to say… or everyone has an opinion about it, or too much is happening. It does not lessen the impact on the victim- I assure you. It is either buried or admonished firmly, and hideously. So where is the happy medium and the loving support that happens in the middle of hidden secrecy, and righteousness? Who will be brave enough? You? It is ridiculously important to be educated about this stuff so you know how to be there, to take the right steps and not perpetuate a cycle of silence through a lack of knowledge and understanding. It doesn’t mean things won’t happen. It means you minimise the risk, you empower yourself to fight and minimise the risk to your family that child abuse will ever enter your home.
Be the warrior… Be and advocate for change in your own home, workplace and community…. It doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom- but sharing and connectedness can bring families closer together. It’s worth it! You are worth it. #UnscathedBeauty
Next Blog: What to do in crisis… if sexual abuse, assault or trauma is happening now.
Every situation is different and each situation has its own very complex circumstances. There are no hard and fast answers, what I say here is my experience- and my own opinion supported at times by research.
This stuff is not black and white. It just can’t be. What is black and white/ right and wrong is that Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence is never ok, and it is never under any circumstances right.
What is grey is in fact terribly dark… That is the silence that sits surrounding this topic. The shame and absolute fear so heavily laden on the shoulders of victims that the mere thought of speaking brings crippling anxiety and fear.
Lets change that… together.
For further support you can click HERE:
If you are in immediate danger, please call 000 in Australia.
To report sexual abuse to police- please attend a Police Station or call 131444 for Policelink. (Australia)
To seek support or assistance you can contact me, www.kellyhumphries.com (I am a single entity who can offer advice, and personal coaching. I am not a psychologist or registered counsellor, but I am very approachable and happy to help.
For internet related advice please contact The Carly Ryan Foundation http://www.carlyryanfoundation.com
#SexualAbuse #GroomingStinks #UnscathedBeauty #YourQuestionsAnswered #Courage #AreYouInTune #MeToo #PredatorPrevention #TrustYourGut #TalkingFamilies