The definition of molest is “to make indecent sexual advances to.” That is what happened to me as a child — just once, but it happened. It was in my own home, and it was with a trusted family friend. Child sexual abuse can happen anywhere and at any time, and no one is more keenly aware of this than me.
For years I didn’t tell anyone because I thought it was my fault. I held it in until one day I just couldn’t anymore. I reached out to my sister who told my parents…. I’m thankful for her. My parents helped me work through this and have continued to help me work through this into my adulthood. It has affected me in different ways — affected my trust levels as well as my personality. I’m thankful I come from a family that knows how to handle so delicately something so awful.
I now have four children, three of them being girls. According to The National Center for Victims of Crime, 1 out of 5 girls will be a victim of sexual abuse, and 1 out of 20 boys will be. Scary. But it’s truth and it’s the world we live in.
Being a mother is hard enough, and then you throw in the fear and anxiety of this possibly happening to your own child. I can’t let fear drive me, but I can be smart.
Here are a few things I do as a mother who has been sexually molested to try to prevent this from happening to my own children.
#1 Don’t put them in situations where you aren’t sure what’s going on.
Obviously, I can’t be with all four of my children all of the time, but I can use my good judgment. I would encourage parents to always know where their children are and who they will be with, and ask for a phone call if plans change.
#2 Get to know your children’s friends and their families.
As two of my children have entered school, this has become super important. I hear about the names of their friends, but I don’t know them or their families. In the past if my kids have wanted a play date with a new friend I take my crew over to meet everyone or I invite their family over for a family play date or dinner to get to know them. I have even gone so far as to ask people I know and trust if they know anything about our new friends. Ask questions, know what is going on in their lives, learn who their friends are, talk about what’s going on at school, etc. Be involved and be attentive to their mannerisms, attitudes, and choices.
#3 Teach them about good touch versus bad touch.
I think it is crucial that they know what a good touch is and what a bad touch is. I think it is vital that they know it is not okay for people to touch their private areas. Make sure your children know the proper names of their privates. Create an open and honest dialogue with your kids about all things so if something does happen or they are uneasy about something they feel comfortable with sharing.
#4 Teach them Stranger Danger and the empowerment to say “NO.”
When we are in the car I list off people’s names and ask them if they are a stranger or a friend. Then I will point to a random person outside or at a store and ask them if that is a stranger or a friend. Let them know that is okay to tell someone NO and that there is power in that. Empower them to say no if they are uncomfortable. Teach them that their bodies belong to them.
#5 Do NOT keep secrets in your home.
I loved this post from Denver Moms Blog called “Why We Don’t Keep Secrets in Our House.” Your kids need to know that they can tell you everything at any time. Even secrets that seem like not such a big deal are teaching them to keep things from you, and that is not healthy because when something important happens you want them to tell you. Be available to listen!
Because of my story and what I have come through, I can now help others who have gone through the same thing, and for that I am thankful. I am stronger because of it.
Because of my story I pray — a lot. In order for me to move on I have had to let go — let go of fear and distrust.
Dear reader, I pray that you and your children never have to experience this and that my story doesn’t become yours.