This is not a typical post from me. I didn’t want to write it. Sadly, recent events have left me feeling called to share and reach out in hopes of empowering and arming families with knowledge. I am sharing several tips to keep kids safe from sexual predators. These tips are helpful in many predator situations but today I am focusing on sexual predators.
Tips to Keep Kids Safe from Sexual Predators
I am writing this post due to a series of events. I have always known that there are sexual predators lurking around us at any given time but it really hit home when a Parks & Recreation employee approached me about a man taking photos near the playground where my then 1-year-old son and I were playing. He told me that he had asked the man to leave as they had been having issues with predators taking photos at our local parks.
I was also informed that predators often hide in the bushes at beach parks with very strong lenses on their cameras taking photos of children under the showers while parents strip them down and rinse all of the sand off of them. The photos are then shared and sold. Never in a million years would I have thought about that, but now I do.
It is sad that there are awful people who want to do harm to our children. It is because of those people I am sharing the following tips to keep kids safe from sexual predators.
Trust Your Gut & Trust Your Child’s Gut
That event changed the way that I interact while out and about. I find myself paying attention to who is around me and what they are doing. There have been several times that I have felt a ‘bad vibe’ from someone and moved away from or steered clear of them. The purpose of your gut is to avoid danger, listen to it!
Teach your children to trust their gut. If something doesn’t feel right it, it probably isn’t. If they feel that “something is not right here”, let them know it is okay to trust these feelings. If they feel that they need to get closer to you let them know that they should do it.
Be a Visible Parent
What is the main thing that will stop a child predator? Getting caught. You need to send a message to everyone in your and your child’s life that you are present. Predators typically look for parents that are less involved which may indicate that they are looking for love/approval outside of their home.
You don’t have to hover but take time to get to know the people who are in your child’s life. Teacher’s, coaches, fellow parents. Make sure that people know that you are an involved parent, one that communicates openly and freely with their child.
Be Aware of What is Going on Around You
I am one of the most unobservant people ever. It became very evident today that I need to work on this. It was this specific event that led me to write this post. My girls and their ballet group were performing a show at a retirement home. The younger girls, my girls included, were playing in the lobby when a resident made a very rude sexual comment about them. I wasn’t aware of what was going on and I totally didn’t hear it.
I did hear the man chattering in the background while I chatted with friends but I was NOT paying attention to WHAT he was saying. A friend, and mom to one of the younger girls, heard his disgusting comment and told us other moms. Swiftly the situation went from his vile comment to him taking photos of the girls. Staff was immediately alerted and he was removed.
It is SO important to be aware of what is going on around you. I am grateful for my friend who was aware because I obviously wasn’t.
Always try to be aware of what is going on around you and your children so that you can help to keep them safe from sexual predators.
Be Aware of Who is Around You
Approximately 90% of child sexual abuse is committed by someone the child knows and has a trusted, established relationship with….not by a stranger. Be aware of any special relationships forming between your child and an adult. This sounds easy but we all become friends with our children’s coaches, tutors, or teachers..it is our job to pay attention to these relationships.
Look for the red flags. A few red flags are using excessive favoritism, a lot of flattery, gift-giving, lots of energy or attention that also includes their spending “alone time” with the child. It is easy to get wrapped up in a situation, it is a good idea to step back occasionally and assess the relationships that you and your children have with other people.
Another important step is to verify the people who are around your children. Are they in day-care, school, or sports? Ask these people if they are licensed and what their screening policy is for the adults working with children. When hiring a babysitter, ask for and check references.
No Secrets & The Opposite Game
My kids know that if someone asks them to keep a secret that they tell the person know that we do NOT keep secrets in our family. We have surprises where everyone eventually knows what the surprise is such as a gift or a party but no secrets. They know that they will never EVER get in trouble for telling us a ‘secret’ that they were asked to keep.
We talk about doing the opposite in certain situations. My kids know that if someone tells them not to tell they TELL. If someone tells them to stay still they should RUN. We often go over the opposite game. I will list several scenarios and they will tell me what they would do, there have been times we have acted them out as well. I want them to be prepared.
Your Child is the Boss
Your child must know that they are the boss of their body. My kids know this and I respect them as well. During tickle play if they stay stop we stop. During tag if they say stop we stop. A child needs to have the confidence that they are the boss of their body.
Respect & Listen to Your Child
Just like we have our instincts our kids have theirs. We need to listen and respect what they have to say.
If your child says that they don’t want to go to gym class because their teacher is weird don’t laugh it off and insist that they go. Open a conversation with your child and ask them what specifically is weird about their teacher.
These are certainly not the only tips to keep kids safe from sexual predators but they are good ones. Keep your eyes and ears open, pay attention to your child, and empower your child with the fact that they are in charge of their body.
I think that every parent should read the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin DeBecker. This is an empowering book that can give you the tools to protect your children while allowing them to have their freedom.
I often check online to see where the registered sex offenders in my area live. I also get email updates if one moves in near me. I once received an email of a sexual predator staying at the hotel across the street from me. I called the hotel and they had no clue, scary for the families staying there. Here are a few online resources to help keep your kids safe from sexual predators:
FDLE (Florida) I appreciate that they send me emails if someone new moves to the area or is visiting the area.
NSOPW (Dept of Justice)
I know that this was a heavy post, I truly felt called to share this important information. I will try to leave you with warm and fuzzies on my next post, I promise.
If you have any tips, experiences, or comments to share please do so below. I truly love interacting with people in this space. To read more of my natural parenting posts please click here.