17.9.07

In the interest of public service and protecting kids everywhere

I've been trying to decide what if anything I should write about this. I'm very tempted to just sweep it under, let it lie, and not mention it at all. But I can't, because this story may help someone else.

On Saturday night we were at a party at the parent's of one of the little boys that the Boy plays with. He is cute and sweet and as normal as boy as seems possible. They have played together all summer and are fast friends. He is 4 years old.

There were a lot of grown-ups present that I hadn't met yet, and lots of babies, and it seemed like a great idea to let the three older kids watch cars by themselves in a bedroom with the door ajar so we could tell if they were getting into trouble.

Several minutes later screams ensued, from the Girl and this little boy's father went to investigate. What he found was the Girl laying on the bed with her skirt up, no underwear, which was entirely her and my fault, she forgot to put it on and I forgot to double check when we left the house, it was a very long dress. The boy was laying on top of her with his face on her bum. He was kissing her. She didn't like it.

The boy's dad sent him to another room, and came and told me what had happened. (Let me just stop to say how grateful I am that this man is honorable and didn't try and hide it.)

I talked to the girl and asked her what happened and how she was feeling and she told me she didn't want him to do it. I told her she did the exact right thing in yelling super loud so we would know what is going on and could protect her.

After things settled down and we sorted out, I mentioned to the boy's parents that they might need to be guarding him more closely since when a child does this sort of thing it's because it was done to him before. They told me that they had just discovered that he had at least witnessed and perhaps been victim to something done by an uncle, which is rending my heart to think about.

Anyway, three things happened that were wrong in this scenario.

1.) The Girl should have had panties on, her bottom should be covered in public, that's simple.

2.) A child who has been sexually abused should not be left alone with other children smaller than him or that he is stronger than. It is a sad but true fact that children who are abused often become abusers. I doubt that this boy's parents knew that and I'm sure they were completely surprised. I only know this because I've been talking to people about foster care and adoption and it's pretty much a rule that a child from an abusive background should not be adopted or fostered into a family with children younger than him/her for that reason.

I understand wanting to keep this kind of thing private for the child's sake, but then you need to be aware and not let him alone with other children.

3.) I should not have left her alone that long with bigger boys.

Three things that went right.

1.) She yelled and screamed, really really loud. She got our attention and protected herself.

2.) All of the parents were proactive and did what they could to minimize and correct the situation. The Boy's dad just sent him away, he didn't deal with it in front of everyone. And he told me right away too.

3.) Apparently that talk we had about this kind of thing last month took root, and she remembered. I wonder why the Boy didn't do anything though.

All said, I think things are okay. I honestly think that because she yelled and we intervened this was more of a positive than negative experience for the Girl for she learned that she has power to stop someone, she learned that it's good to stick up for yourself. I'm still terrified when I think of what could have happened and so I share.

So often when we think of protecting our children from sexual abuse, we think of grown-ups. I had forgotten what I know about children often being perpetrators.

That day, things were simple. The boy was in trouble because she said to stop and he didn't. You stop when someone tells you to. The language is that simple. He is after all 4.

I have wandered my way around the talk several times and have now reduced it to it's most powerful straightforward essence. You need to talk with your small children as well as your older school aged children.

Here is my script if you need it.

Your private parts are the parts covered by your underwear. NO ONE is to touch your private parts, or to touch you anywhere else in a way that you don't want. If someone tries to touch you or make you do something you don't like, you should yell scream bite and kick. Try to run away. Always tell mommy or daddy right away so that we can protect you.
end talk

I started out way more complicated than that, but it turns out that it's simple and easy to remember. It's because I had that talk with the Girl that she is okay now.

I add to that this week. If you see someone doing something to someone else that they shouldn't, you run and tell mommy or daddy or grownup that you trust RIGHT AWAY!
That's for the Boy who was more into watching Cars than helping his sister.

8 comments:

  1. I am sorry that happened. I am glad your daughter was able to cry out.

    My sister also makes a point to warn her kids against grownups who show children pictures of naked people. Apparently this is how some pedophiles lure kids in. She does not let her kids go to other houses until they repeat her litany about it, which includes the assurance that they will not be in trouble for telling.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing this. It is one of my biggest fears and I think that your information is right on. I am going to use your little speech because we need to arm our children with wisdom just as you have done.

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I didn't read everything, but of what I read, it was informative.

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  4. I'm here from Mel's blog, to congratulate you on winning the stroller.

    But, I congratulate you even more for this excellent post.

    I'm sorry that this event happened, but, that you shared it publicly is to be commended.

    It WILL help someone else. No doubt about that.

    Can there be such a thing as "over protection" anymore? I'm starting to think not.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a VERY IMPORTANT post. If there is one thing about sexual abuse in society, is that it isn't talked about openly enough. It is so important that it is discussed, because it happens more often than anyone would like to comprehend. It is a disgusting, horrific, life-altering thing: to be abused. Thank you, Carrien, for being so open about it.

    I am closely connected with a family where sexual abuse was perpetrated on several children -- BY ANOTHER CHILD. Adults are not the only ones who victimize children. Children who have been victimized hurt other children. And the sexual abuse isn't just limited to boys abusing girls, it is also boys abusing boys. People need to be AWARE of this.

