Updated: Jul 28, 2019
So much is going on these days with the topic of sexual abuse and prevention. Almost daily, a new story is revealed or a victim speaks out.
Both parents can and should be instrumental in sexual abuse prevention. We know that dads are natural protectors with a primal urge to keep the family safe. So, what can men do to get ahead of this issue for their family? What can dads do to protect their boys and girls?
1. Engage in new ways. In order to address the challenge of keeping kids safe from sexual abuse, some dads may need to stretch a bit and connect in different ways. We need our dads to be tough and strong, but also soft and sensitive. Dads can show kids they care about emotional topics by engaging in conversation with children and being an active listener.
2. Find ways to Connect. Reading a story before bed is one of the best moments where dad’s can engage and connect with kids. And storytelling, since ancient time, has proven to be an effective way to teach kids important lessons. If Dads share a storytime ritual before bedtime, it will become a safe time where kids and dad can form bonds of trust. There is nothing better than getting a story and a tuck in from your dad right before bed. When dealing with difficult topics, reading a great kids book on that topic can break the ice. To introduce the topic of sexual abuse there are a number of easy-to-read books. Click on this link to watch a dad in action. Dad’s who read
3. Talk about sexual abuse prevention. Although it might feel awkward — we just have to get over it — for the sake of our kids. It might feel strange, uncomfortable or weird to talk about this topic with your young children. Guess what, that is what the abusers are counting on. Your silence on this topic is an abuser’s opportunity. If you don’t verse your kids on this topic it will put them at an increased risk. We have to get over the icky feelings and start talking. Why? Because although sexual abuse prevention is an adult responsibility, educated kids on this topic will be safer and less of a target. It’s okay for dads to get involved with all of these topics.
4. Volunteer! This is so important. Pedophiles disproportionately target children with absent fathers. So be present and get involved. Volunteer to coach your little girl’s softball team or to be a teacher for your son’s sunday school class or at school. When dads volunteer at schools, organizations or activities, their presence alone reduces risk. Watch Dog Dads is a great organization that was founded by dads based on this knowledge.
5. Verify the safety of all organizations where you leave your kids. Check out all organizations where your kids are involved. Make sure all groups have a sexual abuse prevention mission statement and follow appropriate procedures to keep kids safe. If they don’t have safe practices and policies… don’t leave your kids there. Eliminate the risk. Or ask for training programs to be implemented.
6. Be curious about the media your kids are consuming. Dads can take responsibility for monitoring online safety. The danger of online sexual predators lurks around every corner. Prepare yourself against this threat by researching how to protect your kids on line. A great resource for parents can be found at Protect Young Minds.
7. Learn open communication techniques. When your child comes to you with a problem or complaint don’t close them off. Sometimes kids will report sexual abuse in a roundabout, indirect way by saying something like, “My gym teacher is weird and mean”. Instead of reacting and saying, “don’t talk like that about your teacher” try an open communication technique. Ask Why? Or say, that sounds tough, tell me more. This is the key to understanding your child and developing healthy lines of communication for all topics. If you don’t ask they why, you may be missing something incredibly important. When kids know adults are really listening, they feel so much more confident. When reporting abuse young children don’t usually come right out and say it because they are scared. In my years as a teacher I received 7 reports of abuse from children. None of those reports included, “ Miss King- my cousins made me touch his private parts last night”. It sounded more like, “ Miss King, I hate when my cousin comes over”. When your opportunity to save your child trauma arrives … don’t miss it! Instead of saying, “that’s silly, be nice, he’s your cousin”, ask “Why? Or say, “tell me more”.
If all of this seems unwarranted to you, or just too much of a stretch, take a look at the statistics for the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse here. They may come as a shock. But they will surely convince you of the importance of assuming a proactive role to protect your kids.