Sunday, May 8, 2016

Tips For Parents

Lots To Read

There is a lot of information and misinformation on the subject of child sexual abuse and how it can be prevented. How do you sort through it? Do you rely on the sites that link sources? Rely on their status as a nonprofit organization? Do you think critically about where you are getting your information, and what information they are presenting? You are a parent, you likely do not have the time.

This is the part where I am supposed to say something like, "Well, let me save you the trouble! Read my blog! Donate money!" Nope. Sorry, I get no money from this. In fact, this blog was created in the middle of April, 2015, and has been a work in progress since. I did not ask people for the resources that are on this blog, I hunted them down myself. I do not ask you to believe me because I am an expert, but because I care about your child's rights. They have a right to their body and they have a right to an abuse-free childhood. Between that and all of the citations and resources I link, I hope you will believe me and use the resources on this blog.

Critical Thinking 101

If you do not know what the source was, its truthfulness is dubious. That is one of the main ideas behind critical thinking, yes? But what happens when the linked source does not support the statement it claims to? What happens when the person linking it has an agenda? Is the information really accurate? Can you identify when this is happening?

Here are two numbers that simply do not exist in statistics on any issue: 0% and 100%. Do I need a source to make that statement? Always and never do not exist. That is accepted logical fact, correct? What about child sexual abuse? What if I told you that pedophiles always abuse children, that child molesters always groom their victims, or that child sexual abuse is always preventable? What if I told you that sex offenders are responsible for all sexual abuse? What if I told you that child molesters are always pedophiles?

Would you believe me?

I hope not.

Illusion Of Invincibility

Everyone likes the idea that _____ could never happen to them. Car crashes, lightning strikes, plane crashes, abused, raped, shot... you fill in the blank. Just because it is statistically rare does not mean it will not affect you. One in six boys, one in four girls. That is how many children are sexually abused by the time they turn eighteen. And according to estimates, around 2% of adolescent and adult men develop pedophilia. Your child could be sexually abused, and you could have a child with an attraction to younger children. The only way you will ever know if they are is if they talk to you about it. You need to be prepared in case this issue does affect you.

Simple Facts

You will see many statistics and fact sheets on the internet. Just plugging in "child sexual abuse statistics" brings up a number of articles. There are some organizations that do great work. In my experience, The Association For The Treatment Of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) and Stop It Now are great organizations. While they have great information, they do not have lists of statistics. Some organizations put a greater emphasis on research, reputation, and fact. ATSA and Stop It Now are two such organizations. Other organizations put more emphasis on victims, fear, and emotion. Two such organizations are Parents For Megan's Law and National Sex Offender. Some organizations are about money or furthering the name of their own organization. Darkness To Light is one such organization. All of them can be valuable, but if you have to wade through references to determine if their information is accurate, then the organization becomes dishonest. That is why I link directly to a study, and why I have a list of most of the studies I have used on the side of this page.

The bottom line is that child sexual abuse is not a simple issue, nor are there simple facts. Even determining whether or not something was abusive can be very complex. Believe it or not, there are people that most of us would call victims that did not feel traumatized by a sexual act that was done to them as a child by an adult. That is why I only have a handful of lists and tip sheets.The rest of it is writing like this.

So... Now What?

The United States, the UK, Canada, and several other nations have created sex offender registries. Registries are tools intended to help law enforcement identify abusers and rapists in instances of stranger assault or abuse. The registries are not generally public except for specific circumstances, in which case it is usually called "community notification". The only problem with these registries is that 95% of new sex crimes are committed not by registered sex offenders, but first-time offenders (people completely new to the criminal justice system). Another problem is that 90-95% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated not by strangers, but by those known to the victim. Rape Abuse Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that about 4/5ths of rape victims know their abusers. In short, stranger assault and abuse is rare.

In other words, sex offender laws and registries are not protecting your children. In fact, the statistics indicate that your child is at more risk from being injured in a car accident than being abducted or abused by a stranger. Believe it or not, the biggest risk to your children - for any kind of abuse - is from you and the people you already know and trust with your children. There is no profile for a typical child molester. There are warning signs, there are education programs for children that aim to increase reporting when abuse happens, and there are ways you can help your child be less of a target for abuse. There are also coping strategies that can be taught to adults so that they can manage their risky emotions and mental health issues. After all, the biggest cause of child sexual abuse is not pedophilia, but unmanaged mental health issues (see point number 4 on page 4).

Sad Reality

The sad reality of the programs currently in use that aim to educate children is that they are failing to keep children safe. If a child is being told at school that when someone touches their penis or vagina to tell a trusted adult, but an adult they trust is the one touching them, who does the child tell? For that matter, does the child tell? I have discussed before how educating children fails to prevent child sexual abuse. Abuse prevention starts with education: You, the parent, have to know the facts and practice healthy habits at home. Habits like not keeping secrets, using the proper name for genitalia, letting children have boundaries around touch and other things.

Bottom Line

The bottom line about child sexual abuse is that there are a great many "prevention" programs that teach people how to spot a possibly abused child, how to react to a child when they say they were abused, and how to tell law enforcement. These "prevention" tactics rely on the abuse to have occurred in order to be effective. Stopping abuse when it is occurring is valuable, but it would be more valuable to stop it before it happens. There are primary prevention methods. The first step to preventing child sexual abuse before it happens is by knowing the facts, and the second step is discussing it with people. This article cannot even be considered a first step. Reading the FAQ, myths, and fact sheet at the top of this page are a first step. This article is just the thought that hopefully leads you to taking that first step towards reading up on this subject.

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