Frequently there are reports in the media that some adult occupying a position of trust has abused that trust and inappropriately had contact with a minor child. Adults accused of inappropriate contact come from all social strata, religions, races, and occupations. Bonnie Rochman writes in the Time article, After the Sandusky Verdict, Lessons for Parents about the predator next door.
It goes without saying that conscientious parents would go to great lengths to spare their children from such experiences. And experts say the Sandusky trial revealed many valuable lessons for parents looking to do just that.
Lesson No. 1: One not-so-obvious insight? Don’t tell secrets…. When children are being molested, the perpetrator tells them, ‘This is a secret. Don’t tell anybody.’ So we encourage parents to not include kids in secrets. Talk instead in terms of surprises.”
Lesson No. 2: Be leery of any adult who seems smitten with your kid. Child molesters are savvy; they often prey on vulnerable kids — poor children, or those whose parents aren’t often around….
As a parent who has gone through the aftermath of sexual abuse and studied a lot about pedophile tactics, the allegations against Jerry Sandusky are a classic case of child sexual predator and pedophile grooming. The prosecution has done well in explaining the consistent and predictable grooming process that Jerry Sandusky employed — from building trust with his victims, to currying favor and control by buying them gifts and giving them access to the Penn State football program, and then forcing them to participate in sex acts and then remain quiet about it.
Jerry Sandusky groomed his victims so well that some of them have kept in touch with him as recently as two years ago. Many from the defense are asking why would they, in fact, do such a thing if it were true that Jerry Sandusky had sexually abused them. But that is how predators work. They manipulate children and control them by bribing, brainwashing, threatening, controlling and embarrassing them.Lesson No. 3: Perhaps most important is simply paying attention to your kids’ rhythms and learning to recognize potential signs of abuse: changes in mood, behavior or school performance and reluctance to participate in activities.
Lesson No. 4: It’s never too early to start teaching your kids about what kinds of touches are appropriate….
Lesson No. 5: Keep the conversation going as kids become teens. It’s a mistake to assume that most children will readily tell a grown-up they’ve been sexually assaulted….
Lesson No. 6: Listen when kids talk. One of Sandusky’s victims said he’d told guidance counselors that he’d been abused but he wasn’t believed….
If a child is involved, the following activities are a few examples considered to be sexual abuse:
· Touching of a child’s private parts
· A child touching someone else’s genitals
· Sexual intercourse
· Obscene phone calls
· Watching sexual activity
Keep in mind these examples do not constitute a legal definition of sexual abuse. Each state defines what constitutes sexual abuse in that state. Generally, sexual abuse occurs when an adult person makes sexual contact with a child or there is forced sexual contact by a peer of the child.
Questions to Ask Childcare Providers and Caregivers
The Attorney General of the State of Hawaii has an excellent resource about questions to ask a care provider. Hawaii Attorney General Among their suggestions are:
While not a guarantee against acts of sexual exploitation being committed, it is a good idea to select a licensed facility that conducts criminal history- background checks on its employees and volunteers. When you have chosen a daycare provider, the best way to get to know the staff and observe their behavior firsthand is to involve yourself in some way in the activities of the center by volunteering to assist on field trips or for special events.
Visit prospective daycare centers, take a tour, and interview the daycare staff while personally observing their interaction with your children and the other children. Look for mature and responsible people who listen and respond well to your children and appear relaxed and happy with them. Also arrange to meet with other individuals who may have contact with your child such as bus drivers, janitors, and relatives of the daycare personnel. Visit unannounced. When you have a list of possible daycare centers, carefully check their references. Contact local law enforcement, county licensing agencies, and the department of social services to determine if any reports have been made about the daycare provider. Check state sex-offender registries, which are generally accessible through your state law enforcement agency.
Be suspicious of any care provider that will not allow you to drop in unannounced and will not allow you unlimited access to the facility.
What is a Criminal Background Check?
The legal definition of a “criminal background check” focuses upon the review of public records. Legal Definition of Criminal Background Check
A criminal history background information check is the review of any and all records containing any information collected and stored in the criminal record repository of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the state Department of Public Safety, or any other repository of criminal history records, involving a pending arrest or conviction by a criminal justice agency, including, but not limited to, child abuse crime information, conviction record information, fingerprint cards, correctional induction and release information, identifiable descriptions and notations of convictions; provided, however, dissemination of such information is not forbidden by order of any court of competent jurisdiction or by federal law. Criminal history background information generally does not include any analytical records or investigative reports that contain criminal intelligence information or criminal investigation information….
Parents should be aware of any criminal record, but they should focus on crimes of violence and sexual crimes like rape. Is the person a known registered sex offender?
The US Department of State describes the different ways that an individual can demonstrate that they do not have a criminal record.State Department Criminal Records Check
LOCAL POLICE CHECK: Go to your local police department where you reside or last resided in the United States, request that the police conduct a criminal records search and provide you with a document reflecting that there is no history of a criminal record. Local police departments may require your personal appearance in order to conduct the search. Your local police department can phrase this in whatever way they deem appropriate. The document should then be authenticated for use abroad following our guidance on authentication or legalization of documents.
FBI RECORDS CHECK: The Criminal Justice Information Services centralizes criminal justice information and provides accurate and timely information and services to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia, and other government agencies. The subject of an identification record may obtain a copy thereof by submitting awritten request to the CJIS . The request must be accompanied by satisfactory proof of identity (consisting of name, date and place of birth, and a set of roll-inked fingerprint impressions) and a certified check or money order for the $18 processing fee. The FBI will not provide copies of arrest records to individuals other than the subject of the record. Requests should be directed to FBI CJIS Division, Attn: SCU, Mod. D-2, 1000 Custer Hollow Rd., Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306. If there is no criminal record, a report reflecting this fact is provided.
If you are interested in a criminal background check, the CASA program lists resources for each state.Casa State Background List
How to Recognize Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children
Shelia Wilkinson describes signs of sexual abuse in children. Sexual Abuse Behaviors Among the signs she tells parents to observe are:
1. Pay attention to your child’s posture. If your child suddenly has pain or difficulty sitting or walking, talk to them. Check out their bodies but be prepared that they may fight you on this. Abusers often threaten to harm the children or their families or pets and your child may be terrified.
2. Look for adult behaviors. Suddenly seductive rubbing on or around the genital area, using sexual words or adult, flirty behavior. …
3. Watch for sudden shyness or fearfulness. Refusing suddenly to change in front of others or in gym class is common. So are nightmares, bedwetting and sleeplessness….
4. Know your child’s habits. Are they suddenly eating a great deal more or less? Do they want to be alone more or never alone at all? Are they afraid or reluctant to go places they always enjoyed? Do they talk about or try running away? Daycare, school, friends’ and relatives’ homes, the nursery at church, all seem like safe places but these are the places where kids most often get abused.
5. For older children, pregnancy or contracting an STD may not be promiscuity. It may be sexual abuse. ….
6. Talk to others–discreetly. Getting to know your child’s teachers, principal, nursery workers and sitters is extremely important if you want to ensure your child’s safety.
7. Listen to your child. The last warning sign is the most important. If your child talks about or reports sexual abuse, believe it to be true. The evidence is very clear that this is not something that children make up…..
8. Remember to take action if you have suspicions…..
Don’t be afraid to gently ask your child about their experiences in different settings like school, daycare or recreational activities. Listen to them and any cues they provide. Abuse sometimes happens to infants and toddlers. Since an infant is too young to verbalize what is happening there are certain signs that a parent should look for. Dr. F. Felicia Ferrara’s video describes what parents should observe in infants and toddlers. Infant and Toddler Abuse Parents should look for strange rashes and an unusual fear of people as possible clues that something might be wrong.
What to do if You Suspect Your Child has been Abused or Molested
The National Child Trauma Stress Network has excellent resource material available.NationalTrauma Stress Network They suggest the following actions’ if you suspect your child has been abused:
1. Stay calm…..
2. Believe your child, and let your child know that he or she is not to blame for what happened. Praise your child for being brave and for telling about the sexual abuse.
3. Protect your child by getting him or her away from the abuser and immediately reporting the abuse to local authorities. If you are not sure who, to contact, call the ChildHelp® National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453; http:// http://www.childhelp.org/get_help) or, for immediate help, call 911.
4. Get help. In addition to getting medical care to address any physical damage your child may have suffered (including sexually transmitted diseases), it is important that your child have an opportunity to talk with a mental health professional who specializes in child sexual abuse. Therapy has been shown to successfully reduce distress in families and the effects of sexual abuse on children. Many communities have local Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) that offer coordinated support and services to victims of child abuse, including sexual abuse. For a state-by-state listing of accredited CACs, visit the website of the National Children’s Alliance
5. Reassure your child that he or she is loved, accepted and an important family member. Don’t make promises you can’t keep (such as saying you won’t tell anyone about the abuse), but let your child know that you will do everything in your power to protect him or her from harm.
6. Keep your child informed about what will happen next, particularly with regard to legal actions. (For more information on helping abused children cope with the stress of dealing with the legal system, see the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s factsheet, Child Sexual Abuse: Coping with the Emotional Stress of the Legal System, available on the web.
It is not the child’s fault that he or she has been abused It is the fault of the abuser and parents must emphasize that what occurred is not the child’s fault.
What can Parents do to Prevent Their Child from being a Victim
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should take the following steps. Sex Abuse Prevention
· Talk to your child about sexual abuse. If your child’s school sponsors a sexual abuse program, discuss what he learned.
· Teach your child which body parts are private (parts covered by a bathing suit) and the proper names of those parts. Let him know that his body belongs to him. Tell him to yell “no” or “stop” to anyone who may threaten him sexually.
· Listen when your child tries to tell you something, especially when it seems hard for him to talk about it. Make sure your child knows it’s OK to tell you about any attempt to molest him or touch him in a way that made him feel uncomfortable, no matter who the abuser may be. Let him know he can trust you and that you will not be angry with him if he tells you.
· Give your child enough time and attention. Weekly family meetings can be used to talk about all good and bad experiences.
· Know the adults and children with whom your child is spending time. Be careful about allowing your child to spend time alone or in out-of-the-way places with other adults or older children. Make visits to your child’s caregiver without notice. Ask your child about his visits to the caregiver or with child sitters.
· Never let your child enter a stranger’s home without a parent or trusted adult. Door-to-door fund-raising is particularly risky for unsupervised children.
· Check to see if your child’s school has an abuse prevention program for the teachers and children. If it doesn’t, start one.
· Tell someone in authority if you suspect that your child or someone else’s child is being abused.
The world can sometimes harbor dangers, but parents must be ever vigilant and always aware of their child’s world to prevent predators from robbing their child of their childhood. Hopefully, the vigilance of the parents and the community will prevent more children from an experience that will take away their childhood and sometimes can take their life.
Dr. Wilda says this about that ©