We live in a day and age where we are finally coming to the realisation that our oversights in the past; when it comes to dealing with childhood sexual abuse, have been incredibly damaging for our society and those trying to live within it. Sexual abuse of children is a form of oppression that has been an ongoing part of human civilisation (and probably pre-‘civilisation’) that has survived largely on people being ashamed and secretive. Since growth of the information age, more and more minority groups are finding voices like their own and as a result are banding together, collating information and informing the rest of society.
Myself being one of those people.
Therefore, what is done with what we know now about childhood sexual abuse and its outcomes, is more important than ever.
Beware of STRANGER DANGER:
Stranger danger was a word we used to use to describe the possibility that someone you don’t know will likely cause harm to your children. These days we don’t use stranger danger but now use words such as ‘tricky people’ and we have started to use ‘safety networks’ to explain who the safe people are. We often use ‘stranger danger’ to keep our children close to us, or to scare them from running away in crowded situations.
Often before my 12 year old son leaves the house, I tell him “Don’t speak to any strangers, unless its a stranger trying to steal you then please talk to a stranger”, Its ironic to me because in my experience strangers are not part of the problem.
While I, 100% believe it is important to educate your children of stranger danger or to implement some kind of ‘tricky people’ education, its also incredibly important to look at the very real statistics; 85%-90% of childhood sexual abuse cases occur within the family, friend and acquaintance circles.
Parent education and our current schooling curriculum on the topic has improved dramatically. But if its not being taught within the home and within the education system, this gap in their education on these important topics could lead to confusion. Children in turn are potentially second guessing or playing down their situations due to the teachings or lack there of- on one or both sides.
I was one of the cases, that fell into the gap. I was not being taught at home and was taught very minimally within school and eventually it had detrimental effects on my life.
Where did it fail me?
As an adorable faced five year old I knew exactly where all the safe houses were in our local areas, as mum would point them out on our travels. I’d seek out the yellow house stickers in the windows, imagining how lovely the people within those walls must be. We saw a lot of the local scenery on shopping trips, or trips to pay bills because mum didn’t have a car. So when we’re on foot, Mum was diligent when it came to teaching us about how scary people we don’t know can be and where to find the safe ones.
Little did she or I know that the only danger I would encounter was the danger lurking within my own safe house.
My mother was not educated on how important it was teach us about our bodies, and how important it was to keep that body safe because she, herself was not educated on the topic. As many parents weren’t, nor did it occur to her that she shouldn’t trust someone, that she thought could be trusted in her own home.
Many people in that era held the saying “Oh, that’d never happen in my home” mentality much to close to heart.
You never think it’ll happen to you, until it does.
I recall at around age 7 (I was already being abused at this stage) a safety educational bus coming to our school. It had a giraffe involved somehow and there was a lady with puppets trying to educate us on all things body safety, stranger danger and about our bodies. We all each had to take part in an activity where we would lie down on a body sized piece of paper and trace around our bodies and label all the parts. This terrified me, my heart raced, my nervous cough came back and I watched on as my time to lie on this paper dawned closer. I knew that in only a few turns I would have to lie down on this piece of paper while someone I didn’t know drew around my arms, my hands, my hips and then to finish the drawing off; between my legs.
The rest of the visit with the body safety bus, was completely lost on me, I checked out and I can’t recall what happened from that point onward. The whole ordeal traumatised me because it was the first time anyone had talked about something, anything, like I was already experiencing in my own safety house.
I honestly believe if I was being educated on this really difficult topic at home and more frequently and in depth at school, the chances of me speaking out about what was happening to me would have been much more likely, perhaps causing the abuse to stop completely. But instead it lasted 6 years and then changing and complicating the entire outcome of my life (and not for the better).
Despite my schools efforts in trying to educate me on an important topic, the lack of home education on the same topic failed me, and sadly I can only assume my story is not an isolated one.
This is why it’s so important not for only parents to be working with the teachers on educating our children on the topic of body safety and protective behaviours.
Schooling is an entire debate of its own, but more likely than not; if it’s not math, reading, writing, science and some computing skills, relying on just the education system to help with much more than that consistently, then it falls on you and I, Mums and Dads!
Consistency. IS. Key.
Here is a link to a really great body safety education resource, the lovely Jayneen Sanders has written some great books and blogs on the topic. There are also some great videos and songs for kids and, printable body safety posters and parent info.