By Cary Betagole
Cary is a proud supporter of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, while also proliferating information on the need for sexual harassment training in the workplace.
It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: you receive a phone call from your child’s school or read an alarming story about a sexual predator in the newspaper. Your next question, “could my child be a victim?” would only be justified.
Well, there are certainly steps that any parent or concerned caretaker can make to ensure that the children in their charge have a healthy upbringing. While it’s important to remember that most children experience a childhood free of sexual abuse, it’s essential to remain vigilant so as to ensure that our most vulnerable citizens are never harmed by pedophiles.
In celebration of April’s designation as Sexual Assault Awareness Month or SAAM, here are a few tips on how to protect your child, or any child, from sexual abuse.
Stay Alert and Communicative
Nothing keeps predators like Jerry Sandusky at bay than highly alert and involved parents, teachers and caregivers. This may seem obvious, but it’s essential to take an active role in knowing about every aspect of your child’s life. Who are their friends? What are their favorite activities? What’s more, you should actively verbalize your interest by checking in with them daily. By doing so you’ll stay involved in their life and communicate one very important statement: “I care about you and am interested in what’s going on in your life.” That way, you’ll keep the lines of communication open should your child need to confide in you.
Trust Your Instincts
There’s a reason that nature endowed us with a gut reaction – to protect ourselves and those we love from harm. If the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end every time you encounter your child’s swim coach, think twice. If you suspect that your little one’s gym teacher is a little too eager to horse around with them during shower time, start to ask a few questions. It’s important not to identify everyone that comes into contact with your child as a suspect, but rather to trust yourself when something or someone just doesn’t feel quite right .
Here are a few potential behaviors to watch out for:
- Someone who showers your child with gifts, lots of praise or ample amounts of affection
- Someone who tries to spend extensive alone time with your child
- Someone who volunteers to take your child on holidays, camping trips or vacations
When Necessary, Take Action
If you suspect that your child, or a child you care about, has been sexually abused, then it’s time to take action. Instead of taking the vigilante approach and reaching out to the potential abuser, it’s always best to seek professional help. Once you’ve taken care of the first priority of removing the child from immediate harm, call the police and contact your child’s principal or superintendent. After these initial steps have been taken, professionals will help get you on the long but very necessary road to healing.
A Few Resources
Looking for more information? Check out these resources to help you protect your child or any child from the dangers of sexual abuse: