Tools to Help Protect Children from Pedophiles and Sex Abuse
After reading, A Betrayal at Home, an article on incest and child sex abuse, I became angry – angry about trusted individuals who should have been loving and protecting precious children, but instead silenced and victimized children by abusing them sexually, sometimes destroying their lives emotionally and spiritually.
I have seen first-hand the devastating effects on victims and their residual scars. Having observed a pedophile on the prowl and also watching the lives of untreated victims in my own family has been heartbreaking. After reading the aforementioned article, I quickly typed up what I have done in my own family to protect my children from pedophiles and posted it on my blog’s Facebook page. Pam Palmer, child sex abuse advocate (and mother of a child who was sexually abused at a church gathering), suggested that I post it here. I have slightly revised the original and have provided more statistics and resources. ~Julie Anne
There is a Pedophile in My Family: The Tools I Gave My Children to Protect Them from Harm
by Julie Anne Smith
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
93% of child sex abuse victims know their perpetrators. We need to destroy the myth that those who prey on children are strangers. Do the math, only 7% are strangers.
Who are perpetrators? They are usually friends, relatives, church leaders, coaches, people involved in the child’s life that the children know and trust.
There is a pedophile in my family. He was a missionary. Where did he prey on children? In his own home, in his backyard pool when his sons brought their friends over to play, in public parks, in church restrooms or any public restroom.
I tell my kids that we don’t know who pedophiles are, but they are usually people they know and trust. Don’t think that most sex offenders are on sex offender registries. My family member has abused over 20 kids, but the Statute of Limitations has run out and so he is on no list. He is still a dangerous man.
All of my children through junior high age buddy up with a sibling when going to the restroom (even at church!). My children are also told to distrust anyone who tells them they must keep a secret and to let me know if this happens. Every single time they go to a sleepover or camp, I remind them of our special code: if they ever feel uncomfortable around someone for any reasons, they are to tell an adult they want to call home because they are “not feeling well.” I know that code language and will come pick up the child.
Equipping our children with knowledge of what to look for, how to respond, and to trust their gut is very important. So far, so good. I’ve been giving my kids these tools from the age they were taught to identify specific body parts, around 2-3 years of age.
In full disclosure, I was initially nervous to talk to my children about this difficult topic. But because we were still having limited family gatherings in which the known pedophile was present, I knew that I needed to get over my fears. Surprisingly, my children have always listened, asked appropriate questions, and have never been squeamish. I put so much unnecessary pressure on myself!
Children like to have knowledge. Knowledge gives them power so they are not afraid of the unknowns. Talking to children is much easier than it sounds. Please, do it! After the first time broaching the subject, to follow up, all you will need to say is, “Remember when we talked about . . .???” The rest will flow easily. Piece of cake. You’ve got this!!
Some important statistics:
Victims of sexual assault are:
- 3 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- 6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
- 13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.
- 26 times more likely to abuse drugs.
- 4 times more likely to contemplate suicide. (Source: World Health Organization)
93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.
- 34.2% of attackers were family members.
- 58.7% were acquaintances.
- Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.)
The above statistics and much more information can be found at RAINN.org: Rape Abuse and Incest National Network
GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) Empowering And Training Christian Communities To
Recognize, Prevent, And Respond To Child Abuse
photo credit: Forgotten Teddy Bear via photopin (license)
24 thoughts on “There is a Pedophile in My Family: The Tools I Gave My Children to Protect Them from Harm”
“Your Mama could get hurt if she knew.” A pedophile would say this or some other phrase that instills fear in a child and doesn’t have to use an angry voice to make it happen. This helps feed his/her security in continuing to abuse a child. I know this first hand as the stepfather kept my sister, me and possibly my brother, (the stepfather’s own child) quiet for many, many years. Pedophilia was a harsh reality in my family for 3 generations.
My sister and I both had our own ways of self medicating through our teens, married very early and went through several abusive relationships as adults. My sister only gave up alcohol and drugs this year when she gave her life to Christ. She is 56. As Julie Anne has said.tell your children as early as they can understand how to get your attention and let you know there is something wrong.
While we were mindful to never allow our children around the stepfather, two of our daughters were molested by our brother. To my shame, neither saw justice as it should have been for both of them. Thank you Julie Anne for writing this post and taking the difficult steps to teach your children safety methods against this horrible crime.
Clara Hinton, Finding a Healing Place blog, was the wife of a pedophile for almost 40 years. John Hinton, a former minister, is now, praise God, in prison for the remainder of his life after confessing to sexually molesting many children. Clara and her son Jimmy are available to speak to groups, churches or wherever the word is needed to told.
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Thank you for sharing, Brenda. You’re right about the threats which are an attempt to silence the victim.
I’m very sorry to hear about your daughters who were harmed. It’s so sad 😦
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Here are some other interesting (appalling) stats.
Click to access wchac-ststs.pdf
Now there are always places where statistical data have wiggle room–that is the nature of such data–but if it’s representative, it means that a huge portion of mental illness and more might be avoided by removing opportunities for molestation.
