Protecting Our Children

Protecting our children
By Wade Meszaros,  Mental Health Child & Youth Therapist

I have been involved in counselling families and children for the past 15 years.

One of the most devastating experiences a person can go through is an abusive experience. I have found over the years the most horrendous damage is done when a child experiences physical abuse, emotional/spiritual abuse, molestation or sexual abuse.

While on holidays a number of years ago, visiting my wife’s family I came home after a game of golf and noticed that my child was withdrawn, clearly unhappy and very quiet. Certainly not like his inquisitive, bubbly personality that we have come to love or appreciate. Upon questioning my mother in-law, it was apparent that something had happened, but she was resistant in talking about it. I continued to probe and finally got the story. My son and the neighbor boy (who was a year older) were playing outside and my mother in law noticed while looking out the window that my son’s pants seemed to be pulled down to his knees, but did not say anything. She did not want to cause any problems. It was causally mentioned to my wife sometime later. Immediately my wife went outside and called our son into the house. He would not say anything to her and became very quiet.  When I got home and found all of this out, I took my son to a quiet corner of the house and began by affirming my love for him, clearly stating that he was not in any trouble, but that I needed to know what had happened so I could help. He was 6 years old at the time.

In between sobs he slowly told me that the boy next door had asked him to play a game with him and so my son complied and they played hide and seek. Then my son said lets play soccer so they kicked a ball around. The next door neighbor boy said ok, my turn, lets go behind the garage and play another game. My son complied and once there,  the boy took down his pants and asked my son to take his pants down which he did. The boy had asked my son to play with his genitals and he would play with his at that point my son said no, and pulled his pants up. The other boy did the same and then went home. I affirmed my son telling him that he did the right thing by refusing to do what the boy had asked. It opened up a big discussion on right behavior and wrong behavior, what to do if someone asked him to do something like that again. I told him he was very brave in telling me and I hugged him and told him how much I loved him and that he was not in any trouble at all and that I was very proud of him.

The next thing I did was to set up a meeting with the parents next door and my wife and I sat down with them and in a non-judgmental way explained to them what had happened. After asking a number of questions about their son, it was revealed that he had been discovered a few years ago with a baby sitter who was doing inappropriate things with him under a blanket. Nothing was ever done or followed up with that. I strongly encouraged them over the next three days while we were still visiting to set up an appointment. with a counselor I recommended, to not allow their boy to be unsupervised with other children (they had a child care center out of the home) and to have the counselor call me before we had to leave. Otherwise I would have to report what had happened to Social Services. The family complied and the boy did get help and the abuse stopped.

It is very important to talk with your children even at the age of 4 about their private space, explaining that no other people are allowed to touch them in certain places even if being asked nicely by friends, family or others. It is important to explain to them what parents can do ( in terms of bathing and hygiene)  and that it is not right for other children to touch. It is important to talk to them about what to do if something like that happened. What to do if someone tried to do something with them when they did not want to.

When the boys got old enough to access the internet, I made it very clear to what they needed to avoid and closely monitored them, reinforcing the attitude of how dangerous the internet can be. I allowed them more responsibility as they got older on accessing information as they showed in their behavior that they were responsible.

There are also internet blocking you can set up on your computer which does help to remove any temptations or dares from friends on instant message programs.

In terms of recovery; Getting counseling sooner then later is the best option. The earlier the intervention the better the success. Patience is the key here, it is a difficult thing for someone to “disclose” and the more gentleness, kindness and love you offer the easier it is for them to open up. Shame and guilt do a lot in diminishing communication. Again, be patient, affirming how wonderful they are, how safe and how loved they are.

I have included some internet sites that would be beneficial to visit

http://www.angelfire.com/ga3/protectourkidz/

http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/jjjournal/jjjournal598/net.html

http://www.care2.com/c2c/group/compassionateservice

http://www.cyberangels.org/

http://www.protectkids.com/

http://www.ispa.org.uk/complaints/page_154.html

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Something like this just happened to our daughter who is 5 by a boy who is 7. He asked to see her butt while hiding in his garage at a get together with friends.

    My daughter told her 8 year old sister that it happened a few times when others were not around.

    The boy is our best friend’s son. It was hard to tell our friends. We did in in love. I hope they talked to their son and tried to see if anything happened to him. He is in a daycare and has many cousins.

