I love teaching body safety to kids. As a volunteer instructor, I talk with kindergarten through 5th-grade classes about the difference between “good” and “bad” touches and what to do if someone deliberately tries to touch one of their private body parts for no good reason or just to play a game. One of the reasons I enjoy this so much is the engagement of elementary school children during our class presentations.
Kindergartners are a total hoot! Not only is it a challenge for them to sit still for the 20-minute discussion, but they also want to interject all kinds of stories. I love it! Kindergartners also concern me deeply, though. At the end of each presentation, I show the kids a fake police badge, tell them I’m a detective and ask for volunteers to come with me to a dark room down the hall so I can check their private body parts. Chills inevitably run down my spine as more than half the children will raise their hands to be selected. Their innocence and eagerness to please an authority figure has a very real potential to turn into a dangerous scenario for them.
This critical element of the body safety course, offered by Chaucie’s Place Child Advocacy Center (for which I am a proud volunteer!), demonstrates to children that there are people in the world that “have their thinking messed-up” and that sometimes those people will try to trick children by lying to them. There are, in fact, all kinds of “tricks” sexual predators use to manipulate children into doing what they want them to do. Some common tricks include:
1) Leveraging a position of authority. In the body safety example, predators may tell kids they have an important job (like a police officer) or may legitimately hold a position of authority that children are taught to trust and respect (… like teachers, clergy, coaches, etc.). Predators often use those power positions as leverage to molest. Talk with your children about the fact that NO ONE has the right to touch their private body parts for no good reason or just to play a game, regardless of job, age, physical size/stature or personal relationship to them (… i.e., family members, extended relatives, close family friends, sibling’s friends, etc.). In fact, nearly 40% of children who are sexually abused are molested by someone in their family.
2) Using threats or intimidation. Often times, predators will tell children they’ll harm their parents, siblings or pets if they “tell” and disclose the abuse. Or, they tell kids that if their parents find out about the abuse, they won’t love them anymore or will disown them. Combat this by reassuring your children that you are always there for them and encourage them to tell you anytime someone makes them feel uncomfortable or says something that might scare them.
3) Making it a game. I can’t begin to count the number of forensic interviews of young children I’ve conducted or observed where the predator turned the molestation into a game, making the child think it was an “okay” thing to do. Reinforce with your children that NO game involving touches to private body parts is a game to play and that they need to tell you ASAP if someone ever plays or asks to play a game like that with them.
4) Blaming the child. Sexual predators will place their bag ‘o bricks squarely on the shoulders of their child victims and blame them for the abuse. When talking with your kids about staying safe, reassure them that if something like that were to ever happen to them, that it would in NO WAY be their fault.
5) Offering gifts. Money. Candy. Toys. The chance to pet a puppy. This type of bribing is a form of sexual predator grooming where molesters attempt to win favor of a child. “I’ll give you this, so you give me that.” Again, talk with your children about how, under no circumstances, is it acceptable for someone to touch private parts of their bodies in exchange for a gift.
6) Posing as a child or teen online. With 93% of children accessing the Internet, sexual predators will often pose as a child or teen to gain the trust and “friendship” of a child online. That will often lead to sexual encounters, either with the predator requesting or sharing photographs, pornography or other graphic images and content… or even the worst case scenario: meeting the child in-person.
Please remember, over 90% of children who are sexually abused KNOW, LOVE or TRUST their molester. While it is important to keep people we don’t know at arms length from our children, sexual perpetrators typically target children they know and with whom they have some degree of association.
Talk to your kids. Remind them that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone. Keep lines of communication open so your children feel they can come to you should something ever happen to them. Reinforcing this important message could be the key to keeping your child from becoming a victim of sexual abuse.
About Chaucie’s Place
Chaucie’s Place Child Advocacy Center offers a benchmark body safety program which incorporates lessons based on nationally recognized child protection research. To learn more about bringing Chaucie’s Place body safety education, contact Chaucie’s Place Executive Director Toby Stark at Toby@chauciesplace.org or call (317) 759-8008.
Working to improve the world one child at a time, Ginger has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger can be contacted via her website “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids™” at www.gingerkadlec.com.