Joe Paterno, Mike McQuery, Jerry Sanduky. It’s a list of names that no longer leads one to think of Penn State Football, but rather child sexual abuse. This train of thought is particularly true for parents. Joe Paterno’s death last Sunday may very well bring the issue of child sexual abuse to the forefront again, which is where it belongs. Child sexual abuse happens everywhere and to children of all ages, economic backgrounds, races and cultures. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2009) reports 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. It leaves parents to wonder what they can realistically do to keep kids safe.
School districts and other organizations such as the YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs do extensive background checks on those who work with children. Jerry Sandusky probably had the same sort of background check. Here in Idaho, the officer who sexually molested his teen ride along and the high school teacher who had a sexual relationship with her student also had these background checks. The point is, parents cannot depend solely on paper work or organizations to protect their children. Nor can parents become a constantly hovering helicopter parent. The key is being an assertive parents who teach their kids to be assertive.
- act in their own best interest without hurting others
- stand up for themselves
- are proactive
- are honest
- are respected leaders and team members
- have self-confidence and self-respect
- have strong friendships and relationships
- experience a sense of belonging
- know when they need help and ask for it
Sexual predators, abusers in general, do not target assertive people. They target passive personalities who lack self-respect, the ability to stand up for themselves, and a sense of belonging. Sexual predators are able to stay hidden for long periods of time and amass victims because they know passive kids will not seek help. Teaching assertiveness means the lines of communication with kids is open, parents are modeling assertive behavior and kids feel loved and supported. Empowering kids to be assertive is paramount to keeping them safe.
Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet For Parents, Teachers, and Other Caregivers. (2009, April). The National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Retrieved from http://nctsn.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/caring/ChildSexualAbuseFactSheet.pdf