Talking to children about sex and child molestation should not be done via beating about the bush or in coded words. Times are changing, gone are the days when our mothers would do as little as sniff, and we would decode the message they’re trying to pass. The world gets digital by the day. If you don’t teach these things, something else will do the job for you, and you may not love the outcome.
Best believe there are a lot of paedophiles and sexual predators waiting patiently to take advantage of the innocence of a child. Unfortunately, a greater percentage of these predators are made up of very close people, thus moving about unsuspectedly. They include uncles, aunts, teachers, pastors, mentors, etc.
A parent once said, “What should a child of six know about sex? She’s too young and innocent, she can’t understand”. This statement could be true in 1988 but this is 2021 and we must understand that we are dealing with sight and sound generation. It’s amusing how they know things before you even talk about them. There are a lot of ideologies out there but it is possible to program the right ideologies and principles into the mind of your child. Parents, buckle up! There’s work to be done.
WHO IS A CHILD MOLESTER?
A child molester is a person who engages in sexual activity with a child. A child molester is not necessarily an adult. He/she could be a child, teenager, or adult. A child molester can be anybody.
According to a research study from The Center for Behavioral Intervention in Beaverton Oregon, “Child molestation usually begins with a sex offender gaining a child’s trust and friendship. The offender then begins “testing” the child’s ability to protect himself by telling sexual jokes, engaging in horseplay, back rubs, kissing or sexual games. If the child appears comfortable or curious about this type of behavior, (and most healthy, normal children are) the offender will slowly increase the amount and type of touching to include more direct sexual touching. Child sexual abuse can include exposing, fondling, masturbation, oral sex, intercourse, and pornography”.
Most times, that molester is someone you trust and are comfortable leaving your child with. He/She could buy your child gifts every day, spend time with her, love and give her so much attention. All of these are means to an end to gain the trust of you and your child. Once a molester can gain that trust, he starts abusing the child little by little. The child sometimes begins to think that it’s normal because of the love the man shows to her. The moment that child realizes that she’s being abused, she could get irritated and the offender makes her feel like it’s all her fault because she let it happen. Then the abuse continues for as long as possible. I can’t say for sure when it stops but what I know is it leaves that child damaged and most times, the offender gets away with it and probably goes on to get married and have children.
An adult showing your child love is not necessarily a problem in itself but the Bible tells us to “be sober, be vigilant…”. When you think your child is being abused, don’t wait it out. Address it!
HOW DO I KNOW MY CHILD IS BEING MOLESTED?
Children are different. What works for one may not work for all. But there are key signals to watch out for, they are:
- Withdrawal: When a child who is always happy starts getting moody suddenly for no reason. Check it, someone might be abusing her.
- Changes in a walking posture, genital pain, bleeding, itching, etc
- The child doesn’t want to go see a particular uncle or Aunty she used to like. Anytime that name is being mentioned, she starts to sweat or fidget.
- Difficulties concentrating in class, failure in school especially when the child was bright before.
- The child could start keeping secrets. Sometimes the child could say “mummy, I want to talk to you about something” and the next minute she’s like “it’s nothing serious, never mind”.
- Pornography, engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior and being more concerned about their bodies.
HOW DO I PREVENT SEXUAL ABUSE?
A child cannot protect herself when in a situation with a sexual offender, but you can protect her. Here are a few tips that can help;
- Communication: Communication between a child and a parent is not automatic. Don’t expect the teenager you never spoke to as a child to tell you anything about what is happening to him as a teenager. Communication starts from a tender age. Talk about your day, let your child talk about his. Check out a comprehensive article on communication with children here. Communication builds trust, it allows a child to run to you when he is being abused knowing that he’ll find help. Children rarely lie about sexual abuse, so believe him and take action.
- Watch how you react when the topic of sexual abuse comes up. Children are smart enough to ask indirect questions like “mummy, a friend told me her uncle kisses her and touches her breast”. That child might just be asking to see how you’ll react. If you react wrongly, you might never be able to save your child from a molester. When the topic of sexual abuse comes up, calm down and watch how you speak at that moment.
- Watch out for symptoms and take action.
- Don’t forget to always tell your child that sexual abuse is not his fault and it will never be. Assure him that he can run to you as a safe place if abuse occurs.
- When you have that gut feeling that your child is being molested, don’t ignore it. Act fast!
- Everyone is a suspect. Be wary of adults who spend too much time with your child and buy her so many gifts.
- Teach your child about sex education. Tell a child where it is appropriate to be touched and where is not. Check out this article on sexual education here.
- Track your child’s activities on the computer. Don’t leave your child to just explore the dark internet on her own. Check how to track your child’s activities on a computer here.
When sexual abuse occurs, it’s not a time to blame yourself, it’s not your fault it’s happened, neither is it the child’s fault. Remember that you cannot be 100 in preventing sexual abuse from happening but you can help your child early enough from falling prey by following the above we’ve discussed. You can also prevent other children from getting abused by calling the police and stopping the molester from molesting.