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Julie Anne: Thank you so much for doing this. I really think families and congregations really need to start hashing out these kinds of practical solutions to protecting kids. Even a very small child can understand “good touch-bad touch” and assert themselves to stop abuse or report it to a trusted adult and adults in families and congregations need to believe them.
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Pam, I so hope that parents will take this seriously. You and I both are intimately acquainted with the recovery process. If we can help prevent abuse, we are giving our children and their future spouses and children such a precious gift. Thank you, my friend, for all you do to advocate for children!
Thank you both, Pam and Julie Anne. This is such a difficult topic, on so many levels, especially for a parent. I’ve spent the past few days looking over the child sex abuse in the Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most Christians would like to think that those who follow a more healthy doctrine would have less of a problem with abuse. But sadly, the JW facts don’t sound much different than the events in the Evangelical world. Children need to be believed and protected — and protected and believed.
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Thanks for this post, JA. I will pass it on to the young families in my sphere of influence. Also, thank you, Bike, for the link. Those stats remind me that the group of people the church has called unregenerate and entrenched have often been helpless victims at the hands of others. I am absolutely convinced God has designed a special mercy, not judgment, for them.
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These practical tips:
are particularly helpful! Thanks for posting!
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Thank you. I just reminded my 15-yr old yesterday as he went with his youth group on a missions trip.
The last few church abuse cases I’ve investigated have involved high school boys who were sexually abused. We want to think they are safe at this age, but it’s just not always true. I think these reminders help.
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I am really interested in hearing what other parents have taught their children and at what ages how to protect themselves. I taught our daughter “good touch, bad touch” when she was only 2 and if someone touches your “bathing suit” areas to come and tell mommy. Sadly, it didn’t stop the abuse from happening, but it prevented any repeated attacks. She told us the very next day after it happened. If she had not known this little bit of information or felt freedom to come and tell us and trust us to believe her, the abuse could have easily gone on undetected. Any other thoughts or suggestions that you or other parents have done?
Thank-you for sharing your methods for they are the very same we have in place for our family pertaining to sexual as well as other issues. When our children are invited for sleep overs at their friends’ homes, we have instructed them to call us and say “I am feeling really sick and need to come home.” One of our siblings called home in the middle of the night while staying at a friend’s home with several of their other friends. The parents had invited a few of their Christian (?) friends over and they were drinking to the point of drunkenness. When my child called home, they were frightened at what was taking place and crying on the telephone they said “Mom, I’m really sick and need to come home, please come and get me right NOW.” I was in the car in two seconds and had my child in the car with me ten minutes later.
What I learned on our way home was that the parents and friends were not only drunk, they were getting very strange with the dirty jokes, the sexual comments, and the inappropriate touching in the presence of the children. In our family environment we have discussed the “fruits” of drinking alcohol which aren’t so fruitful at all…….
I know…..I have been called a legalist when in comes to the topic of alcohol by our church elders during Sunday morning Bible study. But then again, we won’t go into the secret sexual sins of their families in conjunction with alcohol abuse for that would not be complimentary to their holier than thou façade.
The code word to get out sounds good, and another thought I’ve got is to do what you can to demonstrate to your child that it’s OK to speak up when someone is behaving sinfully. Do it yourself when appropriate. Encourage the child in speaking up, even if you have to clarify that what the child saw wasn’t actually sin. Help them (Kim’s game) learn to be a good witness of what goes on.
(my kids are often almost TOO willing to speak up…ha!….I don’t know what I did right, but part of what I’ve done is ask them each night during family Bible time “what did you notice in this passage?” It takes a while for them to catch on, but eventually they really start in with some insights)
Reblogged this on Listen Through My Heart.
Recently, a female cousin and I had a rare conversation where we both shared of our sexual abuse and ALL of our siblings; at the hand of ONE of our cousins. We all kept the SECRET, out of shame and the fact that this cousin was a PK. When I was in my 20s and learned that this cousin was now a “step parent” and a TEACHER! an alarm went off. I spoke to my 40 something MOM, sister of the Preacher, and she assured me my Uncle would take care of IT. I don’t know if anything was ever done, as I did not know how to pursue any resolution. I noticed at a recent family funeral, no one was speaking to the perpetrator!!!! Probably an entire room of victims from the 60s and 70s who have no EDUCATION on how to handle “dirty little family secrets” of the well-heeled and educated families. This makes me sick to think maybe I could have stopped this abuse and spared my little brother and all the others:( We really needed this kind of support and information on how to protect others.
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Deb, thank you for sharing your family’s experience with a pedophile. In my extended family, once I started prodding, it turns out that everyone knew, but it was hushed. Also, I sensed a lot of spiritualizing. “We’ve forgiven him.” He’s asked the Lord to forgive him and hasn’t had any incidences in ____ years. Praise God, he’s healed.”
Ok, my brain is going nuts here. I think I need to do a post on what an honest pedophile looks like. A lot of times we can snowballed by pseudo repentance, but there are key things to look for.
