Safeguarding Your Children from Sexual Predators: Part III

Minimize Opportunity

     More than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in one-adult/one-child situations.

The previous two posts in this series were about the importance of parents KNOWING THE FACTS about abuse and EDUCATING YOUR CHILDREN. Today we're going to talk about ways in which you, as a parent, can play a significant role in keeping your children safe by MINIMIZING OPPORTUNITY.

First, I want you to be aware of some things that you may not have heard before.

  • Understand that abusers often become friendly with potential victims and their families, enjoying family activities, earning trust, and gaining time alone with children.
  • Think carefully about the safety of any one-adult/one-child situations. Try to choose group situations when possible.
  • Be cautious about situations in which older youth have access to younger children. Make sure that multiple adults are present who can provide supervision.
  • Abductors/Molesters prey upon children who: take short-cuts to school; look depressed or timid; are loners; appear neglected, unkempt, or unsupervised.
  • Sexual predators often target children in single parent families because they offer their "help" to a mother or father who is overloaded, stressed, or burned out.
  • Be aware that "over-loving or over-affectionate" type people are potentially dangerous.
  • Be suspicious of someone whose "whole" life is centered around spending time with children and has few, if any, quality adult relationships.

And finally, something I learned from a study entitled "Child Abuse Prevention: What Offenders Tell Us" (Child Abuse & Neglect 1995, Elliott, Browne, Kilcoyne). Offenders who were in treatment offered some advice to warn parents about potential offenders. Here are three warnings worth noting:

  1. Be suspicious if someone seems more interested in their children than in the parents.
  2. Know that we [offenders] will use any way we can get to children.
  3. Be alert to a child's behavioral change--investigate further.

In light of all that I have shared with you, I have some final words of caution:

Don't let this information overwhelm you or cause you to be paranoid.

It's important as a parent to be informed, but balanced. I am saying this from personal experience. As I reflect back on my own parenting, I now realize how my own anxiety over making sure my daughters were protected, actually contributed to them developing more than their fair share of anxiety as adults. Would I change most of my precautions, boundaries, or prohibitions? Probably not, but I would change my underlying anxiety that seemed to leak out upon them imperceptibly. I didn't realize it at the time, but my fears were controlling a lot of my decisions especially as my girls reached adolescence. So, if you tend to go to extremes, make sure you seek help for your own anxiety and get some balanced counsel from good friends, wise counselors, or those mentors in your lives who've weathered parenting well.