    I, too, had the same thing happen to me at the same age by my sitter’s son. He was abused by his older female cousin.

    I see it as a curiosity in children. They act out what they see or what has happened to them. And I do see where it can lead to hurting others and leaving scars. I never told my parents or anyone until recently in my adult years.

    We often think that this could never happen to our child. Many times it is closer than we think. I should of had a deeper talk with my girls at a younger age. We are talking now.

    Mommy of 3 girls and a boy

  2. this is a difficult subject to speak about.

    I was molested by my cousin who was WAY older than me. I don’t like to speak about it. I’ve been through counseling, and worked my way through most of it. Most of it is too shocking to speak about to others.

    I never told anybody until after I was married and had a child. I have been extremely careful about who I let around my kids, because of what happened to me.

    I’ve spent time in a foster home after my mother died. It was very difficult to deal with. The foster home neglected basic needs (like food, medicine and even toilet paper) this was a foster home we were put into, because our father was physically abusive. We went to live with him (almost a total stranger, parents having divorced when I was 7) and we were removed and put into this foster home.

    There is more than one way to abuse a child. Sometimes just pure neglect can be just as harmful as the other forms of abuse.

    I appreciate that you are talking about such a difficult subject. It’s something that we as parents of ‘small souls’ need to think about, even though it may not be comfortable or convenient, it does need to be addressed.

    LadyPoet
    http://www.theeducationalrevolution.com/

  3. Edward Eyth says:

    It’s great to find sites with information on protecting children from internet hazards. It’s tragic though, that the site you recommended in your last announcement with information on protecting children requires a fee. Such vital information should be made accessible to those without the expendable funds. Even the site’s sales methods seem very infomercial – like:

    “you’re about to get all our proven and time-tested million-dollar safety secrets for Just $24.95 when you take advantage of this limited-time opportunity right now!”

    It’s too bad crass commercial sales/profit appears the priority in distribution of this essential information. And the high pressure sales method is ill-chosen and offensive.

    I hope one day more benevolent individuals are able to provide these vital insights to any parent, without the need to profit at the peril of children and uninformed care-givers.

    E

  4. A friend just shared this with me as I just found out that my exhusband sexually abused my oldest daughter. I had watched the movie “Georgia Rule” alone one evening and it hit home with me personally, as I was sexually abused by my stepfather. The movie brought me to questions such as, “Why didn’t my mother believe me?” “Why didn’t my dad and stepmom do anything about it?” “Why didn’t my mother do anything about it?” Then I thought about my oldest daughter who is an adult now and a mommy. I had asked her several times, after I divorced, if my ex had ever done anything to her. I reassured her that I loved her and I would do anything to help her and defend her. I knew he was physically and mentally abusive to her, hence the divorce. She always denied that he ever did anything sexual to her.After I viewed the above mentioned movie I called her and asked her again. She got a little hysterical, but I pressed her gently. This time she admitted that he sexually abused her. I was in a sickened turmoil, to say the lease. The night before I felt like the character, Rachel, in the above mentioned movie, now I felt like the character, Lilly, in the movie. My daughter refused to talk anymore about what happened to her and I didn’t push her.According to the state Statute of Limitations I think it is too late to press charges or even make a report so that it is listed on his records.It is so odd, because I took my three minor children to the County Fair over the summer and I could have sworn I saw my ex working one of the kiddie rides. I couldn’t read his name badge, but I am 95% positive it was him. I wish there was something I could do, though my daughter just wants to let sleeping dogs lie and get on with her life with her little family.My daughter-in-law gave me some encouraging words to help me through this, “Mom, no matter how much vengeance you want on him it doesn’t compare to what God can and will do at his judgement.” The light went on and I hugged her, over the phone.Though my daughter and I are adults now, we once had small souls that cried out. I went through therapy for my abuse, but my daughter hasn’t and I don’t think she will.It is a difficult subject. As a Christian I think, “May God have mercy on the soul of the abuser.” As a parent and victim I think, “They all deserve to be brutally punished for their sick crimes against the innocent.”

