This guest post by Cari Dugan is shared here with her permission. Even though the events surrounding the Duggars has become totally old news, I have a question for you all..
And no, it has nothing to do with if I think Josh is still responsible for his actions as a teen? Or if I think the Duggars handled the situation correctly? Or if Anna should have packed her bags and run for the hills? The Duggars trials were a messy and heartbreaking situation that left me speechless. Sexual abuse is evil, it ruins families and it destroys people.
What I want to know is this…
What is going on in YOUR home? At YOUR church? At YOUR playground?
Did you know that statistically 1 out of 5 girls, and 1 out of 20 boys are reported to have been sexually abused ? And that roughly 63% of their predators are family members, or close friends?
Shocked? You shouldn’t be. The Duggars scandal should wake us all up.
This isn’t a new problem. It is an horrific , and troubling age-old one. Sexual abuse is rampant. And it often happens under our very noses, in our own homes. Yes. In our own homes. Behind closed doors, under comfy blankets, and under the pine tree in the backyard. While your children sleep.
Yet, it is often ignored simply by our ignorance and naivety . How often have we seen a heart-wrenching case like the Duggars and say, “Not me. Not my children. Not my family. “So we close our laptops, shut off the tv, and go on with our own lives thinking, “Thank God I don’t have to face that kind of horror in my four walls.” And breathe a sigh of relief.
I am sorry to say but your home is not invisible. Sadly, neither is mine.
So with staggering statistics as these, how can we possibly protect our children? How can we safeguard them from becoming another victim?
Properly educate your child on their bodies with proper verbiage. Does saying p—- or v—– embarrass you? My suggestion is to get over it and get over it fast. Giving correct bodily names inhibits an abuser to keep a victim quiet if an incident should occur.
Children should learn to know that their bodies were made for them, and for them alone. We should teach our kids to love and respect their own bodies, but we should also teach them to respect other’s bodies as well. Clearly define what behavior is appropriate and what is not.
However, you can’t define behavior if you don’t talk about it. Sex should not be a curiosity. But refusing to bring up the subject makes it a dangerous one. Especially when children approach puberty, and so many hormonal changes are occurring. If you aren’t fostering an environment where questions can be asked, Google will. And that is one place you don’t want them to receive their education from. Quench their natural curiosity with truth.
We can safeguard our kids by empowering them to be their own advocates. Encourage your children to trust their own instincts. I know it is well-intentioned, but I inwardly cringe when a parent scolds a child for not greeting me with a hug. If you find your son or daughter wary of an adult, give them permission to set up their own boundaries. In other words, don’t ever force a child to be physical with someone against their own will. Even if that adult is a trusted family member or close friend. Giving them the lead only reinforces the fact that they are in charge of their own bodies, and that “No” means NO.
Teach them that if anyone approaches them with a question that is inappropriate or makes them feel yucky or uneasy to run to you as fast as they can. Scream. Yell. Kick. Claw. A child should know to do whatever it takes to flee from a potential abuser.
Again, they don’t know this if you don’t tell them. So talk to your children. Prayerfully and purposefully.
Also, be aware of sudden attitude changes or emotions that seem out of character. Sometimes a child isn’t always able to verbalize what is bothering them, so their feelings come out subtly in other actions. Maybe they are more moody than normal, maybe they don’t want to eat, or have separation anxiety, or their grades do a sudden dip in school. Pay attention, listen, and ask the hard questions.
I repeat, ask the hard questions. Even if you are fearful of what those answers may be. A simple question may be what stops abuse from occurring or reoccurring. Sometimes a child won’t talk about abuse because he/she truly believes they are at fault, and guilty somehow. Shame keeps them from coming forward, so the abuse continues. Make sure to assure your child again and again, that if someone touches their body inappropriately that they are NEVER to blame.
Discourage family secrets. Or any secrets for that matter. Encourage open and free conversation. Let your little ones know that they can come to you to discuss any issue, at any time. Also, be sure to point out other “safe” adults that they trust that they can talk to as well. No topic should be banned from the household, including questions and concerns about sex.
Give Them A Voice
Don’t let your guard down, EVER. Even in your own home. Monitor play-dates, limit sleepovers to a few that you wholeheartedly trust and still be watchful, and initiate an open door rule when children are playing and company is over. In our home we have also initiated the no closet rule. Innocent games like doctor and house make my mama radar sound off. Paranoid? Maybe. I’d rather ere on the side of prevention and caution, than my children being scarred.
Sometimes we can be the best of parents, yet still we are unable to prevent abuse. The thought is truly heartbreaking and causes me to lose sleep at night. The unfortunate news, as with the Duggar scandal, is that we can’t be in all places at all times. We also aren’t in control of other’s malicious intentions, which is a sobering reality.
But IF something similar to the Duggars happens in your home, with YOUR child, please seek professional help immediately. For both for the abuser AND the victim. Don’t sweep the abuse under the carpet as if it never happened. Don’t simply scold and move on. Don’t EVER place blame on the victim. And most certainly don’t allow the victim and abuser to continue to live together and happened in the Duggars case.
Fight for your children, Mamas. Even if your pride and reputation is at stake, even if it is the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to do.
Because your children’s lives hold value and they need to know it. They need to know that you will go to the end of the earth for their protection, and for their welfare. That you will fight for them until your knuckles bleed. They need to know that they are loved.
Protection from sexual abuse starts with you, Moms and Dads. As your little one’s primary caretaker you are responsible for their safety. So be aware. Be present. Pay attention.
Know What Goes On In Your Home!
Cari Dugan is a lifestyle photographer and writer in Minneapolis Minnesota. She writes candidly about everyday life and experiences on being a wife and a mother on her blog Dugans InCahoots. You can also keep up with her on Instagram (@cariduganphotography ) Her husband, and three children make life what it is – A Beautiful Mess.
“For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” ~Psalm 72:12
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:5