Every parent has felt that gut punch when listening to the news – the Jerry Sandusky case, another Amber Alert, a tiny body, found in a ditch, violated in ways that make every mother’s heart ache with pain and a frustrated desire for vengeance on the miscreations who commit such acts. And the politicians gleefully rub their hands, knowing re-election is a given if they can tap into that fear and hatred and promise safety or vengeance or some combination thereof. And parents are left feeling sad and mostly helpless. After all, it could happen to anyone.

But actually, it can’t. It almost never happens to just anyone. It almost always happens to friends and family members of pedophiles. It almost always happens to children who don’t get a lot of attention at home. It almost never happens to children whose parents take a few common sense precautions to safeguard their kids from the fiends in our world. Until children are old enough and mature enough to physically and verbally repel those who would take advantage of their innocence, we parents must do our job and watch over them.

These are our family rules for preventing sexual abuse of our children:

  1. We teach our children that their bodies belong to them. They are taught to be polite and friendly, but we never force them to give a hug or a kiss to someone who demands it.  We teach them to show courtesy to our family by going to their bedrooms and playing or reading quietly at bedtime, but never force them to close their eyes and go to sleep. We require them to sit at the table and engage with the family at meal times, but if they’re not hungry, they’re welcome to wait for the next meal.
  2. We teach them they own their emotions. At around 1 year old our kids learn that if they’re cranky, unreasonably demanding of others, rude or mean, they need to spend time alone until they’re ready to be friendly. It is amazing how this turns an impossibly clingy child into a vibrant, fun playmate for everyone to enjoy. We just did this with our baby, who is 11 months, because she’s too heavy for me to carry all day anymore. It took a day and half of visits to the crib, and 2 days later, she is twice as mobile and 5 times as fun and happy. She figured out that she can make herself happy instead of relying on others to give her good feelings. I feel this is vitally important for my kids to be confident and self-sufficient enough to ward off charming predators. (This has worked for us at a year with most of our kids. Other kids probably have different needs and time frames.)
  3. We are careful with whom our kids spend time. I might really enjoy a mom or a dad I meet. That doesn’t mean I will let my kids go to their house. If the kids in the family seem depressed, angry or overly worldly wise for their age, my kids won’t be having play dates with them. I don’t care if their parents are the Prophet and Mother Teresa. If the kids (even the ones who won’t be playing with my kids) show signs of mental or emotional pain, I steer clear.
  4. I’m going to say this one again, because it’s the most important.  My kids’ safety is my responsibility, not the school’s not my church’s not the organizations’ to which my kids belong.  I don’t trust leaders, officials or holy people unless I know them intimately.
  5. I don’t do sleep overs, except with cousins and only at my house. There have been a couple exceptions, and there might be more in the future, but I don’t see the need for my girls to be in a house with males I don’t know intimately.
  6. I don’t mix genders of sexually interested or active people without precautions. I won’t send my girls to a camp out with men or teen aged boys, I won’t send my boys to a camp out with girls or attractive women. I have no problem going on family trips with other families, but see no reason to put my kids in a situation where the circumstances allow for kids or adults to get “lost” or where I am not intimately familiar with everyone who is attending.

And this brings me to the Mormon Church’s blessing of the Boy Scout policy of allowing openly gay boys to participate in Scouts. I wouldn’t send my girls on a camp out with a man or a boy or a gay woman or girl; I won’t send my boys on a camp out with a girl or a woman or a gay man or a gay boy.  It’s that simple.

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