This post began as a post for Five Minute Friday at katemotaung.com where you write for five minutes on a given prompt. In this case the prompt word was “protect” and the first thing that sprang to mind was the need to protect children from sexual abuse and to raise awareness of how we can do that. Initially, as you’ll see, I was slightly reluctant to cover this topic, but as I wrote I became more and more convinced of how important it is that we talk about this, and the positive response confirmed that to me. I’m sharing it in more places now in the hope that the message reaches more people and that, as a result, more children are better protected.
Well, I’m not sure if I should be going there, but it looks like I am… This is both the beauty and the hazard of Five Minute Friday– the prompt takes you in directions you didn’t intend to go.
I’m sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. I know it’s not an easy topic to discuss, but actually I think that’s part of the reason why there’s a problem, and I think that by discussing it and raising awareness we can take steps towards fixing it or at least reducing it.
I’m talking about sexual abuse and the need to protect children.
It’s a massive problem. It’s impossible to get an accurate figure because so much of it is kept hidden and never disclosed, but it is estimated that around in 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. That is a huge number of people, and the effects and long-term impact can be devastating.
We need to do more to protect children from this, and there are steps we can take:
Be aware of the danger and the need to protect our children. Don’t think this is something that only happens to other people. I don’t mean that we should go around viewing everyone with suspicion, just that we shouldn’t be naive. There can be a tendency for people to think that abuse only happens in chaotic, dysfunctional families. The truth is it happens to people in nice, normal, Christian families too. (The family aren’t always to blame but in over 90% of cases the abuser is someone known to the child and their family.) It can happen to anyone.
Teach your children about what kinds of touch are appropriate and inappropriate. Teach them how to talk about their bodies. Teach them about boundaries and their right to say no. Teach them the difference between good secrets (e.g. a surprise gift or party) and bad secrets (anything that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable).
Spend time with your children. Talk with them. Let them know that they can always talk to you about anything, especially if they are feeling worried or afraid. When they do talk to you, listen to them and take them seriously. Let them know that they matter and their feelings matter.
Be aware of the warning signs. Children don’t always have the words to explain, or they may be too scared to speak out, but there are warning signs that can indicate there is a problem. The fact sheet linked below gives more information.
The reality is that this is a massive issue, but these simple steps can make a huge difference in preventing it and in protecting children, as this video shows:
And also, as I finish, I want to reassure you that no matter how big the problem and the impact it has, God’s healing power is greater and there is always hope.
Needless to say, I’ve gone over five minutes, but once I started this I wanted to do it properly. I’ve linked to several resources below that might be helpful if you want to look into this some more.
Resources on help and healing for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse:
Journey To Heal- Crystal Sutherland
NAPAC (National Association For People Abused In Childhood)- UK
RAAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)- US