BUT NOW I HAVE two little girls of my own, and I find myself sickened at the thought that something like that could happen to them. I recognize boys are at risk, too, and I have two of those. So when I recently drove my children to be dropped off for three hours of summer camp at a local school, I found myself talking to them.
“You know,” I said to my 7-year-old daughter, “always have someone with you — a buddy — if an adult asks you to go off with them, even a teacher. And you know, no one should ever touch you or ask you to touch them.” Good advice, but it made me wonder, “How can I possibly tell her every scenario and how to avoid it? How can I, really, equip her?”
It struck me then there have to be a set of principles, rather than a list of dos and don’ts, that can protect my children from sick people. Here are some of them:
• You don’t judge PEOPLE; you judge ACTIONS. So if anyone — from the little old lady to the cheery sports coach — asks you to do something you’re feeling is not right (and that applies to anything, not just sexual touch), don’t do it and get away.
• A non-threatening adult will never ask you to “not tell” things. I recently told my children any adult who says, “It’s our little secret” about anything is not trustworthy in general. I told my children they can always tell me ANYTHING, regardless of threat or promise, without worry.
• It’s important children get “good touch” opportunities from parents and others. If so, they will quickly recognize inappropriate touch. In my case, it didn’t take long before I knew something was wrong; every other adult who’d ever touched me theretofore had only done so in an appropriate way.
• Teaching children they must be polite at all costs is not fair to them. Polite to the point of being violated? Never allowed to say, “No!” to an adult — even one who’s doing something acutely wrong? Not fair. Consider what message we send our children when they’re made to hug and kiss strangers or say hello to anyone who wants to just to be polite.
• Consider overall prudence in all things — no matter who thinks you’re over-the-top paranoid or rude, even. Rarely would one of my children be alone with any adult I don’t know intimately. And it’s a known fact most sexual abuse (75 percent, I read) is perpetrated by a family member or close friend of the family. So Aunt Sally might be offended if you don’t let the littles go off alone to play with her husband, Uncle Norman. Too bad, Aunt Sally. We can all play right here.
• Overall, make sure to bolster in your children their internal focus of right and wrong. Many times they just “know” something doesn’t feel right. Sometimes they don’t, and that’s extra scary and when they need to rely on hard-and-fast rules, but help them to be confident when they do know.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”