Let’s have the difficult conversation.

 

I was quite young at the time, perhaps 6 or 7. My cousin was 5 years older, i.e., old enough to know what he was about to do. All I can say is there was divine intervention and while it could have ended up being tragic, other cousins knocking on the door saved me at the last minute.

Most of us think of child abuse as something that happens by adults to children. I don’t often see any special reports addressing abuse of children by other children. But I have heard plenty of firsthand stories from my own friends and relatives. Stories similar to mine and sometimes with more heartbreaking consequences. Many years ago, my father told me that our neighbour’s teenaged son raped his young male cousins. It was beyond shocking, but looking back to my own experiences as a child, I began to think that these incidences seem to be more frequent than the public knows.
How many of you have similar stories to tell, of older relatives or close friends exploring their sexuality at the expense of much younger children? I think there is a false sense of security when your kids are with family. According to the US Department of Justice’s report on Sexual Assault of Young Children, 49% of offenders of young children are family and only 3% of sexual abuse of young children is by a stranger. Also, many people mistakenly believe that sexual abuse can only happen to girls but between the ages of 0-5 boys account for 30% of sexual abuse reports.We don’t want to live in a culture of fear that leaves us paralysed, preventing us from living full, happy, and rewarding lives. But ignorance is not bliss, especially not in this instance when you are responsible for the well being of a dependent, naïve child. So here are some small precautions that you can take to prevent a play date from turning into a tragedy that shapes and affects your child’s future relationships:1. Talk to your family, all of them. It’s a difficult conversation and must be handled sensitively as you don’t want anyone to feel accused. Instead, brainstorm ways in which the whole family agrees to aid in protecting your children.

2. Talk to your children about their body. I have shown my daughter that it is ok for people to give her hugs, kisses on the cheek, and to play with her hair. But I have also shown her the areas of her body that are to be kept private and not for others to see or touch. While some may think this ruins a child’s innocence, my daughter remains innocent, yet is comfortable and self-confident with her body and shows no shame. Also, I’m pretty sure that sexual abuse is much worse than helping a child become aware of and protect their bodies.

3. Make your living area and the children’s play area one and the same. Be aware when your child goes into their room with a friend, have an open-door policy, and pop your head in frequently to see if they need extra cookies and milk.

4. If you have a nanny, give her clear instructions that she is not to leave your child alone, even with other family members. Our nanny knows that she should be with my children at all times and even if my own brother wants to take them somewhere, she must refuse and call me first.

5. Install nanny cams. Whatever people may think, I prefer not to take a risk with my child’s well being because I’m afraid to offend the nanny. And if you say “you shouldn’t be leaving your kids with the nanny!” my response is – I don’t! But there are women who do, often out of necessity. But that is a topic of its own.

 
 
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