Eric is 10 years old. His father abandoned him when he was a toddler. In an effort to provide him with a male role model his mother enlisted the help of a local mentoring organization.
Chris is 8. His parents enrolled him in an overnight camp to have fun and improve his socialization skills.
Karen is a 14-year-old high school freshman who was raised to trust people, especially her parents’ friends. She loved being a cheerleader and always walked home after school.
These three young people have something in common. They were all molested.
Eric’s mentor turned out to be a pedophile. He abused Eric for more than a year. Two years later, Eric cowers from others, panics in a crowd and trusts no one. He remains isolated and fearful, a friendless boy who hardly speaks in school.
Chris’s camp counselor abused him throughout the summer. It was a summer Chris will never forget. Years later, he tries to get other children to take off their clothes and spies on his mother while she showers and dresses. There’s a good chance that he will be arrested for his aberrant behavior once he becomes an adolescent.
One of Karen’s neighbors began to wait for her after school to walk her home. She trusted this man because he was a family friend. Then one day he took Karen to his home. Soon he was molesting her on a weekly basis. Karen is now an adult who suffers chronic anxiety and experiences panic attacks. She’s unable to live an independent life and is on disability.
Besides being traumatized, these children had something else in common. They all believed that in keeping silent, they were saving their parents’ lives. You see, the pedophiles who abused these children all threatened to kill their parents if the kids ever revealed what was happening to them.
Could these children have been protected? Yes. Could they have escaped months and years of abuse? Yes.
If these children had known that such a threat is a common ploy of pedophiles they could have been spared all that torment. So consider telling your child the following:
“Adults who hurt children with bad touches scare kids by telling them that they will hurt or even kill Mom and Dad. If a grown-up or teen-ager ever says something like that, you know right away this is a bad person, and you must tell us. We know how to protect ourselves—and you.”
“We will never be mad at you if someone hurts you with bad touches. These are bad people who break the law. It is never the child’s fault. We will never blame you, so you must tell us right away, and we will protect you and protect ourselves.”
The children I described in this article were never educated to know that bad people scare kids by threatening to hurt their parents. What’s more, their parents were unaware that this is a tactic pedophiles use to scare their victims into silence.
I understand that you don’t want to frighten your children, so you might be hesitant to have this conversation with them. However, you can still inform them without making them fearful. Preface what you say by noting that most people are kind and loving, but there are a few bad people.
Remember, in sharing this information with your children, you’re helping protect them. To teach your children more ways to protect themselves from this type of danger, I recommend an informative DVD presented in an entertaining way. It’s “The Safe Side—Stranger Safety” created by John Walsh and Julie Clark. It’s appropriate for children ages 5 to 11.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.