In the previous segment we looked at some of the statistics reflecting the realities of child abuse in today’s world, and discussed why it is so important to be careful. This applies just as much to you when you are with other people’s children – as you could find yourself the unwitting subject of false allegations of abuse! In this piece we are going to be looking at strategies you can employ to increase your children’s chances of safety and freedom from abuse. These are also ways that you can protect yourself from false accusations.
One of the very first, and often most important things a parent can do to reduce their child’s chances of being abused, is to minimize the opportunity. Abuse of children, sexual or otherwise, is rarely done out in the open. It tends to happen in secret and behind closed doors, so the most effective methods for reducing the chances of letting it happen at all, is to remove the opportunity for your child to be alone with another adult or older child in a private setting. And keep in mind that if you do the same yourself, it will reduce the chances of false accusations against you!
In situations where you have no choice – you are working and someone else is looking after your child for you, make a point of dropping in unexpectedly from time to time, and be sure to vary your drop-in times so that the person caring for your child doesn’t learn to anticipate “early afternoon drop-ins” or “occasional early pick-ups”. When caring for other people’s children, either babysitting or play dates, make sure that, if possible, you are not ever alone with that child.
Advocate for reducing or eliminating one adult/one child situations in all of the areas where your child or other children are involved in youth activities – sports teams, tutoring, faith-based gatherings, day care and clubs. Attempt to ensure that your child will never be left alone with an adult. If you are a coach, daycare provider, church nursery worker or tutor, protect yourself by insisting on the presence of another adult with you when in situations when you have to be alone with a child.
Also, be very careful when allowing your children to attend sleep-overs at friends houses. Kids love parties and staying up late to watch movies with friends, but they often cannot understand the dangers they face when sleeping at other people’s homes. It is far better to risk having your child angry at you for a time, or annoyed at your “old fashioned” rules, than to risk their innocence and their bodies in ways that cannot be undone afterwards. Conversely, be careful whom you allow to sleep over in your home.
Make a point of choosing group activities and group settings for your child whenever possible. In a situation, like some after school tutoring, where there is no group option available, choose a tutor who can come to your home and teach your child while you are present. Other options are online tutoring using webcams. This will allow your child to receive the one-on-one attention they need without the risk. When your child is using the internet for tutoring, however, be certain to remain nearby where you can overhear what is being said, or drop in on the session from time to time so that your child does not become the victim of a predator.
Remember that child abusers almost always work to befriend the children they abuse and the families of those children, in order to allay suspicions and reduce the chances that those children will report the abuse later. On the flip side, it’s sad that even your own innocent friendliness could contribute to false accusations. So always be aware, and get an attorney the moment someone makes a false accusation about you!
Come back next time when we will be addressing abuse and internet use, and what you can do to prevent your child becoming a victim.