11 Ways to Protect Our Children from Sexual Abuse
11 Ways to Protect Our Children from Sexual Abuse
By Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D.
Many parents today worry about the risk that their children may be sexually abused. There are things that parents can do that may reduce the risk that their children will be assaulted. You will find ideas in this article.
John Couey’s trial for the sexual battery and murder of Jessica Lunsford has been postponed due to trial complications. The archdiocese of Dublin recently admitted that more than 100 Catholic priests are alleged to have sexually abused at least 350 children since the 1940's. In the US several teachers have been arrested for having sex with their teenaged students.
Desperate Housewives star, Teri Hatcher, revealed she was sexually abused by an uncle as a child, but kept it secret for many years. A respiratory therapist admitted to molesting disabled children in San Diego.
Internationally, street children have been pulled into the "sex trade" for centuries. There are travel agents that specialize in trips to third world countries to have sex with minors for a price.
Many want to know if there is more sexual abuse today than years ago or are we just more aware of the problem. Sexual abuse has been around since the beginning of time. People are more aware of the problem and more willing to talk about it than ever before. Additionally, more active prosecution and media attention makes it seem like there has been an explosion of sexual abuse. While, it is very widespread, our awareness is more heightened than ever before.
Now that we are more aware of the problem as a society, we need to take steps to protect children from further abuse.
1. TEACHING CHILDREN SKILLS. Teaching children about "good touch, bad touch," and making it acceptable to talk to a trusted adult about anything that scares or confuses a child is an important step. We need to look at how to teach our kids how to recognize unacceptable behavior and to say "no" to an adult who is doing bad things to them and to run and get help if they can. We need to make it acceptable to talk about and report sexual abuse to an authority figure. When movie stars, like Teri Hatcher, come forward with their stories, it makes it easier for others to come forward, as well.
2. TEACH CHILDREN THAT THE DANGER MAY COME FROM A FAMILY MEMBER, NEIGHBOR, HANDYMAN, GROCERY CLERK, SCOUT LEADER, OR STANGER. Bad touch is bad touch and no one gets to do it to our bodies. Go to a grown up for help. Children can be confused because a neighbor, teacher, family member, etc. is suposed to be someone they can trust. You can tell a child, "when you are not sure about whether something a grown up is doing is OK, ask another grown up to help you."
3. THERAPY READILY AVAILABLE FOR VICTIMS. All victims of sexual abuse should have easy access to counseling services. School based mental health programs can make therapists more readily available to students when they are troubled. Adults should be knowledgeable about the signs that children are in need of counseling.
4. WHAT CAN PARENTS DO? If parents discover that their children have been abused, they need to do two things. They need to contact the police or department of social services in the county where they live. They will investigate the alleged abuse. Parents need to get counseling for their children and their family to help them cope with what has happened. Children need a lot of support when they have been abused. They need to know that what has happened is not their fault and that they will heal from it in time.
5. ASSESSING RISK OF RE-OFFENDING AND MATCHING SECURITY TO RISK. Not all sex offenders are at equal risk for re-offending. The average re-offense rate is about 14%, however that does not inform us about the difference in rates between low and high risk offenders. Low risk offenders rarely re-offend, while high risk psychopathic offenders re-offend at a much higher rate. We can distinguish between the low and high risk offenders with a great deal of accuracy. Actuarial tools can determine which offenders are at high or low risk of re-offending and assist in determining level of supervision needed. While no actuarial tool is 100% accurate, making these judgments through clinical judgment alone is only slightly better than chance, depending on the skill of the clinician. Despite this, clinical judgment about risk of future sexual offenses is still used in Courts and Parole and Probation offices in some jurisdictions. Identifying risk allows society to take proper precautions to protect its children. Using the best science available to determine risk is best practice. Once risk is determined, decisions about incarceration, level of community supervision, conditions of probation or parole can be made. Insist that your jurisdiction uses evidence based practices and the best research has to offer.
6. APPROPRIATE SEX OFFENDER SPECIFIC TREATMENT FOR ALL OFFENDERS. Appropriate therapy can reduce the risk of future offending as was noted in a recent article by the nationally renowned expert from Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Fred Berlin. The goal should be, "No more victims." Assessment and appropriate therapy should be available to and mandatory for every convicted sex offender, whether incarcerated or in the community. You are a citizen. You have a voice. Insist that there is sex offender assessment and treatment in your jurisdiction and that it is mandatory for all offenders. It is the only technique known to reduce future recidivism.
7. IDENTIFYING SEXUAL OFFENDING TO IMPROVE PREVENTION. Understanding the roots and characteristics of sexual offending points us in the direction of effective prevention and treatment. A portion of adult sex offenders were abused, neglected, or exposed to domestic violence as children. Therefore, prevention of future sexual will involve efforts to stop childhood abuse, neglect, and domestic violence and treat the victims of these events. Insist, through your legislative process, that sufficient resources are put into protecting the children of your community from abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence.
8. RESEARCH. We must continue to research prevention, assessment, and effective treatment of sexual offending. Those treating sex offenders must be appropriately trained in the most up to date methods. Only in that way will there be "NO MORE VICTIMS." Legislatively support sex offender research in your area by calling your legislators.
9. STREET CHILDREN. There are millions of abandoned street children around the world. They have to survive any way they can. Many are pulled into the sex trade because they have no other way to feed, cloth, or house themselves. Ways to house, clothe, feed, educate, and provide health care for these children must be found. As some of these street children mature into adulthood, they will abuse other street children, become criminal, and be recruited by terrorist groups. If you want to stop terrorism and the sex trade in the future, Support aid to poor, unprotected children, wherever they are in the world.
10. PARENTS, EDUCATE YOURSELVES. It is important for parents to educate themselves on the subtle ways that sex offenders deceive and “groom” parents and children to gain their trust. Sex Offenders find ways to put themselves in a position of trust with parents and children. They can be youth leaders, sports coaches, priests, the people that run the amusement rides, or teachers. Find out the subtle ways they trick people into trusting them and know the red flags to look for. Sex offenders are often very slick and are very good at fooling people into thinking they are trustworthy, but there is always some little thing that is just a little odd. If a grown man has lots of kid toys and video games in his house and all the neighborhood kids go there every day, and he doesn't seem to have any adult friends or activities, this is somebody to check out closely.
11. PARENTS, DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR CHILDREN ARE AND WHO THEY ARE WITH? Help to chaperone school, community, and church activities for youth. There should always be more than one adult with any group of children. Adults should confront any suspicious activity of another adult. Don’t just let it slide. It’s difficult, but these things need to be discussed openly. Secrecy and difficulty talking about these topics are a sex offender’s best friends.
This is not meant to add to the fear that is presently raging about sexual offending, but to start the dialogue about what we can do? We need to educate ourselves and take action to protect our children and, as you can see, there are many ways to do that.
Web Site Dr. Kathy Seifert
You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others - something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it.
-Albert Schweitzer (1875 - 1965)
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