Molestation is a very sensitive topic for most decent human beings. This might be because molestation is associated with inappropriate sexual behavior towards minors, our children. As a parent who cares immensely about this subject, I want to share some suggestions to other parents, guardians, and other caretakers of children that I believe curb the ease with which predators target children.
It is never a child’s fault for being molested. Sexual predators aim for a particular type of child to “groom”, and all we can do is try and educate our children, and ourselves, to be aware of things that make them “easy prey”. Here are the suggestions:
1) Teach your child the proper names for their genitals.
It is not a “special spot”, a hoohah, a vajayjay, or any other ridiculous name. It is a vagina or a vulva. It is not a turtle, a johnson, or your stick. It is a penis. Stop using euphemisms for teaching body parts to your children. Using “pet names” for a sexual organ on a child makes diagnosis and identification of sexual abuse harder, which is difficult already with a small child. A future predator might be put off by your child using a medical term for their genitals instead of encouraging the use of a pet name.
2) Empower your child to wash their own privates.
Once your child is old enough to hold a loofah or washcloth and mimic scrubbing, have them wash their own genitals. You supervise to ensure they are cleaning themselves thoroughly, but intervene less and less as they get older and have more control over their ability to scrub.
3) Be aware of everyone, both sexes, all ages, and their interactions with your child.
Molestation doesn’t just happen by the creepy man down the street. It happens by family friends, family members, older siblings, and other children on the playground. Neither sex is free of suspicion. Try not to leave your child alone with anyone until your child is vocal enough to tell you what happens when you’re not around. Employ babysitters and daycares with complete camera coverage. Some daycares allow you to log in at any time to view your child. That is a great peace of mind for parents who work and trust others with their children.
4) Discuss consent, personal space, and privacy.
No one should touch your child without their permission. Don’t force your child to hug or kiss anyone that they don’t want to hug or kiss. I can’t stress this enough, especially for family members who think they are entitled to affection from your child. Forcing your child to kiss and hug a relative to prevent harming the relative’s feelings teaches your child that their consent is not necessary for intimate interactions. This is NOT okay. This allows predators to make a child feel like the predator is owed affection. This kind of twisted thinking is exactly what predators use to manipulate and coerce a child to do what they want. Family is not exempt from consent, parents included.
Teach your child about appropriate personal space and privacy. If someone wishes to be left alone while they undress, that should be allowed. Don’t barge in on your child while they are getting dressed or undressed. While nudity is not shameful, some children do not wish for the world to see them naked. That should be respected.
5) Foster positive communication with your child.
Don’t let your child be afraid of your reactions to what they may tell you. This goes beyond molestation and extends into drug use, alcohol, bullying, etc. Be the parent and expect respect from your child, but also give it. Listen to them when they speak and encourage them to tell you things without immediate judgment or fear of punishment while they are still in danger. Get your child to safety and then teach them with intellect and the maturity that your years hold. This kind of communication begins in very early childhood. Be someone your child trusts and they are going to be more willing to talk to you about things that may signal a possible predator.
6) Trust your gut.
No matter what, listen to your gut and remove your child from a bad situation. The worst that can happen is that your child will be safe. That isn’t so bad at all.
If you think molestation has already happened to your child, remove your child from all questionable situations and see a doctor immediately. Call the police along the way to the doctor. If you don’t report sexual abuse to the police, you may be responsible for further child abuse to someone you can’t protect. Don’t blame your child or cover it up because of who may be in trouble when the molestation is investigated. Believe. Your. Child.