  5. My son (11) sexually abused my daughter (9), one time. I was told that if we were to seek help for him, he could be removed from the home and put in a foster home. Having worked in child care, I know that can be a horrible situation that does more harm than good. I asked my son if anything happened to him, but he denies that anything ever happened. Where did he learn such behavior then? I know he’s seen pornography even though we didn’t even give him unattended internet access. (at least one afternoon at a boy’s house–the one time I didn’t talk to the parents!) I’m certain something happened to him but he won’t talk. We are vigilant now and he’s never alone with his sister or any other child. We’ve spoken with him and he’s paying the price because he knows that he’s lost our trust. I wish so much that we could get him more help but I’m afraid to risk losing him to a system that could do him more harm. My daughter is amazing and I talk with her about what happened openly but I wish I could get her more help too. I’ve bought lots of books on the topic.

    My best advice is not to trust your children in the hands of a babysitter that you wouldn’t give a large sum of cash to watch. (I think it was a babysitter–another mom!–who messed with my son when he was too small to say anything about it. Get it? You have nothing more valuable than your children. Check out anyone who you might leave your kids with.

  6. Very important topic!!!!!
    Sometimes parents are blind to abuse that happens around them. Mine were. Even as an adult that suffered as a child and survived. My parents refused to believe that both brothers abused me for over 9 years.
    Now being a parent, I cannot imagine how hard it is to hear that one of your children has hurt another. Unfortunately, I have had to spend many years in Counseling for this multi-faceted abuse, and still struggle with self esteem issues.
    I worried about being a parent, about having a boy that was an abuser or having a girl that would be abused.
    I have a fabulous understanding husband and two wonderful boys that are fully aware of the rights and wrongs of touching and have taught them the “creepy” feeling that raises the hair on your neck and arms…. we need to teach everyone, children and vulnerable adults about personal safety and to listen to the “little voice” that warns us of danger.
    Always be aware of your surroundings and teach self assuredness, eye contact with others, support independence and let children decide for themselves with guidance. Too much “respect” for elders can lead to “BLIND RESPECT” and this can be a dangerous thing.
    Never be surprised by the potential for cruelty.
    Be aware, educate, support and love your family, and most of all be safe.

  7. Healthy and Happy says:

    I have worked for many years with survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I have seen the pain and damage from exposure to many kinds of abuse and take very seriously the need to protect our children – including my own.

    I am also a sexuality educator and know about the natural curiosity and behaviour related to sexuality. It is important to distinguish between abuse and what used to be called “playing doctor”. Under most circumstances, sexual behaviour between children of the same age up to age 6 or 7 is normal and age-appropriate. I hope that parents who read this story will NOT assume that if their child engages in sexual play, it means abuse has occurred. In Wade’s story, further investigation revealed that the neighbour’s son had been abused. However, in many, many other cases, this would not be the case.

    Regardless of what we do or do not say or do, as parents, we are the primary sexuality educators of our children. As such, our response to any situation or question about sexuality is very important. Wade’s response to his son was a clear message about communication about sexuality: it is loving, kind, open and patient. How lucky that boy is.

    I hope that we can all learn to be loving, kind, open and patient (with ourselves and our children) in all our discussions about sexuality with them.

  8. Blessings upon those who have the courage to fight back against abuse.
    I’ve been sexually abused my a baby sitter’s older son.
    I went to counseling many many years later, even telling my mother in my early twenties. I wonder if the perpetrator is still out there? Did he do it to someone else, or was he abused.
    As a 5-6 yr old child I knew what masturbation was and had even been coerced by childhood friends to play doctor. I knew many things and kept it secret…no one else knew, no one ever talked to me about it.
    That’s sad…I will truly not make that mistake with my own children. (11 month old son, and daughter on the way due Dec.)

  9. Blessings upon those who have the courage to fight back against abuse.
    I’ve been sexually abused my a baby sitter’s oldest son. I went to counseling many many years later, not telling my mother until my early twenties.
    I wonder if the perpetrator is still out there? Did he do it to someone else, and was he abused.
    As a 5-6 yr old child I knew what masturbation was and had even been coerced by childhood friends to play doctor. I knew many things and kept it secret…no one else knew, no adult ever talked to me about it. I was the one that opened up to my friends about what happened to me.
    That’s sad…I will truly not make the same mistake with my own children. (11 month old son, and daughter on the way due Dec.) I will openly discuss sexuality and their rights.

    Peace,

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