".. pedophiles stated they would choose vulnerable individuals (e.g., children living in a divorced home, emotionally needy or unhappy children) and/or children who were receptive to their advances, even if that child did not meet the pedophile's usual physical pattern of attraction."
Many children do not tell about abuse simply because they:
- Are too young to put what has happened into words,
- Were threatened or bribed by the abuser to keep the abuse a secret,
- Feel confused by the attention and feelings accompanying the abuse,
- Are afraid no one will believe them,
- Blame themselves or believe the abuse is punishment for being "bad",
- Feel too ashamed or embarrassed to tell,
- Worry about getting into trouble or getting a loved one into trouble.
So what can we parents do to help protect our children? We can teach them:
- To feel good about themselves and know they are loved, valued and deserve to be safe.
- The difference between safe and unsafe touches.
- The proper names for all body parts, so they will be able to communicate clearly.
- That safety rules apply to all adults, not just strangers.
- That their bodies belong to them and nobody has the right to touch them inappropriately or hurt them.
- That they can say "no" to requests that make them feel uncomfortable - even from a close relative or family friend.
- To report to you if any adult asks them to keep a secre.
- That some adults have problems.
- That they can rely on you to believe and protect them if they tell you about abuse.
- That they are not bad or to blame for sexual abuse.
- To tell a trusted adult about abuse even if they are afraid of what may happen.
We need to try to teach our children about all forms of sexual abuse, to increase their awareness and coping skills. Without frightening our children, we need to provide them with appropriate safety information and support at every stage of their development.
Some excellent advice from the New Zealand Police website:
Finding the most appropriate balance between awareness and paranoia of paedophilia could be the key to protecting your child from sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse takes many forms and can at any one time involve forcing, tricking, bribing, threatening or pressuring a child into sexual awareness or activity. Sexual abuse occurs when an older or more knowledgeable child or an adult uses a child for sexual pleasure. The abuse often begins gradually and increases over time.
Children are naturally trusting and dependent, so physical force is not often used to engage them in sexual activity. They want to please others and gain love and approval. Many children are taught not to question authority and to believe that all adults are always right.
Child sexual abusers or paedophiles know this and take advantage of these vulnerabilities in children. Sexual abuse is an abuse of power over a child and a violation of a child's right to normal, healthy, trusting relationships.
Educate your child about sexual abuse and keep communication lines open about it. If children are equipped with safety measures for prevention and information on how to report any incidents that may feel "strange" or "uncomfortable", they are at least aware of basic prevention skills.
If your child appears to be unusually afraid of a certain adult, find out why. It may be a simple problem with a simple solution, or it may indicate a more serious situation.
If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If a volunteer singles out your child, requesting to spend an unusual amount of time alone with your child, or perhaps lavishes your child with gifts and/or attendance at special events... Beware. Molestation can be a single event, however, more often it is a lengthy process which includes gaining the child's trust.
We need to take the advice given to our school-aged children...do your homework! Becoming informed and educated about molestation and prevention is the first step.