December 17, 2013
The Catholic Church is ringing the alarm. If you are a parent, I’m sure the unfolding allegations of sexual abuse by priests have gotten your attention. My guess is that you would rather throw the newspaper away and turn off the news to avoid this subject altogether. However, I urge you to view this as an opportunity, as a parent, to take a look at how things are going with your own children.
What we know about sexual abuse is that is flourishes in secrecy. So let’s stop making certain parts of our body’s secret. Let’s give those parts real names. Let’s be prepared to tell our children about all the parts of their bodies and what should and should not be done to them.
Let’s prepare our children to manage their bodies by allowing them to learn about their own boundaries and to set limits on anyone (even adults) who cross their boundaries. Let’s also not make them feel guilty if they have been too afraid to say “no” to unwanted touch. Let’s tell them that “no matter what happened or happens”; they can share their “feelings about touch and touch questions” with you.
But that’s truly not enough. Research has shown that children who are able to talk openly about their feelings are less likely to be victims of sexual abuse. So that means we must create on-going communication where our children feel free to tell us things – even things we don’t want to hear. We need to be better listeners and less in a rush to correct, instruct, advise and condemn. That does not mean we don’t correct, it just means we listen carefully first. It means we think before we speak and be sure that what we are saying will not shut our kids down or make them less likely to share things in the future.
Lastly, let’s remember that all of those people that have molested children were once children themselves and that their touch problems probably started early. We know that 50% of sexual abusers start before age 18. So let’s talk to all of our children about consent and how important it is to be sure that they know the rules about consensual touch. Let’s be sure that our children feel free to come to us if they are having problems controlling themselves and that we will help them stop.
So many are doing so much in the large world outside our doors to stop sexual abuse of children. Let’s be sure we are doing all we can within the little world inside our own homes.