It’s in the newspaper almost weekly. It’s in every city within every state. It crosses all barriers and knows all demographics. Child abuse impacts us all – there’s no denying that. But it also can seem overwhelming and leave you feeling powerless. “How can this happen in MY neighborhood?” “How can this be a growing problem in MY community?” “Why is this happening?”
Unfortunately, child abuse is a complex, multifaceted problem. While at Ray of Hope Advocacy Center we don’t pretend to have all the answers, we can help you utilize some proven tools and strategies to protect the children in your life.
Talk to your children about body safety early, open and often. The PANTS acronym can guide you.
P – Privates are private. The areas covered by your underwear or bathing suit are places that no one should touch or look. A doctor, nurse or parent may need to look at private areas, but they should always explain why, and ask permission first.
A – Always remember your body belongs to you. No one should ever make you do things that make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or scared. If that happens – tell a trusted adult.
N – No means no! You have the right to say “no” – even to a family member or someone that you like. If you want to say “no”, it’s your choice.
T – Talk about secrets that upset you. Surprises can be fun, but no one should ever ask you to keep a secret that makes you feel sad, worried or frightened.
S – Speak up, someone can help. Talk about things that make you worried or scared. Parents, teachers or even the parent of friend can be a trusted adult. Help your kids identify at least 5 people they can go to for help.
Be sure research and ask questions of any facility or organization where your child spends time. It’s more than ok to kindly question daycares, sports organizations, after school programs or youth groups. In fact, it’s your job as a caregiver. Ask about their child safety policies and procedures or how they are accredited. Your child is your priority – the people caring for your child should never be offended that you are ensuring his/her safety.
Not all abuse starts in person – the Internet can be a vulnerable place for kids. Talk to your child and set ground rules for what websites are allowed and revisit those rules regularly as your child grows. Research any device your child owns to fully understand the capabilities and safeguards and openly monitor their devices and usage. Talk to your kids about why Internet safety is so important and the long-term consequences that can be incurred.
If you are unfamiliar with a babysitter, play date location or individual in your child’s life, do a little research. Be sure you respect the line between due diligence and creepy, but we recommend a quick Google search, ODCR.com or OSCN.net to see any public record information.
And last but not least, remember that knowledge really is power. Ray of Hope offers free “Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse” and “Stewards of Children” training, available to anyone to empower our community with the tools to help end child sexual abuse. You learn firsthand how to prevent, recognize, respond and report child abuse. Call 918-337-6177 to sign up for training or set up training for your group or organization.
While we can’t wave a magic wand and erase the child abuse epidemic, we can employ purposeful precautions to create safer situations for the circle of children in our lives. When enough circles of safety and awareness pop up, all of our community’s children reap the benefits of enhanced protection.