I am in the shallow end of this sort of education with my son. It began when he was 4 and I am continuing it now that I am safely away; he turned 6 in April.
I have no “proof” that his dad has or ever will molest him…except for the stats and that lurking concern that keeps me up at night during visitation weekends. His dad was himself sexually molested by a coach as a teenager and then went on to “explore” inappropriate touches with other boys. I know this is no “automatic predictor” but that now tied with his 30yr sex addiction and compulsive behavior weigh heavily upon me.
There were also the months where my then-4yr old complained of genital pain and freaked out during bath time whenever he needed washed “down there.” My son refused to be touched – crying and shielding himself. When asked if anyone hurt him “down there” he said “dad” and “grandpa.” He also accused some cartoon characters…but that’s a four year old for you and I was left confused. So…yes…I’d rather take a pound of prevention. Or maybe a metric ton of it.
While my son and I were at the domestic violence shelter and enrolled in their Healthy Homes class, I know they discussed “good touch/bad touch” with him – and used swim suits as the defining boundary. He was 5 at the time.
Since then, the two of us have also discussed such topics as: secrets that are a surprise are okay but secrets that make you feel yucky are not and no matter what – he and I have no secrets; no one touches you where your bathing suit touches – except you (this is age appropriate for now); and cameras are to be used with respect and kindness, including – stopping to consider if it is kind/respectful to take pictures of people in their underwear or without clothes, and always with the other person’s permission first. This camera issue had to be addressed after I discovered my son had sneaked into the bathroom with his digital camera and taken several photos of me in my underwear without my knowledge or permission.
One of our top “This is How We Live” guidelines is “We Respect Both Yes & No” from each other and from God. If someone says “no” – we stop and respect that answer just as much as we respect and listen to their “yes.” I’m hoping as we reinforce this idea and keep one another accountable, it will afford my son a certain awareness if his “no” (in any area) is not respected and listened to at his father’s house.
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Charis, you are in a very difficult place having to release your son to his father, not knowing if there is any abuse going on. It sounds like you have established some good foundational groundwork to discuss these issues with your son. Keep up the good work. My 12 yr old spent the night at a friend’s house the other day and he got the talk again. They will roll their eyes, say “oh, mom,” but they will have the tools fresh on their memory should they need them. 🙂 Thank you for sharing, Charis. This parenting thing is not so easy!
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I was also a victim of my Uncle, Grandfather, various Babysitters, and A mother who denied all of it and told me I was lying. I was so devastated I moved once I was old enough to keep my own family safe I had my first child at 16. I have told them since they could understand about these people. I have educated them on the fact they can tell.
Holly, You’re a good mom. Through your own pain, you have sought to defend and protect your own children. Good for you!
This is a MUST READ FOR EVERYBODY
We had an elder in a former church who said that all children should obey all adults, and especially elders. Needless to say we decided to leave when the other elders claimed to disagree with him, yet refused to stand up against him. Much of the church was a victim of this guy’s spiritual abuse, and if I had the strength, I would have pressed charges against him for that statement, which he made in front of six witnesses.
1) We told our children that regardless of who was telling them to do something and how small it seemed, they always had a right to come ask us. (The elder was upset about this).
2) They should tell us whenever anyone (including relatives) asked them to do something that made them uncomfortable or touched them in a way that made them uncomfortable.
3) There are fun secrets and there are icky secrets. It’s okay to keep fun secrets, but not okay to keep icky secrets.
But, bigger than this is that I’ve worked to change the authority equation. My authority as a parent is not to treat my children like slaves. It is to guide them. If we make them clean their rooms, that is because there is a family responsibility for the rooms to be clean, and mom and dad are responsible, too. There are also necessities – we all have to get in the car to go to soccer practice or church. But other things are not my authority – I don’t have the authority to make my child get me a glass of water. I may ask, and I respect my child’s “NO” and get my own glass of water. Teaching kids that they can’t say NO to adults is setting them up for abuse and I think abusers have a good radar for that.
Excellent points, Mark! Thank you 🙂
I have just found out that my fiances brother molested some family members many years ago. It came out at a wedding just a couple of days ago. I’m disgusted by what happened but I’m more upset that the family is doing nothing. My fiance is not a person who enjoys or is capable of dealing with confrontation. He’d rather bury his head in the sand and pretend that the issue will go away.
This pedophile has three children, the oldest of which was caught molesting a cousin years ago in the same exact manner in which his father has been accused. This leads me to believe that the father may have done something to his oldest son. What are the odds that they would both do the exact thing to a relative? I’m furious that nothing was done at that time.
He now has two younger children and is a stay at home dad. What has he done to those children? Are they safe in his care? How can they possibly be safe. Does his wife know about these accusations?
My fiance has decided, based on nothing other than his own level of comfort, that his brother would never do anything to these kids. The truth is probably that he’s not capable of coping with the situation because he was raised in a home of secrets.
I don’t know what to do but I know someone needs to put the best interests of the youngest children first. I could not live with myself if they were living in danger and I did nothing to help them…especially now that I know.