Concerned moms and dads talk to their kids every so often about safety subjects like fire or stranger danger, but there's an important talk missing from the arsenal of standard parental lectures.
Karen Fettig, founder of Window of Hope Ministry, says parents need to integrate age-appropriate education about molestation and inappropriate touching into family talks. Statistically speaking, one out of four girls and one out of nine boys are molested by an adult at some point during their childhoods. However, the subject remains unspeakable in most households due to fear on behalf of both kids and parents.
Child predators use elaborate “grooming” techniques to work their way into the lives of their victim and even the victim's parents, usually by filling a void in the family's life, whether it be by social interaction or material gifts. If the molester isn't in the family, then they're most likely an acquaintance of the family, which makes for an awkward dynamic when stories of abuse surface. Fettig says stranger abductions are actually the exception, and not the rule, but people often address the problem from that framework because its easier to conceptualize.
Fettig says the first step in keeping children safe from sexual abuse is to keep lines of communication open with children and keep close tabs on what's going on in their lives. Children lack the defenses to protect themselves from abusers, so it ultimately falls on the parents' shoulders. Fettig said although only two to four percent of sexual abuse allegations made by children are false, kids generally have to tell their story nine times before they're believed, and the average perpetrator commits more than a hundred offenses before they're caught. Again, this is especially the case if the offender is a relative or close friend of the family.
Fettig said parents' reactions when hearing about a possible molestation can affect children as much as the crime itself. She recommends listening to as much as the child wants to tell, validating their stories, and then arranging for the child to be interviewed by law enforcement personnel.
To learn more about child predators and their grooming techniques, e-mail Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 307-469-2433. Help is also available locally via law enforcement and the Advocacy and Resource Center.