How to Protect Your Child from a Predator

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A few weeks ago, we took a class on children and sex abuse. It’s part of the class series we have to take to complete our application for adopting through the state. It was definitely the hardest of the 8 classes we have to take.

After listening (for 3 hours!) about the different types of sex abuse (thanks to the Internet, so many child victims don’t even know they are being victimized), and about the different forms a predator can take (a grandmother!?), I was feeling pretty deflated.

How can we possibly protect our children from predators?

Predators are a sneaky bunch. They find their victims, “groom” them (gain their trust), “groom” the parents (gain our trust), and then the abuse starts slowly.

By far, most predators are people that the child, and the parents, know. Which makes it all the more insidious. And just plain scary.

So, I couldn’t leave the class without an answer. I had to know: How can we possibly protect our children from predators?

Up went my hand.

And the answer they gave was, I found, very profound.

The best way to protect your child from a sex abuse predator is to encourage your child to develop his/her own gut instinct.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, I speak for myself when I say that I have unknowingly discouraged my child’s own gut instinct on several occasions.

I’ve done it nearly every holiday when I push encourage Brae to go give his second cousin, thrice removed, a big ole’ hug and kiss, even though he hasn’t seen her since the last holiday. And when he cowers behind my legs refusing to go over there, I tell him he’s being impolite.

Or, when I force encourage him, every Christmas, to go sit on the lap of some strange man with a long beard wearing a funny red suit, whisper in his ear what gifts he wants, and then smile for a camera.

And what am I doing each time I do this? Well, according to the “experts,” I am telling my son to not trust his own gut instinct. I’m telling him to ignore that little voice in his head, or that pit in his stomach, or those goosebumps that those warning signs are not to be trusted.

Ignore them. Go ahead, take candy from a stranger.

Go ahead, get into the back of some man’s van because he tells you he has ice cream.

Go ahead, get in someone’s car because they tell you they are taking you to Mommy and Daddy.

Sure, maybe I’m going to a bit of an extreme, but I’d rather have the second cousin, thrice removed, feel slighted by a 3-year-old than to quash my son’s own gut instinct.

So, Mr. Santa, we will not be sitting on your lap this Christmas if my kids don’t want to. Thank you, very much. And they will still get presents on Christmas morning. If for no other reason than to teach them that there is no punishment for going with your gut.

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