    Additionally, if one suspects that their child has been a victim of sexual abuse by ANYONE, I would highly recommend that they get that child into counseling immediately. Abuse is an enormously huge shaping event (or, series of events) in one's life and while not necessarily everyone turns around and abuses others, it happens. Much pain and heartache can be avoided by parents taking immediate, loving, and decisive action: as the father of this particular boy did. And THANK GOD for him [I almost want to cry]. In this case, the little boy is young enough that his act was not done secretively, so people would have more than likely found out anyway; but the fact that this father addressed the issue with complete honesty is to be commended beyond words.

    It is unfortunate, but if this boy is not seen as a potentially serious threat to himself and others, it is very possible (if not very likely) that he will abuse again. The little boy who abused the children I know was 6 when he started. STARTED being the key word, here. This boy's parents need to address this with a sense of urgency. It isn't just child's play, especially if they suspect he has been abused. And it WILL happen again.

    The Talk is very important. My own child(ren) are not old enough to comprehend yet, but when the time comes, we will definitely be discussing it. Probably on a semi-regular basis; I'm not sure how often that means, but certainly more than just one or two times.

    Thanks for posting on this, Carrien, you've hit me square between the eyes. I'm so sorry for your Girl -- I hope that it is something that will, like you said, empower her, rather than scar her. It seems like you being very open about it and talking to her about it (even down the line) will be very important.

    A good friend of mine who was sexually abused [similarly aged...perhaps 4 or 5] had parents that did not talk to her about it more than a once (maybe twice?) after it happened [as she also told them about it immediately] and she spent many years, tortured, wondering if anyone knew about it. She had been so young that she had forgotten it happened until she was 10 or 11, and had also forgotten that she had told her parents. That is probably a good thing for parents to know as well -- that while it might be an uncomfortable or unpleasant subject, or if it appears that the child has forgotten it altogether, it might be a good idea to re-visit it throughout time. Much pain could be alleviated that way, instead of going to counseling 10-15 years after the fact.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Breit Mama11:30 AM

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been struggling w/ the "right" thing to say to my children about this issue. Everything I have come up with has been far to complicated. Your script is so simple.

    On a lighter note - Congrats on the stroller!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. We had to have the "private parts" talk at our house too. Our little neighbor girl (4 year old) spent the night with my daughter, and I found out later that she snuck into my son's bed (also age 4) in the night and insisted that he take off all his clothes so she could touch him all over - - "even down there," he told me. I was inwardly freaking out, but tried to remain calm in front of the kids. We had "the talk," very similar to what you outlined here, with all the kids - including the neighbor girl. Yikes.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This is a VERY IMPORTANT post. If there is one thing about sexual abuse in society, is that it isn't talked about openly enough. It is so important that it is discussed, because it happens more often than anyone would like to comprehend. It is a disgusting, horrific, life-altering thing: to be abused. Thank you, Carrien, for being so open about it.

    I am closely connected with a family where sexual abuse was perpetrated on several children -- BY ANOTHER CHILD. Adults are not the only ones who victimize children. Children who have been victimized hurt other children. And the sexual abuse isn't just limited to boys abusing girls, it is also boys abusing boys. People need to be AWARE of this.

    Additionally, if one suspects that their child has been a victim of sexual abuse by ANYONE, I would highly recommend that they get that child into counseling immediately. Abuse is an enormously huge shaping event (or, series of events) in one's life and while not necessarily everyone turns around and abuses others, it happens. Much pain and heartache can be avoided by parents taking immediate, loving, and decisive action: as the father of this particular boy did. And THANK GOD for him [I almost want to cry]. In this case, the little boy is young enough that his act was not done secretively, so people would have more than likely found out anyway; but the fact that this father addressed the issue with complete honesty is to be commended beyond words.

    It is unfortunate, but if this boy is not seen as a potentially serious threat to himself and others, it is very possible (if not very likely) that he will abuse again. The little boy who abused the children I know was 6 when he started. STARTED being the key word, here. This boy's parents need to address this with a sense of urgency. It isn't just child's play, especially if they suspect he has been abused. And it WILL happen again.

    The Talk is very important. My own child(ren) are not old enough to comprehend yet, but when the time comes, we will definitely be discussing it. Probably on a semi-regular basis; I'm not sure how often that means, but certainly more than just one or two times.

    Thanks for posting on this, Carrien, you've hit me square between the eyes. I'm so sorry for your Girl -- I hope that it is something that will, like you said, empower her, rather than scar her. It seems like you being very open about it and talking to her about it (even down the line) will be very important.

    A good friend of mine who was sexually abused [similarly aged...perhaps 4 or 5] had parents that did not talk to her about it more than a once (maybe twice?) after it happened [as she also told them about it immediately] and she spent many years, tortured, wondering if anyone knew about it. She had been so young that she had forgotten it happened until she was 10 or 11, and had also forgotten that she had told her parents. That is probably a good thing for parents to know as well -- that while it might be an uncomfortable or unpleasant subject, or if it appears that the child has forgotten it altogether, it might be a good idea to re-visit it throughout time. Much pain could be alleviated that way, instead of going to counseling 10-15 years after the fact.

    ReplyDelete

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