I was honoured when Liz asked if I would contribute to her newsletter as I feel strongly that there is a need for resources and support for single parents. I’ve been one myself and know first hand how overwhelming it can be at times – and how incredibly rewarding.
My days (and nights) are spent working with adults and youth who are victims of heinous crimes and educating people across Canada on the complex issue of child sex abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. The silence and our discomfort around this taboo topic is what allows perpetrators to continue and children to suffer. We simply must stop turning away from the issue that is at epidemic proportions in Canada. The fact is that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will experience an unwanted sexual act before their 18th birthday.
The intent of my articles are not to scare you but rather to provide you with knowledge and help you to protect not only your own children but ALL children. I want you to know how to recognize potential threats and if how to properly respond your child (or any child) discloses to you that they have been abused. How you manage that crucial moment is critically important and can make a huge difference in the life of a child.
This month I am providing you with a few facts that may help to dispel some myths. I know you want to do all you can to protect your child(ren) and have probably spoken to yours about ‘stranger danger’ and told them not to let anyone touch their private parts. I’m sure that when you sign your child up for any activity or send them to camp that you have been reassured knowing that staff and volunteers have been screened and had vulnerable sector background checks. And you are pretty confident that your child would let you know if something was going on….after all, you have a great relationship with them.
Here are the facts:
- Over 95% of the time children are abused by someone known and trusted. (so much for stranger danger)
- Children in single parent families are at a higher risk of sexual abuse than those who live with both biological parents – and those who have a live-in partner are at the highest risk; they are 20 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse
- Most children do NOT DISCLOSE abuse. Instead they carry the secret with them sometimes into adulthood. (by the way, I held on to my secret for 42 years)
- Vulnerable sector checks are not sufficient screening. Why? Because only people who have been caught and found guilty of the criminal offense will have a record. Since we know that approximately 95% of offenses are not reported that makes criminal record checks alone a poor screening technique.
- Sexual predators WILL want to work and volunteer where they have access to children.
- Fewer than 30% of parents ever discuss sexual abuse with their children and even then, most fail to mention that the abuser might be an adult friend or family member.
I want you to know that child sex abuse is largely preventable and children who are abused and who get help in a timely manner can and do heal. It takes courageous action by adults and knowledge of what to do.
Over the coming months I will share information that will help you to understand what to look for, questions to ask staff and volunteers who serve your child(ren), the reality of sex trafficking in Ottawa, how to manage disclosure. Meanwhile the best advice I can give to you is this –get educated on prevention, spend time with your children, listen to them, and check in on them – whether online, at a caregivers or with family and if a child discloses let them know you believe them and you will help them. Don’t let them see anger or fear….wrap them in love and if you find yourself in a situation and don’t know where to turn, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will help direct you to the right support.
Voice Found offers child sex abuse prevention training called ‘Stewards of Children’ that teaches how to recognize, react and respond to child sex abuse. We are planning to deliver this training for this group and I do hope you can attend.
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