Our society needs to change how we approach sexual abuse or assault against children. We should never teach that the child has any capacity to prevent being abused. Instead, we need to prepare children to interact with tricky people and teach them a healthy attitude towards sexuality.
When I grew up in the nineties, we were all taught about stranger danger and about checking your Halloween candy for razor blades. We were made to be afraid of being kidnapped, but taught nothing about being abused by family or acquaintances. Of course, the adults of the time knew we were more likely to be abused by an acquaintance than a stranger, but that wasn’t taught to children.
These days, we even teach teenagers and college students about consent. Yet we still don’t teach our children about tricky people. When my therapist questioned me about abuse I faced as a child, he asked if I felt guilty about not fighting my abuser. It’s true, I didn’t fight them. I told him I didn’t want to do what he wanted but he did it anyway. I cried and looked away. This behavior happened again and again and I didn’t know what I could do. I was confused, scared, and physical pain, and simply lost.
As we look deeper into these issues, we realize that our kids best resource is their own instinct. They should be taught that it’s okay to scream, wiggle, or run away from an adult if they feel uncomfortable. They also need to be taught this is not okay to do those types of things. It’s okay if they are scared and don’t know what to do. It is also okay if they do nothing. Whatever their response is in that moment, is the choice they choose within that situation to help themselves survive, so they chose right. Whether they laid still and took it, fought back, or whatever, they chose right. At that point, after the abuses happen, we as adults must accept it and not make the situation worse by degrading the child for their action or lack of.
So, what can we do? Well, we can change the way we prepare children for these situations and the way we handle it when they tell us about it.
We teach our kids to fear strangers, but often it’s the strangers that come to our rescue when we need them, such as bystanders, police officers, rescuers, and others. We need to teach them instead about tricky people, those who will try to tell you it’s okay to do bad things and keep them a secret. We also need to teach our children to trust themselves. Let them know they are smart enough and brave enough to handle situations that are hard. After the situations, we need to console them, let them know we trust what they decided, and and that they made the decision that was best in their situation.
Unfortunately, kids are afraid to disclose things because they have always been taught that strangers are the problem. When the abuse comes from someone they know and trust, they think they may be blamed. Our job is to prepare our children beforehand then encourage them afterwards. They need to know that they are good, right, and strong. Regardless of what they did, it was the right thing.
Don’t do it like this video: