The Penn. State tragedy has certainly brought the issue of sexual exploitation of children back on the front page. Much has been written and discussed in the media and the internet about the horrific acts of the former coach. It also reminds us about past reports of similar activities by members of the clergy and others in position of authority.
Since our focus is parenting, we will devote this week’s show to what parents can do to protect their children from sexual predators. In addition to sharing some factual information about sexual predators we have invited Dr. Ed Adams, a clinical psychologist who has done extensive counseling with adults who were victimized as children, to share his insights on understanding the dynamics of sexual abuse.
We also offer parents important information that helps frame the discussion by utilizing the format of a true false quiz. The quiz highlights how much of what we think about sexual assault and sex offenders has been based on the myths we have all heard. For example, many parents only teach their children to be careful around strangers because they believe that most men who commit sexual offenses do not know their victim. However, the facts are that 90% of child victims know their offender, with almost half of the offenders being a family member. Of sexual assaults against people age 12 and up, approximately 80% of the victims know the offender. Another myth that is dispelled is that most child sexual abusers use physical force or threat to gain compliance from their victims. The reality is that in the majority of cases abusers gain access to their victims through deception and enticement, seldom using force. Abuse typically occurs within a long-term, ongoing relationship between the offender and victim and escalates over time.
We close the show with practical tips for parents. Educate your children about protecting themselves without making them fearful of adults, listen with your eyes as well as your ears to what your children are experiencing and, most importantly, help your child develop a positive sense of themselves and their connection to the family.